Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Striping and Pooling

I am not a big fan of self-striping yarns, at least for socks.

With "factory-made" sock yarns usually you get what you think you're going to get: stripes. The good folks at the factory have figured out the math of how much yarn a stitch takes, how many stitches are in yer average sock, and then how long to make the colour repeats.

But your average hand-dyer hasn't. Depending on how long the colour repeats are, you can get some really weird things happening.

The yarns you need to watch out for are those that come on skeins and are clearly a different colour on each half of the skein. Unless you plan ahead with these, you can easily get colour blobs, weird diagonal lines, and stripes that aren't consistent. This is why I tend to avoid them. Short-rowing, and using multiple balls (alternating the yarn source) are ways of "randomizing" the effect and reducing pooling/striping.

That said, if you learn to control the pooling, you can do some stupendous things with self-striping yarn.

Basically, you need to figure out how many stitches of each colour you get when you knit your skein (and every skein will all be different!!), and then knit the right number of stitches so the colours either line up (you'll get vertical stripes), or are consistently diagonal (and you'll get an argyle-type pattern). Usually this is easier to do if you knit back-and-forth...which means for socks that you'll have to adapt them with a seam up the back. It's easiest to do with scarves because the width isn't critical. Or, you can hand-dye your own yarn once you've figured out how long you want your repeats to be! (lots of dyeing groups on Ravelry!!)

There are a number of folks on ravelry who know a lot about pooling and how to "tame" it.  Here is a fantastic writeup by a couple of them. Once you've digested this, check out this fantastic website to help plan your pooling! Play with this and notice that even one or two more stitches makes a big difference!

The Ravelry group "pooled knits" has lots of images of colour pooling.

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