Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Color works

Fox Paws, detail of five color interaction

...or not

It all started with a scarf. The scarf, which was hanging across the aisle from the Coopworth booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool, was tantalizing for one main reason: I couldn't figure out how the design was achieved in knitting. I just couldn't 'see' it. Thanks to Kris, I was gifted the pattern and could figure it out.

The design is a popular one--Fox Paws by Xandy Peters. And it is very clever. Based on multiple increases--7, 9 and 11 stitches--and equivalent decreases, the resulting pattern is reminiscent of intricate Eastern designs. But the cleverness doesn't stop there. The five-color design rotates across several pattern sets to add depth and interest.

Five color combo

The color combination used in the pattern aren't colors I wear. Rather, I envisioned colors typical to oriental carpets. Heavy on dark blue with touches of rose, burgundy, lighter blue and gold. The pattern uses Knit Picks' Palette 100% wool, fingering weight yarn, which comes in a mind-boggling range of 150 colors. And very affordable.

Combining five colors can be tricky. It may be absolutely true that colors can't be selected from online images, but what if there is no alternative? Many people do not live near a local yarn store (LYS) that stocks a wide range of colors. 

I accepted the downside and ordered eight balls. I played with them in my hand and settled on five that worked together. And then I started knitting.
First five colors

I wasn't happy. And a larger swatch didn't make it better. In fact, the more I knit, the more I disliked it. And when I found myself planning to over dye it, I stopped. I knit for pleasure and I certainly wasn't enjoying this process. 

Setting aside the partially knit shawl, I planned colors again. The problem wasn't really the colors. It was the equal dominance of each color due to the rotation of colors. Colors that add dimension in a carpet looked garish in larger sections.

Five colors, more balanced
I was pleased with two of my starting colors--navy and burgundy--and kept them in the mix.  I added a neutral heather with a touch of gold, a muted rose and a purplish blue. Four of the five colors were heathers. I cast on and loved the combination. (The colors used are documented on Ravelry.)

Knowing how the colors were moving, I planned the first plain knit space (most of the piece is garter stitch) but realized while knitting that I wanted to plan the ending colors, too. Another thing to keep in mind to keep the colors balanced from end to end.

Notes on knitting

Due to the large number of increases and decreases, the math for the repeats didn't make sense on my first read. I asked Xandy about it and she replied, "At first, markers seem helpful, but I actually recommend that people place them in the even rows and remove them in the odd rows while counting to make sure they have the right numbers. This way you won’t have to do the confusing movements between shaping rows."

I preferred to leave the markers on all rows, both even and odd. Yes, I needed to move the markers in many of the rows, but I knew that, for example, if I had three stitches before the marker and in an increase or decrease row, I was spot on. The markers kept me on target.

Fox Paws, as a scarf
Size. Some people commenting on the pattern, which is identified as a shawl or wrap, thought the width too wide. It isn't for a shawl or wrap. The finished width of my first piece is 18 inches. I wanted a scarf, so I simply omitted one repeat to do three repeats instead of four. My scarf is 13 inches wide and 72 inches long (and didn't quite finish the balls of yarn.)

Do note: This is not a quick knit! But the final result is worth the effort.

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