Making sense of variegated yarn

Making sense of variegated yarn

I have a problem.

Every time I walk into a yarn store I become enamored with hand-painted yarn. My pupils dilate, I grab a skein and cuddle it to my face, naming it Fluffy and promising to bring it home to be made into something amazingly beautiful.

I have done this many times… my yarn stash is full of skeins like this beauty:

Manos del Uruguay - Alegria
Manos del Uruguay, Alegria in Agave colorway

I bought this Manos del Uruguay skein while in Alaska (read about our Alaskan adventures on Off to Earth) because it reminded me of the aurora.

Whenever I get settled in at home after buying such a skein, I log into Ravelry and check out what’s been made with the yarn.

And I’m almost always disappointed.

Manos del Uruguay Alegria shawl
A pattern featuring the Manos del Uruguay Alegria yarn. I know some people love the way this coloring looks, but I can’t stand it. 

The way these beautiful skeins knit up into a barfy, disorganized mess makes me want to cry. In my head, I always imagine a finished knit that gradually fades from one color to another, like the skein, even though I know it won’t happen! What I’m really looking for is a gradient yarn, like these, but I keep buying variegated yarns instead.

If you’re like me, then perhaps you’ll find this Ravelry bundle of knitting patterns for variegated yarns to be helpful! I’ve found a few things seem to make variegated yarns look a bit more organized:

A small number of rows in the variegated yarn color separated by a solid color. The separation of color lets your eyes make sense of the color changes in small sections, giving a sense of organization. Each bubble in the sock below is kind of like a tiny window.

Sunnydayknitter's Stained Glass Bubble Socks
Sunnydayknitter’s Stained Glass Bubble Socks

Patterns to try for this effect:

Tall or dropped stitches. Taller stitches seem to give the colors some room to breath and the color changes don’t seem as abrupt. I didn’t see any examples, but I imagine treble stitch crochet would look pretty awesome as well.

Frazzledknitter's Drop Stitch Scarf
Frazzledknitter’s Drop Stitch Scarf

Patterns to try for this effect:

Linen stitch. The exact opposite of long/dropped stitches, the way colors mesh in a tight linen stitch seems more pleasing than stockinette / garter stitch.

Koigu Linen Stitch Scarf Pattern
Koigu Linen Stitch Scarf Pattern

Patterns to try for this effect:

Plan the pooling of your colors to create a pattern. I’ve thought about tackling the task of planned pooling for a while now. Planned pooling allows you to create a pattern using a variegated yarn using a bit of math. I’m not sure I’m totally up for all of the planning this entails since I usually like to wing it, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Color pooling on knit shawl
Really cool pooling occurring on this shawl made by Karla Stuebing

Learn about The Art and Science of Planned Pooling by Karla Stuebing.

Do you have any go-to patterns for variegated yarn?

2 Comment

  1. Loved this!! My thoughts precisely – loved this essay!!!

    1. Thank you, Cathy! 🙂 Do you have any of your own variegated yarn tips?

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