Easy first crochet step reveals a yarn's true color repeats. Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
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Color Directing with Crochet

A Tunisian lace pattern I developed to change the balance of this hand dyed yarn.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. 

Color Listening

Hand dyed yarn hanks 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?

Line up the chain colorsAfter 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.

Color sequence info cards I create for variegated short-striping yarnsI 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: http://eepurl.com/XwQk ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks!      --Vashti         Helpful links:
Color Code, Cracked
"Ikat crochet" cowl with slip stitches!
I took Laura Bryant's fantastic class on planned pooling last month. These are crochet slip stitches in her exquisite Madison yarn. 
(Click photo to see its project page.) 

Stacked hand dyed colors in slip stitches
Gempool Scarf: it's a young swatch now, but it'll grow up into a crochet pattern for experiencing simple color stacking with a vivid handpainted yarn. See bottom of left column for a quick how-to.

Am I late to the planned pooling party? I wandered into this unusual kind of fun after years of playing other games with color-changing yarns. I'm amazed by the planned pooling knitters have been doing since 2009 or so!

Bonefish Scarf (clicking takes you to its project page in Ravelry.)
Bonefish Scarf, mentioned at left (I didn't want to mix the yellow with the green and blue, so this design was the result).

All of these designs and plenty more are going with me to crochet conference this July in Charleston SC. The class descriptions are listed here; get your hotel room now!
(I speak from experience.) Event registration is not open quite yet as of this writing.
DesigningVashti News

Chance to Win Lotus Yarn until March 15: Just leave a new color suggestion in the comments of this blog post.

-:That's our Lotus yarn:- on the COVER of Interweave Crochet magazine! We're thrilled!!
The cover of Interweave Crochet magazine new Spring issue--with our Lotus yarn on it!!
Doris Chan's Provence Dress in our Teal Glimmer.
I recommend a CONE and ball(s) for most sizes--ask me.

Slip Stitch Crochet Expedient Cowl new pattern by Vashti!
Vashti's New Pattern Expedient Cowl is simple big-hook slip stitch crochet. It came together so fast and it's a great entry-level slip stitch project. Remember it for Fall!
(Chances are pretty good that I'll remind you)

Gallery for the complete free slip stitch crochet heart pattern at the DesigningVashti blog.Free heart pattern update: The text version of the free heart graph is now complete at the blog--tech edited and with a photo gallery too. 

National Crochet Month just gets bigger and better every year! Thank you Amy Shelton and Donna Hulka of Crochetville for coordinating daily giveaways and discoveries of crochet-focused designers, yarn companies, and shops. I'm enjoying the daily recipes in the "dining cars" too. Look at this train ticket Amy made!The Crochet Express train ticket Amy designed!

Links I Enjoyed This Week
Karla Stuebing's 2013 article, "Art and Science of Planned Pooling." (It's about knitting but very inspiring for crochet.)
Jane Crowfoot's sumptuous crochet Frida's Flowers blanket free pattern!

Like Crochet Inspirations 77: Find the Color Code of Short Striping Yarns on Facebook
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Vashti Braha is a professional crochet designer & teacher who resides in Florida (USA) and owns www.DesigningVashti.com.

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