learning: colourwork and yarn dominance

So, as you know, I’ve recently begun my big adventure into the world of knitting with multiple colours. Once I had settled on my colours, I thought, there was no more decision-making or thinking to do – just making sure I read every little square in the chart properly and transfer that into my yarn. Knitting while holding a yarn in each hand is somewhat clumsy and slower than my ‘regular’ knitting, but I find that I get used to it fairly quickly. So I sped along, and soon enough, I ended up with half a mitten in three colours. Yay!

And then I discovered yarn dominance. Ouch.

The bug safely planted in my brain, I started doing more and more research. Basically, yarn dominance refers to the fact that, when knitting with two different colurs on one row/round, one of the colours will appear more prominent, and this does not depend on the colour itself but on how you hold your yarns. There are various explanations for why this happens (slightly larger stitches, the ‘float’ somehow pushing the stitches out, etc.), but regardless of the explanations, it does happen. And it makes a world of difference. Go and look at this sample here. Go on, I’ll be right here waiting. Can you believe it’s the same motif, just knitted with yarns held differently?!

It took me a while to believe it! But when I did, I realized I had been doing it all wrong… The rule of thumb for yarn dominance is to hold whichever colour you want to be dominant (and that is normally the colour of the motif) in your left hand (if using the standard double-handed technique). I, on the other hand, had been using my left hand to hold the background colour (i.e. MC – main colour): because I am a continental knitter, I knit faster with whatever is in my left hand, and the MC is used most often (as it is the background for all the motifs), so for me it made most sense to put it in the hand that is most skillful. I didn’t realize that holding the background colour in my left hand meant that the background would swallow up the motifs I had been creating so carefully in the contrast colours. Ouch.

At first, I decided to live with it – the first motif would be as is, and for the rest of the time I’d apply my newly-acquired knowledge. But there was another catch. In the pattern I’m working on, there is one section where the main colour switches from creating the background to creating the motif. I only thought of that after I had already finished the section, and realized that, in that section, I should’ve switched hands. Ouch.

The conclusion: I’m ripping. These mitts I’m knitting are small enough to warrant ripping for the sake of quality. And I want to apply my new knowledge. Before I cast on again, I’ll make notes next to the chart, indicating section by section which yarn should be held in my left hand.

Knitting is not just about handling yarns and needles. It also requires thinking and careful planning. Somehow, that makes me like it even more. :)

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

8 thoughts on “learning: colourwork and yarn dominance

    • I read on one blog that the effect becomes less prominent the more skillful you become with colourwork, maybe all the ones you’ve seen were done by professionals or something :)

  1. huh! Never heard of yarn dominance, but it totally makes sense! I’m sorry you have to rip your work out, but it’s always better to get it right than regret not ripping earlier, no?

    • Definitely. I don’t mind on this one, since the design is all about colourwork it would be a shame for it not to be done well. And it’s such a tiny project… If it were a sweater, I’d be thinking twice ;)

  2. Pingback: First Real Attempt At Fair Isle « Izznit

  3. Pingback: something to aspire to | fridica

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