I’ve been knitting for half my life, but have always been afraid of stranded colorwork. But then Stranded: The Colorwork Challenge came along and inspired me to finally try it.
And guess what? It’s not that hard! Last night, I finished my first fair isle mitt, which is a variation on this pattern from She Ewe Knits.
yarn: Blue Sky Alpaca sport weight
needles: US3 dpn
mods: I decreased the size down to 44 stitches in circumference, moved the thumb up 4 rows, and made the cuff stripey.
So what lessons have I learned, firsthand, in my whole vast 48 hours of experience with stranded colorwork?
(1) It’s pretty fun, and highly addictive.
(2) Fuzzy yarns look different than smooth ones (duh) — but not necessarily in a bad way. The fuzzy texture of the alpaca in this mitt means that the edges where the colors meet are just a little less clearly defined than they would be in a smoother yarn, so the whole thing looks a little softer. Like you looked at a merino mitt through a vaseline lens. (Imagine the typical Norwegian mitten in a Barbara Walters interview.)
(3) In two-color rib, my knit stitches are slightly more even and consistent than my purl ones. This means that on my next mitten cuff, I will be sure to knit in a lighter color and purl in a darker one, to hide flaws, accentuate the positive, etc.
(4) My cursed arthritis won’t let me hold two colors in one hand, or knit continental style, because it requires too much control of individual fingers. So stranded colorwork, for me, will always be a somewhat plodding affair (pick up, knit, drop, pick up, knit, drop, pick up, and so on). Still, I’m already getting quicker and more graceful with that process.
(5) Stranded colorwork makes for a doubly-thick, doubly warm garment. Is this why it’s got such a long history with folks in cold parts of the world?
(6) So THIS is why steeks are so important in colorwork — I only ever want to do this in the round. Seriously.
(7) Don’t sweat the wrong side. Unless they’re going to get caught on body parts, only knitters care what your floats look like. And knitters are such a generous, nonjudgemental bunch that you won’t mind showing them: