Choosing colors for stranded colorwork knitting is challenge, but not a rocket science. I wrote several tips how to choose colors. The example is my design Wintering cap, which I knitted in different yarns and colors.
You cannot go wrong with a traditional 2-color scheme: red/white, gray/black, gray/white (below) , red/black. The examples of these popular color combos are below, executed in different yarns.
For non-traditional 2-color scheme, choose high contract shades from the same or the opposite color family. For example: hot pink/burgundy:
You can make the color scheme a bit more sophisticated: 3- and 4- colors. Take 2 (or 3) yarns of the same color family and the 4th yarn of opposite color in a darker shade. Make sure that there is still a good contrast between the two darkest yarns. For example: white/baby blue/steel blue + forest green. See two pictures below.
Here is another example of mixing 3 colors of one family (green, gray-greens) and 1 contrasting color (mustard yellow):
Another variation is on the last photo, #4: 2 yarns of one color family (purple and lilac) and 2 colors of opposite color family (dark mustard, light mustard)
True head turner can be a multi-color scheme. The most winning combos are the 2 sets of the opposite color families. This will make an unforgettable item. Again, watch for the contrast of any two colors you use in a row. See #5 on the last picture.
Important tips when selecting colors
• To determine the contract take a picture of yarns side-by-side under day light in black-and-white mode. The difference in tones will translate into nice, crisp contrast. • If you plan color changes for both – background and foreground – the transition will be smooth if you change 1 color at a time, knit at least 2 rows and change another color.
This is the third version of the cap I designed using the principle of traditional Finno-Ugric textiles. It looks more like an Art Deco cap, my daughter told me.
My friend Emma modeled the cap. It looked good on her: she has a smaller head and the shorter version fit her just right. So I gave the cap to her. She is an outdoor type and will find the cap handy.
We photographed in Fort Foster Park in Kittery, Maine. The park has been reopened for the locals just 2 days ago. The sky promised a rain. The wind was unkindly cool. The surroundings were pearly gray. In sum, not a cheerful day. But in the park by the ocean we could forget what was out there: people in masks, lines to the stores, take-out only restaurants, empty store fronts… We tried to have a good and creative day, regardless of the circumstances.
“What day is it?” ” It is today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh – A. A. Milne
But you are not reading this article because you need to know what we did. You are here because of the cap.
This cap is very similar to the previous 2 versions in Finnougoria series. See Finnougoria I : it has all the technical details. I used different yarns of approximately equal thickness for this cap just like I do for all my colorwork caps.
The diagram below has two starting points (I knit bottom up): one is smaller version (just like on the photos) and another is for the deeper version.
The diagonal patterns based on Finno-Ugric textile traditions offer such a great opportunities for the designers. Here is another cap with instructions. For the community use.
I worked out some technical kinks from the previous version of the cap with the diagonal patterns.
This version reminds even less the patterns of traditional Finnish or Komi hand-knit items. I extrapolated the new design from the previous one. And the previous one I derived from the traditional Komi patterns.
I used the traditional patters as a framework to extend the existing ways of making things. This is the most wonderful and robust thing about any folk tradition: it can be extended.
The Finno-Ugric diagonal patterns are beautiful and can be worked into a cap design. This post has a free pattern for the readers of my blog.
The charm of the diagonal patterns
I learned a lot about the diagonal patterns when researching the history of the Komi knitting. Komi is the large territory of the Russian North. The research resulted in several posts about the history of this knitting tradition. The posts have many examples of patterns and items made with these patterns by the Komi women.
The diagonal patterns can be expanded, contracted and interlocked in all directions. They can grow one from another without loosing their shared internal rhythm. Several patterns locked together create a fabric that look breathtakingly complex, but, in reality, it is easy to knit.
The flow of Finno-Ugric patterns reminds me the lines from the poem:
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation.
T.S. Eliot, from Burnt Norton
Diagonal patterns and sizing
Enough of poetry. Back to knitting. Here is a bit of nasty news: these beautiful interlocking diagonal patterns do not lend themselves easily to sizing. The stitch count in a pattern repeat should be divisible by 6. It means that you must reduce the item size minimum by 6 stitches – 3 in the beginning of the first pattern repeat and 3 at the end of the last pattern repeat. This is a LOT. Plus, there is a need to deal with a jog.
The design of this cap calls for 180 stitches (6 repeats of a 30-stitch pattern). If you need to change the sizing, you can do it in other ways than reducing/increasing stitch count: – use smaller/bigger needle size – mix thicker and thinner yarns – use thicker yarn for an inner layer (You will understand what I mean by ‘inner layer’ a bit later, when we get to Overview) – make full inner layer instead of a partial one. – replace several bottom rows with ribbing In sum, design your own strategy to modify the size without changing the stitch count.
