Summer School – Colorwork

 I’m taking a bit of time off this month, but I wanted to make sure you had something to do while I’m napping (or, more likely, sweeping out the garage, getting drywall dust  out of my cabinets, or planning next year’s projects…but napping sounds better).

On Mondays, I’ll introduce a topic or skill and provide a bunch of links and resources to help you learn more. Later in the week, I’ll show off a few favorite patterns so you can do some homework.  The featured patterns will be on sale for one day each, so come back each weekday to see if there’s something that catches your eye!

Last week we did lace, and the week before that we did cables.  This week I want to talk about colorwork.  Now, I don’t mean proper colorwork…the kind where you have to manage more than one color of yarn on a single row.  I mean the kind where you only use one color per row and so the whole project is baaaaaaasically glorified stripes.  You know, the easy kind!

Now, just to get this right up front, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with proper colorwork.  It’s lovely!  And if you like knitting it, that’s grand.  It’s just that I, personally, am really clumsy at it.  So I don’t do it much.

But mixing colors is too much fun to leave it just to those brave enough (or coordinated enough) to do the real stuff.  So I spend more time than I probably should playing with ways to use more than one color in a project…but only one per row.

One of the most classic ways to do this is called mosaic knitting.  That’s where you work some stitches and slip some other stitches.  This can create startlingly intricate patterns (and way more variations than you’d think possible).   Knitty has a good introduction over here, there’s another good guide here, and there’s even a fun little tool over here to let you try out your own patterns once you get the hang of how they work!

But you don’t have to just stick to mosaic knitting.  You can do all sorts of crazy things when you introduce more than one color.  The only limit is your imagination (or the stitch dictionaries you can track down).  Because these stitches are so varied, there isn’t really one name they fall under, which makes it hard to find resources that will cover everything you might want to know.  But this is a great online stitch dictionary with videos of lots of stitches, and this has some great general tips for working with multiple yarns.

I’ll talk in a bit more detail about some of my favorite two color projects over the next few days.  But just like we did with lace last week and cables the week before, I want to point you toward some great books if you want to read more.  These are all fabulous and I love them to bits (as usual, amazon links are totally affiliate links, if you don’t like those, you can absolutely google the titles instead, I’ll never ever know).

Reading List:

  • Barbara Walker’s Mosaic Knitting (as always, amazon links are affiliate links) is going to come up first in most any discussion of slip stitch patterns.  You will never go wrong with a Barbara Walker book.  They aren’t flashy (they’re from a different era), but they are packed so full of amazing amounts of useful info that you totally won’t miss the arty pictures.
  • Barbara Benson looked at mosaic knitting, though ‘I mean sure…but let’s add lace,’ and wrote a whole book about just that.
  • Lucy Hague continues her long standing tradition of making me go ‘wait wait wait…how did she DO that?’ in Illuminated Knits (which combines cables with two color patterns to make something really quite marvelous).
  • And if you’re cooler than me and totally down with two yarns in one row, Andrea Rangel’s Alterknit is a delightfully modern stitch dictionary, Mary Jane Mucklestone takes a slightly more traditional approach, Alice Starmore will just stun you into submission, and Janine Bajus will make you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to!