Apparently I am on the fence about variegated yarn. I see the skeins and love the play of colors together and can’t help but reach for it. But it seems that once I start to knit it, I become far more persnickety about the same play of colors. I’d never really noticed how strongly I felt until this latest episode of stashbusting — and now it seems like a bitchslap to the head.

At Rhinebeck last year, I discovered Miss Babs yarn. This was probably a mistake, because now I know to make a beeline to her stall from now on. 2011 seemed to be the Year of the Warm Colors, which was also unusual; I came home with an inordinate amount of yellow and orange mixed in with some other gorgeous tonal blends. But after I’d made my (rather large) Miss Babs purchase, I noticed a skein that seemed to contain it all — reds, oranges, yellows, and even a touch of green. It was speaking my color language. It also didn’t help that it was the Rhinebeck 2011 limited edition colorway; I cannot seem to resist the words LIMITED EDITION. *eyeroll* So I decided to buy it and make a scarf out of it so that I could, in fact, wear it on my next festival trip. And over the months, I’ve been looking for something that would allow the color play to shine, without taking away from it with an intricate lace pattern. Enter Trillian — a simple triangular scarf that is mostly garter stitch with a decorative geometric edging across two edges. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? So I queued it up, and when I was ready for a new travel project, I wound the skein and cast on.

It didn’t take me very long before I realized that I really didn’t like this. I mean, I really didn’t like it. That doesn’t usually happen in a project, but this time it stood out like a sore thumb. Four inches in and I was itching to frog the piece and give the yarn to the next person I passed on a street corner. I probably should have guessed something was wrong when I looked at the cake of wound yarn and noticed how different the color play looked from the skein — the skein has large patches of color while the cake is quite streaky. “It’ll be fine once I start knitting it,” I nervously muttered to myself, but alas, it never got to ‘fine.’ It actually got to “Oh my god, this looks like a freaking washcloth,” which was pretty much the kiss of death because, in my mind, people knit washcloths out of yarn they don’t want and can’t think of anything better to do with it. That’s a pretty sad state of affairs, if you ask me — especially if we are talking festival yarn. So I stopped knitting but kept the pathetic triangle around to contemplate it. Perhaps I was being too harsh. Maybe it’s just me. So when a friend stopped by for a cup of coffee, I decided to ask her what she thought about it. Her first reaction? “It looks like a washcloth.”

Okay then. Not just me.

I continued to ponder the situation, and sifted through Ravelry stashes and project pages to see what others did with their variegated yarn. Eventually — because, really, it’s like six degrees of Kevin Bacon — you see that everyone has knit a Clapotis. While that pattern has never really beckoned to me, I did notice the stripes of dropped stitches seems to lend itself to continuing the line of color across the piece. Since I didn’t have any other alternative, I decided to see how the yarn played out in this pattern. I frogged the triangular washcloth and cast on for Clapotis. And am I glad I did. Almost immediately, I saw a difference in how the variegation played across stockinette rather than being confined by the garter stitch. The stockinette allows the color play to take front seat to the stitch, and I can see much more of a flow to the color, rather than the choppiness of the garter stitch. It makes sense, really, when you think about it, but until I saw it in action, I really had no idea that it would ever make a difference. It’s also interesting to note how much more I knit up with the same amount of yarn frogged from the garter stitch — again, it makes sense when you think about the construction, but it’s not something I’ve actually considered. Now I know that the stitch is just as much a factor in the look of a finished object as is the drape of a yarn and the color play. Thank goodness for teachable moments.

After I had this epiphany, I went back through my stash just to see how much variegated yarn I had. Ironically, I have 29 different variegated yarns (not including the Noro, which is another beast entirely) and I’ve got several cakes where I started a project and then quickly abandoned it because I found myself yet again not really liking what I’d started. I suspect how the yarn was dyed also has a distinct effect on the outcome, although I haven’t done my due diligence in figuring this out. Which also begs the question, can I predict the type of pattern that will knit out by the way it looks on the skein? I’m thinking I will need to look into this further. Watch for the inevitable follow up post, because now I’m actually gonna research this because it will bug the shit out of me.

But as for now, I’m just relieved this is working out and that I’m actually enjoying this project. The pattern is super easy (although, God help me if I eff this up, as I won’t really know until I try to drop the stitches at the end to see if I did it right. And what happens if I actually DO make an error in the stitches? I’m trying not to let myself think about this because, really and truly, it is what it is. If I have to frog back, so be it. After back-to-back-to-back projects on size 4 needles or less, size 8 needles are a FREAKING BREEZE. So what do I care? Since I have approximately half of what the pattern calls for for a shawl, I think this will be a perfect scarf size. And it’s something new, and it’s different, and I think it actually salvages what could have been a very ugly situation. Not to mention a fugly washcloth.

Besides. Everybody knits a Clapotis, right?


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