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How to plan a knitting project with a long-span, variegated yarn

by Cynthia MacDougall

Yesterday, I introduced Lion Brand Mandala Baby DK, a 100% acrylic yarn, created to make colorful knits for young people that will wash as well as they wear.

A crayon-bright ball of Mandala Baby DK sits atop a bench under a white arbor with trees in the background. The colors rise above the top of the ball band with red in the foreground, fading toward the center with orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple in the center of the “cake.”

Mandala Baby DK has super long colorways.

When I talked about how perfect Mandala Baby yarn is for making the Caramoor Hat, I made a child’s hat from an adult pattern and learned that there are some considerations to make when planning a project with a long-span, variegated yarn.

The color spans in Mandala Baby DK are SO long, I was able to knit an entire hat without encountering a color change! I had even wound off some yarn from the start of the ball in the hope I would, but it didn’t!

A child’s hat sits on a wooden table with a beige background. The hat has navy blue as the main color and the light blue from a ball of Arendelle incorporated in a “Nordic fleas” pattern.

The color spans in Mandala Baby DK are so long, I made the whole hat without any change in color from the light blue!

So, there are factors to consider when using a yarn that has such long spans of color. Here are a few:

  1. Small projects such as my hat may not have many (or any) color changes appear in the project.
  2. The colors on each ball of yarn might end in different places. Care might be needed to make sure there isn’t a rapid “color jump” when a new ball is introduced.
  3. The width of the stripes will vary as the number of stitches per row change. This can work to the knitter’s/ designer’s advantage or disadvantage.
  4. A sweater could end up with different colors on the various parts. This, too, could be an effective advantage or it could cause a knitting disappointment. Remember, though: while the knitter might be disappointed in the result, a 4-year-old recipient is apt to be delighted to have a sweater with a lavender front, a pink sleeve, and turquoise halfway up the other sleeve!

A little imagination and planning, accompanied by an online pattern search will reveal many options for Mandala Baby DK. Imagine a sweater made from sleeve to sleeve, or a baby blanket done in “faux Fair Isle,” mitered squares, mirrored stripes, or even Roman stripes!

To keep color blocks relatively even, it’s important to look for a pattern that has very little shaping: a drop-shoulder sweater is a better choice than a raglan because there’s less shaping in the various parts. Likewise, Mandala Baby DK is absolutely fabulous for baby blankets, whether you choose the crayon-bright Rainbow Falls or the more pastel Arendelle colorway. Another interesting effect could be made by making one big, mitered square, a “dishcloth” square, or panels measuring ¼ to ⅓ of the total width of the blanket. So many ideas, so little time!

For the next two posts, I’ll run with the sleeve-to-sleeve sweater idea and show you how to knit a child’s sweater from nothing more than the diagram in a pattern. After that, I’ll share some tips for choosing complimentary colors to go with Mandala Baby DK for “faux Fair Isle” and Roman Stripes.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: The fascinating characteristics of Lion Brand Mandala Baby DK

Go to part 3: Knitting a Mandala Baby DK sweater from a schematic


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