It all started with too many snow days in a row. I had this knitting book that I bought last summer and it’s been sitting on my shelf. I had opened it a couple of times but just looked so complicated that after flipping through page after page of beautiful hand knit tunics, hats, scarves and sweaters, it would go back to the shelf. Last Friday, I took it off the shelf. I armed myself with post-its, a highlighter and the desire to learn more about knitting. The book is Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The DEFINITIVE guide to working with Hand-Dyed Yarns but Laura Militzer Bryant.
Hand-dyeing is what I do. It is my passion. I love when the colors make a pattern similar to ikat weaving. I did have an understanding that the patterning was a result of the number of stitches, but I thought it was a fluke or serendipity. Well, it’s not. This book teaches you to understand the way a yarn has been dyed, whether it is dyed across like stripes on the skein or whether it has been dyed around where the skein is dipped into successive dye pots to achieve color. Of course there are many more techniques to get color on the skein but these two are the ones that produce the most noticeable patterning. Sometimes when you buy skeins the dyers have kept the skein as it was out of the pot. There it is easy to see the color transitions and to understand how it was dyed. However there are other dyers, myself included, who reskein the yarn to show the interactions of the colors.
Very simply, to determine the magic number of your yarn, you need to determine the repeat. Then you need to swatch. This will help you determine how much yarn you use in each stitch. Of course this number will change with needle size and yarn weight. You do a simple calculation to get your magic number on that yarn, with that stitch and those needles. A knitter can stack colors, make the colors zig-zag, or spiral with a few minor tweaks to the magic number.
Here is my yarn: it’s magic number is 73. This is our BFL DK yarn in Amsterdam Tulip colorway using a size 8 needle about 4.5 stitches per inch.
In the first experiment I used half magic number of 36.5 +1.5 for 38 stitches across. I used a fisherman rib (k1, p1). The result was different on each side and really striking. The fabric was a bit heavy though and I knew I wouldn’t be happy with it, so I ripped it out.
Then I decided to do a ribbed lace pattern with 8 rows of stockingette between the ribs. I used double the magic number + 2 and knit in the round. The pattern is a bit more mixed, however there is a spiral pattern going on in the colors. This cowl actually took 1.5 skeins about 300 yards. When you start your next skein, you need to match new yarn to the same place in the repeat, so that you don’t disrupt the pattern. This took me a bit of time but I was really pleased with the results.