|Color Directing with Crochet
I used to think crocheting with a "multi" (variegated yarn) was like being a passenger in a yarn-driven car. I had to sit back, enjoy the ride, and hopefully like the destination. Sometimes I have. Since then I’ve found strategies that put me in the driver’s seat.
This newsletter explains the simple first step I now take with each new multicolored yarn. I get the clues I need from the yarn so I can select the crochet experience I want to have.
A variegated yarn has a "color code": its unique color sequences and how they repeat (if they do). Once I know its code, I can direct the colors to do what I wish (planned pooling). I might choose to add different elements of chance, like co-pooling and stitch painting, for one of a kind outcomes that go beyond accidental pooling.
I refer to them all as stitch games because we have more options than planned vs unplanned pooling, or avoidance of pooling. Crocheters may have more games they can play with the color codes than knitters do, because any crochet row and round can easily be any height at any moment at the same time that it can easily be any width.
Chain Through the Colors
My simple first step is to chain a lot. I chain at normal speed and tension until the color changes become so predictable that I get a bit bored: "Yep here comes that magenta, yep followed by the aqua…" Depending on the yarn, I might only need about two yards (almost 2 meters) of chains, or maybe double that.
If after 4-6 yards there's no repeating sequence, then it’s not a short-striping yarn, and that’s valuable to know too. (Issue #30 was on long striping yarns.)
During this initial chaining I might adjust my hook up or down a size. The yarn might already start whispering to me what it would like to be. These are important first introductions with any yarn. What I’m really looking for is how long each color is, how speedily a color shifts into the next color, and when the color sequence repeats.
Sure, I could skip the chaining, unwind lengths of the yarn, and try lining up the colors to see its complete color sequence. I’ve done that. Chaining through the colors tells me so much more! And I love this about crochet.
Ideally I’d witness the yarn being dyed. This has never happened. I can see the yarn wound in the hank the dyer used because yarns are often sold this way. In this form I can see how long the hank is and get a view of the color sequence. The photos at left show recent handpainted yarn purchases in their original hanks, twisted up and then opened.
Sometimes yarn is rewound after dyeing, which shuffles the colors. Or, maybe you or the yarn shop wound it into a handy pull cake. No worries! Chaining will sort it all out.
Before I chain, the yarn colors appear to spend several inches transitioning to the next color. Chaining helps by clarifying the color boundaries. After chaining, colors are tidied up, easier to measure, and easier to see how they affect each other. Evaluating the colors in crochet stitches is just plain more inspiring.
Chaining speeds up the time it takes to see past the dazzle. As I chain, I notice how I feel about each color as it flows through my fingers. Is a color over too fast or does it last too long? Is one of them jarring? The yellow in the Bonefish Scarf shown in the right column made me happy. I didn’t want to see the yellow mixed with the blue and green, and this influenced the "stitch game" I chose for it.
Got the Color Code?
After chaining for awhile, line up the colors in a circle, like a hank of chains. In other words, try to recreate how it was dyed. I’ve done this with lots of skeins by now, and often it’ll feel like the colors suddenly lock into place. I might even be able to envision the dyer’s hand lightly applying the dye here, really saturating there, dipping that end of the hank into a dye pot.
I jot down the circle of colors (the sequence) on an index card. I include the hook size used, yarn label, and the number of chains stitches per color in each sequence. This shows me an average number of chains per color.
New to this? Start crocheting a row of any stitches you wish into your chains. Try different stitches for each color as they happen. (Ignore the colors of the chains.)
One thing I love to do is use specific crochet stitches in sneaky ways. I might use textures to offset or balance color pooling, or affect color relationships by enhancing, muting, hashing, airing, etc.
Stacking the colors is fun (blue stitches into blue chains, red into red, etc). To try this, you need a sense of what the color sequence is. Do a row of all one stitch until you've used a full color sequence. On the next row, use the same stitch and try to match up the colors.
I did this in the blue swatch (upper right column). I used front loop slip stitches and tried casually to crochet each color into the same color in each row. I say "casually" because if I tried harder, they’d stack more neatly. It takes just a bit of practice.
That's it for #77! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks! --Vashti Helpful links: