Last week guest blogger Jo Milmine reviewed three of our sock yarns in Selecting Yarns for Socks which included Manos Del Uruguay Alegria which is a variegated yarn; I have it on good authority that it might just have been Jo’s favourite and it’s not hard to see why. I myself have often succumb to the odd skein or two of variegated sock yarn over the years; they have a habit of catching your eye but it’s not always straight forward picking the right knitting pattern for variegated yarns. If you not careful the wrong pattern can lead to feeling disappointed, yes I’m talking about colour pooling!
If this is something new to you then let me explain pooling is when specific colours in the yarn repeat at the same point in the knitted fabric so the same colour is stacked row on row giving you unattractive blotches of colour rather than a nice even colour changed throughout.
You can see it here my Sparkle baby cardigan I knit last year for a friend's baby using Mirasol Hachito which is a variegated fingering weight, as you can see there are areas where the colour has really pooled despite the fact I chose my pattern carefully.
Theoretically speaking the chevron pattern in Juju Vail and Susan Cropper's pattern should have solved the pooling problem but at the yoke where the rows are shorter the pooling it much more obvious. Had I had more time I would have ripped back and re-knitted it by alternating from two skeins but time was of the essence as baby arrived early! By working from two different skeins simultaneously you can overcome colour pooling. Just knit two rows from one skein, then two rows from the second skein and carry the unworked yarn up a side seam as you go.
Knitting with a variegated yarn for smaller projects like socks is when colour pooling can really be a problem. So choosing the right sock pattern to showcase your variegated yarn is vital to your success and happiness. Patterns knit on the bias, chevrons or slipped stitches work best.
juhwanie's Jaywalker Socks @ judwanie
Jaywalker is an excellent example of a knitting pattern that can really work with your variegated yarn rather than against it. The chevron stitch pattern is created by increases and decreases which create stripes. Juhwanie's Jaywalker (see above) was knitted in Manos Del Urguary Alegria in the colourway "Atlantico".
Another great sock pattern worth consideration is Skew by Lana Holden. You can find this free pattern on Ravelry. Here the designer has used stitches knit on the bias to help break up any unwanted colour pooling. A beautiful example of Skew is knitnectic's Ravenclaw Skew shown here knitted in Alegria.
Skew knit in Alegria "Atlantico" @ knitnetic
It just goes to show that finding the right stitch pattern can help give you a knitted fabric which has greater appeal. Some stitches such as lace and travelling cables are best avoided as these will only work against your yarn and the detail of the stitches will be lost among the different colours in your skein. Garter stitch is another good choice and of course your skein of sock yarn doesn't have to be used for socks. Hitchhiker by Martina Behm is knit on the bias in garter stitch and is ideal for variegated yarns. I love pinkblanket's version of Hitchhiker which really shows off the amazing colour's in Manos Del Uruguay Alegria shown here in the colourway "Locura Fluo". Martina Behm's pattern requires just one skein of Alegria and allows the yarn to do all the talking!
Another of Martina's patterns which also works well with variegated yarns is Brickless. Again this shawl is knit on the bias but this time it is interspersed with lace. This time the lace works because of the shawl's bias construction. Knitter Knittengurl has again opted to knit her shawl in our favorite Alegria this time though using the colour "Pindo".
Knittengurl's Brickless by Martina Behm @ Knittengurl
The use of slip stitches also helps break up blocks of unwanted colour as slipping a stitch will bring the colour up from the previous row. Two really great patterns that use this principle are Simple Skype Socks by Andrienne Ku and Scylla by Fiona Bennett; both pattern can be found on Ravelry.
If you fancy a shawl on a grand scale and want to really showcase that beautiful skein of variegated yarn you have in your stash, then why not combine it with other yarns, either a semi-solid or even another variegated yarn and knit Exploration Station by Stephen West. Different bands of colour and stitch pattern including slipped stitches, garter stitch, a two-colour brioche ribbing, finished off with a chevron border put into practice all those things I've previously mentioned. I simply love Soesan's version shown here in Alegria in "Botanico" which she has combine with other fingering weight yarns from her stash.
Finally, I'd just like to say that the beauty of yarns like Alegria is how you never quite know what's coming - so simply enjoy!
I'd love to hear about your favourite patterns and techniques for knitting with variegated yarns. Do share and feel free to leave a comment below.
About the Author
Rachel Owen is the owner of Tangled Yarn. As a mother to two teenagers life is never dull! When she's not knitting can be found wandering the Pennines with her faithful cocker spaniel Bailee. Her favourite colour is blue or is it green? And she could sink a ship with the amount of tea she drinks!