It took me several tries to get this cap right, so the pictures below are from TWO last versions of Finnougoria I cap.
Size: 59-60cm Gage: 2.5cm x 2.5cm = apx 9 stiches x 11 rows
You can choose your method of construction to adjust the size. I would assume here that you follow my way of making the hat.
The hat is knit bottom-up, without ribbing, but with double-layering on the bottom. I used Judy’s Magic cast on to start a double layer. Cast on 180 stitches on each needle. Put a marker every 30 stitches in both layers. Two layers – the inner and the outer – are knit separately in opposite directions from the cast-on rows. While you knit one layer on shorter circular needles, the other layer rests on longer circular needle or moved onto a string of waste yarn. I used #2 USA needles to knit the outer later, and #1 USA for the inner layer.
After the inner layer is about 17 rows and the outer layer is 18 rows, fold the fabric and transfer all the stitches onto one #2 USA needle. The next row: continue, carefully knitting each inner and outer stitch together.
The crown is formed by reducing stitches in the beginning and end of pattern.
Choice of yarns
I like mixing yarns. For this project I used “fluffy” mixed yarn for the white color and smooth yarn for the red.
Version #1 Red: Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, ADDICTIONS, Fingering Weight, 100% fine merino ~35 g White: two yarns mixed Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight Kid mohair, Lace Weight ~30g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g
Version #2 (final, as shown on model) Red: Cascade Heritage, Fingering Weight 85% merino 15% mulberry silk, ~25 g White: Rowan Alpaca Classic, DK weight 60% alpaca, 40% cotton ~25g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g
One of the Facebook group members recommended brand Rauma Finull, because the red yarn of this brand does not bleed.
Circular needles: #2 USA 36in. or 48in. (optional) #2 USA 24in. #1 USA 24in.
Double-pointed needles (if you do not know how to use magic loop): #2
Important note: the pattern is free for the hand-knitters, but it is not for commercial use or mass production.
2 diagrams: the bottom and the crown. The diagram shows 30-stitch pattern repeat. As your recall there are 6 repeats, 30 stitches each. The leftmost 31st stitch on the diagram is the last stitch of the last pattern repeat tofix the jog. The rest of the important comments are right on the diagram.
Let me know how your cap turns out. While posting the pictures of this cap in FB groups, I found out something interesting about the items with red-and-white with diagonal patterns from the fellow knitters. It looks like at the turn of the 20th century the sweaters, cardigans and caps in this style were very popular in Finland and the neighboring Russian territory on the shores of the White Sea called Pomorye. Pomorye was a melting pot, because it has the important old Russian sea port of Arkhangelsk. The Pomors – that what the inhabitants of the area were called – were a mix of the Komi, Hanty, Mansy, Finns, Russians and other ethic groups. But this is the story for the later post.
The diagonal patterns of Finno-Ugric textiles inspired the hat with ear-flaps. This is the last project of the year and the most challenging. I share design ideas in this post.
For about a year and a half I fiddled with the idea of a hat with ear-flaps. A “couture look” was my lofty goal: – ear-flaps should be one with a hat – a large-scale pattern should flow from the ear-flap tips to the top as if the hat is if it is custom-cut from a whole piece of cloth – combination of contrasting and gradient colors
This was a technically ambitious project. Perfect to finish the year but a bit difficult to write about.
I will break up the post into two parts. Something to share with textile artists of every level. The part about choosing yarns, patterns and colors is for all levels of aspiring knitwear artists. The brief instructions how to shape ear-flaps are for the technically sophisticated.
Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast-on (to knit the inner and outer layers. The knitting goes in both directions. The cast-on becomes a fold line. There are plenty good YouTube videos about this technique – look up!)
Short rows, Japanese style (to create ear-flaps. I found instructions online as well.)
Stranded color work knitting (optional)
To prevent curling, the bottom of the hat is knit into two opposite directions from the cast-on row. There will be 7-8 cm (or 3 in) of double-layering over the ears and forehead.
Yarns, patterns and colors
Creative mix of different yarns – fluffy angora and smooth merino – produces a wonderful “watercolor washout” effect.
Background: Forrest Green, Dark Orange
rated for #5-7 needles
1 skein each. 1/2 skein of Dark Orange left
Foreground: Medium blue, Bright blue Light blue
rated for #4 needles
1 1/2 skeins from Katia Ombre gradient set
Choosing needle size
Ignore the recommended needle size on the label if you are making a hat. The fabric should be dense, but thin. It should retain the shape and to shield from the cold. I used #2 needles – a much smaller size than recommended.
