Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vespergyle Mittens

I've been working on a pair of Vespergyle mittens. The pattern is by Elinor Brown and they have a two-color stranded "argyle" pattern. This is probably only the second pair of mittens I have made and maybe the second or third colorwork project I've done.

At this point I have one mitten finished and the other one started, maybe 25% done. I’ve learned over the course of the first mitten that something very simple can make a dramatic difference in the look of your finished fabric. Let me explain how this relates to these mittens…

I haven’t done too much two-color knitting yet, but when I do I hold one strand in each hand. While knitting this mitten, I didn’t pay much attention to what yarn I was holding in what hand and didn't imagine it mattered. The pattern started out great, showing the “X” in each diamond of the argyle pattern very well. However somewhere along the way, things started going wrong.

If you take a look at the pictures of the whole glove, you can see there are some dark colored diamonds where the “X” is almost non-existent, having sunk into the fabric (see the orange circled area for a good example of this). I couldn’t figure out why this was happening and decided to do a little research. And at my local bookstore, I found the answer.

I picked up Margaret Radcliffe’s “The Essential Guide To Color Knitting Techniques.” On pages 152-153 she discusses positioning the yarns. She shows how something as seemingly trivial as which yarn is held in which hand can change the outcome of your finished work.

By reading this and with a little experimenting, I learned that I need to hold in my left hand the “foreground” yarn, or, in this case, the one which will be forming the “X”s in each diamond. That allows the “X” to show up boldly and not to disappear into the design (See how even the pattern looks on the upper third of the glove). I’m not totally sure I understand the technical side of it of why this works, but I’ll type in the paragraph that really helped me.

“The stitches made with the lower strand (held on the left) are just a bit taller than the stitches made with the higher strand (held on the right). When the foreground pattern is worked with the lower yarn, these stitches are more prominent and stitches neighboring each other diagonally actually touch so the pattern looks continuous. If the foreground color is worked with the higher yarn, then it is less prominent and diagonal stitches appear to be slightly separated. Be careful not to change the yarn position in the course of your project, because the change can be very noticeable.” Also see the accompanying photo below.

This was great info, however I realized that with this pattern of alternating foregrounds (“the X”s that I need to stand out) I DID have to change the hand I was holding the yarn in. So each time I finished working on the “X” of one color, I would need to switch the yarns to opposite hands so that the new, opposite color “X” would stand out prominently. This was one of those great knitting “A-Ha!” lessons that will stick with me and surely come in handy as I continue my color work.

What I’m doing to make the “X”s work for me, may not work for everyone working this pattern. There are most certainly some other small factors coming in to play too. But I did want to pass this information on and make others aware that some fine tuning to your technique can clearly make or break how things will look when it comes to two-color knitting.

What this all means, though, is that I may decide to rip out the first mitten back to the top of the thumb gore so I can ‘fix’ the sunken “X”s. I don’t think I’ll be happy with them otherwise. It’s a bit of extra work, but something I’ll certainly appreciate once all is said and done.

That being said, onward ho!