This week, I talk about blending dye lots and my 10-minute rule.
The chart this week is the fifth in the series for Gina's Afghan. It's one of the more elegant, and easy to work, larger motifs out there. I love it so much that I may one day make an entire large afghan or sweater using it. So, it will return.
Also, if you're becoming alarmed that it will take me at least 6 installments to get through the first strip, please don't worry. The other three strips are more simple, consisting of two or three motifs each, repeated for a certain number of rows in each strip. This first strip is probably the most interesting to knit - but also the most complex to chart, since it changes every few inches.
By this point in my test knitting, I had run out of my first, heady, and very small stash of yarn for this project.
I knew I would have to blend at least two dye lots for this afghan. So, I did it in the most simple way possible. When I reached the last of the skeins of one dye lot, I added in another skein from another dye lot and knit two rows from the first, then two rows from the second, over and over again. When that last skein was finished, I simply moved on with the second dye lot.
The only thing is, once you get close to the end, you have to pay attention and make sure that you don't strand yourself out in the middle of a row with no new yarn. Yet another reason to leave those long tails out for seaming, as I mentioned a few weeks ago.
The result, if I do say so myself, looks wonderful in the knitted piece. I've shown it to many, many people and they all agree that the transition between dye lots (after I tell them what the heck a dye lot might be) is absolutely invisible.
However, it turns out that strange things can happen in front of a camera's lens. When I brought the strip into the studio to shoot it, the intense light I use and the lightening of the photo I do to help the stitch definition show well on this very dark yarn work together to show every single blip and bloop in the dye-lot switch witchery I have done.
So, I guess I'm offering this technique with the caveat that if someone were to look at your work in very strong light, under slight magnification, they might notice some striping. And, really, if someone is looking that closely at my work, they had better be preparing it for museum storage or something equally important. Otherwise, as I often say, they deserve to see a mistake.
My ten-minute rule is tangentially related to the above dye-lot mixing. It's about tangles. Really, it's just about tangled yarn.
Even the most careful knitter will eventually get tangled up somewhere along the way. Color work makes this more likely, but, really, any string wound around itself hundreds of times is eventually going to form a knot.
When you are working from yarn that already comes in a center-pull ball, it is very important to pull out the outside strand of yarn from the ball before you start working. Otherwise you are really setting yourself up for disaster. If you don't know what I mean, you should watch this kicky little video.
The mixing of dye lots isn't really color work, but I like to treat it as if it is. I often place a ball of yarn on my right and another on my left, just so that I don't twist the ends around and around and make a mess. If I don't have room for that, I just place them on opposite sides of my knitting bag, and check in every once in a while to untwist, if I need to.
But, sometimes you will still get a tangle. Your carefully-wound ball can collapse. A knot in the yarn can cause a tangle. Sometimes yarns even tangle for no discernible reason. When these things happen, I invoke my ten-minute rule. If a skein of yarn does not cost more than I take home after an hour of work, I will not work on a tangle in it for longer than ten minutes. After ten minutes, I take what I can get and cut out the tangle. I don't feel bad about it, either. I put in my hours wrestling with yarn when I was a college student.
I don't own a lot of yarn that would allow me to break my rule, but I do have techniques that get a tangle taken out faster - so that I don't have to break it, or my yarn.
The very first step is not to panic. Pulling on the knot will only make it tighter and more difficult to take out. You will need a quiet area, which may need to be large, with no pets or non-yarn-helping people tromping through.
Lay the tangle out, fluffing lightly with your fingers, and see if you can see structure to it. Some knots will have a little noose around a lot of longer strands. This usually happens toward the beginning of a ball of yarn, when it tightens around itself as you are pulling yarn from the center. If you undo the noose, usually the knot just falls right out.
Some knots are from a loose yarn end creating a snarl. These are the hardest to undo. They will usually have a spiralled structure, from not removing the outer yarn tail before a center-pull skein was started. In this case, you must find the loose end, being careful not to bring it through any other loops in the tangle, and untwist and loosen up tangles with your fingers until it all falls out. If you try to untie the knot by bringing the loose end through, it will take a lot longer and you might actually tie the knot in new and more constricting ways, making it impossible to shake out.
If your knot forms when the ball of yarn is almost gone, that's from the structure of the ball collapsing upon itself. The best thing to do is gently tug on the working end of the yarn, making sure that the outer end of the ball isn't involved in the tangle, and simply rewind the yarn you have left into a new ball, right away. If you don't have a ball winder, and don't know how to wind a center-pull ball by hand, you can use the inside of a toilet-paper tube as a makeshift Nostepinne.