Ideas for patterns and colors
I adopted the traditional Finno-Ugric textile patterns ( See the previous post about Komi textile patterns) as a basis for design. The diagonal patterns come in wide variety of sizes, but all of them are all based on a rudimentary 6×6 pattern. The background colors are contrasting and of the same intensity (Forrest Green, Dark Orange). The foreground colors are gradient of the same color (blue). Change one color at a time to achieve the harmonious transitions. The number of rows for each color combination should be a multiple of 6 (or close to it):
Dark blue (not the best combo, alas…)
apx 12 rows
apx 36 rows
apx 24 rows
apx 18 rows
Ear-flaps: very brief instructions
I must be honest….
1) It is easier if you can knit with either hand: there is no need to turn over the fabric. This is how I knit, but the ear-flaps are doable without a trick of ambidexterity. Just skip the stranded colorwork at the bottom edge of the hat.
Below are several earlier models with ear-flaps: the hats look just fine without all-over stranded colorwork.
2) Try to practice with some junk yarn until you get the technique that is just right for you. The first experiments – especially with my brief written instructions – might not be promising. Mine were not. It took me quite a while to get the technique straight.
3) Planning is a key to success.
Well, caveat emptor is stated…
Now back to the brief instructions…
The same instructions apply to knitting both layers of the hat. The double-layer part of the hat is about 7-8cm (3 in.) over the forehead. From that point, the layers are joined.
Use Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast-on (plenty of how-to videos on YouTube). The cast-on will become the folding line for the layers.
Use thinner yarn for the inner layer. I chose the combination of angora (baby blue, over the ears) and very thin wool-silk yarn for the rest of the inner layer. Both colors fit the color scheme of the outer stranded colorwork.
Place markers: back, front and mark the ears. Especially – the center of each ear-flap. It is critical for symmetry. Use odd number of stitches for ear-flaps: 1 central stitch makes things easier to track.
For inner and outer layer repeat the same procedure (with your minor personal adjustments, of course.)
Knit the whole first row in a round. Knit 2 stitches together 3-4 stitches before and after the center of each potential ear-flap.
Shaping an ear-flap with short rows
The picture is worth a thousand words. It shows how to shape the left ear-flap with ever-increasing short rows. The right ear is a mirror image of the left.
Note that you cast 12 stitches more than required: it is for controlling excess fabric from short rows.
The outer and inner layers are knit in more or less identical fashion: after shaping of ear-flaps is done, knit in a round 7-8 in (3 cm).
Now is the easy part: fold the layers along the cast-on line, transfer the stitches from both layers onto one round needle (one stitch for the inner layer, one stitch from the outer layer, one stitch for the inner layer, one stitch from the outer layer… until all on one needle). Knit together.
Continue knitting in a round into whatever shape you choose.
My version came out like on the picture below. I wonder what yours will look like… Keep on creating!
I stumbled into little known knitting tradition of the Komi people after making my first tunic from Alice Starmore’s Fishermen’s Sweaters and designing my own vest.The diagonal patterns of the Komi socks and mittens mesmerized me.
In the previous post I featured the vest of my own design inspired by the Komi knitting.
Alice Starmore wrote in the introduction to her pattern that she could not find any fishermen’s sweaters from the Baltic regions except the one Estonian sweater in the Finnish museum. She based the pattern on that sweater executed in a yarn of lovely gray shades. Starmore’s book was published in 1993. This was the decade when very little was known about the knitting traditions of the former USSR.
After I finished the Baltic sweater, I knew that knitting according to someone’s instructions is not my forte. I love to design my own things.
For my next project, I googled Russian redwork embroidery. There were plenty of images on internet. Beautiful and suitable for knitting.
The modified weaving pattern from a towel end was just right for the vest. The vest has a few interesting technical features. I will write about them in detail in another post.
I abandoned the rule of using same type of yarn in stranded color work. A mix of fluffy Katia Alpaca-Silk (doubled) and a gradient set called Katia Ombre (sports weight). It is a pity that Katia Alpaca-Silk is discontinued, but to my knowledge, there is compatible yarn under label Drops.
The combination of thicker, fluffier yarn and thinner, smoother yarn allowed me to use larger needles ( #7 US). The vest turned out to be of right thickness and went reasonably fast.
I noticed something during my searches, which turned a pattern selection into an amateur science project: many diagonal geometric textile patterns posted online were captioned as Perm region of Russia. Perm is a city in the Republic of Komi, a federal territory within Russia. The native population there was not Russian.
A little more research yielded an intriguing story of the ancient textile tradition which is little known to the world: Komi stranded color work knitting and Komi weaving.
What became clear from my amateur research that the attractive diagonal geometric patterns in hand-knitting that we think of as Estonian or Latvian or Russian might have been borrowed from the Komi people, who live to the west of the Urals Mountains. The Estonians, the Finns and the Komis are of the same Finno-Ugric ethnic group and they live on neighboring territories. The Komis adopted the technique of knitting earlier than their cousins. It came from their Asian neighbors.
The search for Komi knitting books brought only one result, but a lot of other fascinating materials. The history of the Komi and their knitting is a testimony how much the fate and heritage of a small ethnic group depends on twists and turns of the history. It is the story well worth telling.
In the next several posts, I will write about the light and dark periods of the Komi knitting.
Just in time for the winter! I made another vest for myself. This time I tried two ideas: smooth transitions of colors and patterns and to do away with traditional steeking and ribbing. Colorwork patterns from the traditional Komi textiles.
I love the diagonal patterns of the Komi textiles. They are easy to combine together: one pattern flows into another creating visually intricate fabric. Also, gradient and contrasting colors add liveliness. My vest looks complicated, but with a few design tricks it is not complicated at all. I jotted down here a few ideas for you, my fellow knitting artists, to use in your projects.
I do not buy “sweater quantities”. The experiments with yarns of different weights and textures procured somewhere as odd lots at bargain prices are far more interesting. It is also a good thing for Mother Earth. For this vest I used light gray Katia merino/silk (doubled), a set of Katia Ombre (blues), sock-weight red wool with a lost label from Savers, leftovers of recycled angora yarn (oranges and yellows) and good old Cascade 220 for the hem borders.
Because I combined thicker and softer yarn with thinner and firmer yarns, I was able to use larger needles (#7). Such combination did not make my vest bulky or shapeless.
if you decide to repeat the experiment with mixing yarns, Katia merino/silk (now discontinued) can be replaced by the yarn produced under the label Drops. Drops offers more interesting range of colors.
As to Katial Ombre, it can be replaced by any other label that produces gradient yarns in Sports or sock weight.
The goal was to design a true single-piece garment without ribbing and withoutsteeking (steeking is not suitable for soft yarns. The delicate yarns do not “stick” well like famouse Shetland wool. The cut edges will droop miserably).
The vest is knit on round needles bottom up. From the arm holes it is continued in flat knitting up to the shoulder seams.
The true design challenge was to get rid of ribbing round arm holes and neckline. Here is my solution: at the tip of the neckline and round the armholes I created 6 stitches out of 3. Those 6 stitches are knit in reversible style: knitting with gray yarn, purling with periwinkle yarn. The reduction of the stitches under the arm and around the neckline was with the 4th stitch from the edge, if you are looking at the right side of the fabric. That stitch was always of the same color: it creates a nice line round the openings. When the vest was complete, I ran a string through the tube formed by reversible knitting to prevent excessive stretching.
Another small, but important technical trick: I inserted a short row near the shoulder seam to accommodate shoulder slope.
Here is how the edges of the vest look from the wrong side:
Pithy “how-to” instructions
I publish here only the technical drawing and the color chart of the vest. Note that I’m of a very generous size, so adjust the stitch and row counts according to your size.
If you decide to use the color chart below, remember the important task of centering the repeats of Bereginya pattern ( a stylized female figure ) along the hem. Bereginya means Mother-Protector in old Slavic languages. Alice Starmore wrote the best instructions on centering and adjusting the border patterns in her books Fair Isle Knitting and Charts for Color Knitting. I recommend highly these two books if you are into stranded-color knitting. By the way: the diagonal patterns of the Komi textiles are great for decreasing or increasing to fit a desirable size.
Thank you for reading. I hope, you got a creative idea or two!
The rule of stranded color knitting is to use finer, same weight yarn (sports or baby). But there was nobody to tell me this, so I bought a lot of medium weight yarn like Cascade 220. Now the goal is to knit myself out of this accidental stash. I experimented a bit. I hope, the results will be of benefit to you, too.
Warning: the swatches from the experiments looked hopeless first. The fabric was lumpy, with holes. The swatches must be blocked before one can see whether the idea has any merit.
To combine medium-weight, stiffer yarn with thinner, softer yarn. Like Cascade 220 (rated for #7-8 US needles) and Cascade Heritage merino/silk (rated for #1-3 US needles) using needle size that is an average of 2 recommended sizes.
Right swatch above, on #6 US needles: the fabric came out reasonably thin but stiff. Great for hats, jackets (worn without a coat over it) or coats. In sum, where an item must retain shape. Left swatch above, on #7 US needs: the fabric came out thinner, as if it was knit with Cascade 220 alone. And it was much softer than Cascade 220 alone. Suitable for hats, heavier sweaters and coats.
The pattern should have more foreground color, i.e. more than 70% of stitches should be with thicker yarn.
In flat knitting: 2 edge stitches should be in foreground color to produce an even selvage.
Knitting is reasonably fast, because of the large needle size.
It is best to catch the floats every 3 stitches.
Use softer, fluffier yarn for background.
The swatch below holds a real promise. I used fluffier, softer medium-weight yarn for the background. The label is lost, but I would say it is alpaca or alpaca blend. The experiment on #7 US needles yielded the swatch of perfect thinness, density and drape to make any object. Fluffy fibers of the background yarn nicely covered holes after blocking.
To mix even lighter, fluffier background yarn and stiffer foreground yarn that hold shape well. Background: Katia Alpaca/Silk, rated for #4 US needles, 2 strands plied together. It has the softest hand. Knitting in a single strand is perfect for scarfs and shawls. Unfortunately, Katia Alpaca/Silk is discontinued, but there is an adequate substitute under label Drops. Foreground: merino sports weight from Katia Ombre set. Verdict:
The idea is a keeper! The best swatch in a batch: soft, but it will hold shape well
The background fluffy yarn creates an attractive halo over the pattern
The proportion of background to foreground yarn in a pattern can raised to 50-50.
The pattern is derived from the folk textile pattern of the Komi people. Another post will be about the Komi knitting and the techniques used in this project later.
Have many remnants of fine yarns? Here is the master recipe for the eye-catching scarf. it includes the concept of color change from the American weaver Richard Landis (see photos from the exhibit in Cooper-Hewitt Museum of design in References below) and Fibonacci numbers.
The inspiration behind the scarf was a wall hanging I saw in Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.
Nature’s design secret
Mother Nature programmed us from birth to find plants, especially flowers,
beautiful. At the core of plant’s growth, arrangement of its petals and seeds
is Fibonacci series.
Fibonacci numbers stack like this: starting with 2, the next number is the
sum of the previous two:
Fibonacci numbers have direct connection to Golden Angle and Golden Rule, two important design principles that the humans have been borrowing from Nature since the time immemorial. Some references about the natural patterns are in the section Literature below. Enough of science. Now let’s get to knitting.
The pattern is simple – columns of rectangles.
It is the rectangle sizes, their spacing and color changes that give rhythm
to this profusion of bright colors.
Each rectangle is the height of Fibonacci number – 5,8,13 rows.
Within each rectangle two complimentary colors (2+3), (3+5), (5+8) rows.
5 rows of background color separate the rows of rectangles. The width of
rectangles is 3 stitches, separated by 3 stitches of background color.
The height of each row is picked rather randomly, but there are a few rules
which do the trick.
Change only one color in any row. The next change of color – background or
foreground – should be minimum 2 rows after.
Each two-tone rectangle is surrounded by “friendly” colors, i.e. background
color, the colors of preceding and following rectangles should be in crisp
Vertically, as you knit, the color that ends the previous two-tone rectangle should begin the next rectangle of the same two tones. (aqua-blue, hunter-jade, blue-aqua, jade-hunter). This principle I stole from weaver Richard Landis.
To tie the colors together: repeat rectangles of a particular spectrum more
often. I chose to repeat rectangles in range of dark green-apple
green-chartreuse-yellow every other row. Mother Nature told us that
green-yellow shades get along with many bright colors.
Materials, tools & technique
There are 22 colors in this scarf. It is 3 meters (9 ft) long. The yarns were various luxury remnants: alpaca, wool-silk blend, thin kid mohair, angora. Anything you have for #1-3 US needles. It will all even out at the end! For background colors I chose smooth yarns of subtler shade. Kid mohair and angora gave a wonderful ‘haze’ to rectangles.
Technique: stranded color work, knitted flat. But the fabric resists any blocking and curls into a tube. So it to go with a flow: knit it as a tube.| Needle size: #4 US
If I had to do it again…
… I would have knitted this scarf in a round, like a tube. It did not matter how many times I blocked it: it rolled back into a tube. No point to fight with physics.
That’s about it… Play with colorful yarns and Fibonacci numbers!
Now it is time to create your own pattern…
Here are a few examples of using Fibonacci numbers in pattern design. You can go from simple stripes to rectangles with as few as two colors.