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Knitting with space-dyed yarns

by Charles Voth

I personally am thrilled with the variety of approaches Universal Yarn Inc. took to develop different colorways and dye methods with their Cotton Supreme worsted weight yarn. Here’s a look at their Batik line with 24 colorways (scroll down).

Cotton Supreme Batik

Cotton Supreme Batik

Most of these colorways involve 2 main colors that appear in about equal amounts and for equal lengths. Then some of the colorways have 2 additional colors and some only have 1. These contrasting colors have shorter dyed segments, and some have small dots painted on them which gives a fairisle effect or a polk-a-dot effect when they are knitted.

Knitting with space-dyed yarns

Knitting with space-dyed yarns

The length of each segment of each color is usually fairly regular when it comes to space-dyed yarns. It’s quite interesting to unwind the yarn and see just how much each segment is. This can help you plan how you want the stripes to appear….or at least you’ll be able to predict a little bit.

For the colorway Beach Umbrella (pictured above) the red and the teal are the dominant colors and the russet is the color which appears over shorter lengths of the yarn. I unwound the yarn and measured and found that there was a meter of each the red and the teal, and about 40 centimeters of the russet in between each of the other two colors. When the russet sort of blended with the teal or red in a more muddied color, I included that measurement with the brighter, clearer orange.

After swatching, I calculated for one of the longer color segments that it took about 29 sts and 14 rows in stockinette (at a gauge of 5 sts and 7 rows per 2.5cm) to use up 1 meter of the yarn and the stripe measured 5.5cm, so that way I was able to determine how wide the stripes would be once I knit up a project.

For example, if I knit across 92 sts, I would use about 4.5 rows to use up one color so the color changes would happen mid row. Because this yarn has speckled transitions, it would not look like a solid jog in the color stripes though. For the russet color, I would only get about 1 and ¾ rows , so it would be quite a narrow stripe. 92 sts, by the way, would be the width of the back of a size Small sweater with no ease. This means that for any size large than a Small, I would probably have incomplete stripes of the russet.

Regardless, I only had one skein of Cotton Supreme Batik, so I decided to make something narrower, a scarf.

Cotton Supreme Batik in a scarf

Cotton Supreme Batik in a scarf

I couldn’t settle on a straight scarf. Not me! I always have to do something interesting that keeps me engaged in knitting, and to make sure I finish something.

For this scarf I tried short rows using the German technique. It has become my ultimate favorite way to work shorts rows…it’s easy and the results are amazing…very smooth transitions and usually invisible. Remember that cotton usually shows EVERYTHING, but look at this closeup and tell me if you can see the short row turning points.

Close up of German short rows

Close up of German short rows

On the far right, in the red, you can see what looks like purl bumps next to the garter stitch ridge. Those are wrap and turn short rows without lifting the wraps. In the left orange section next to the orange garter stitch ridge there are German short rows…can’t see them, right? In the teal section there are wrap and turn short rows with the wraps lifted and hidden, but you can still see slight stretching and tugging. So my lesson learned is to use German short rows for SURE when knitting with cotton.

To work a German short row, you knit or purl to the point where you need to turn and leave the remaining stitches unworked, and turn. Then you bring the yarn forward and slip the first st from the left needle purlwise, then you wrap the yarn around the right needle close to the first st on the RIGHT needle counter clockwise…that is over the top of the needle and around to the back (not between the right and left needles). Then you tug the yarn snug and continue in the pattern across. If the next stitch is a knit, the yarn is already at the back of the work, if the next stitch is a purl, you have to bring the yarn forward first.

This counter-clockwise wrap creates what’s called either a “double-stitch” or a “hitched stitch”. It looks like a 4-legged stitch with 2 on the front of the needle and 2 on the back. When it’s time to work across all stitches and work off the short rows, you simply either knit or purl as necessary between the 4 legs of the hitched stitch, ensuring 2 legs are to the back and 2 to the front of the right needle as you knit or purl the stitch off the left needle.

Short row tips for mitts or toes

Short row tips for mitts or toes

Another thing I tried with this space-dyed Cotton Supreme was to make finger tips or toe tips for mitts and socks. I know most people wouldn’t choose a worsted weight cotton for mittens, but for kids with eczema or other skin sensitivities, cotton mittens lined with polar fleece are a great solution for warmth and softness. The self-striping colors of Cotton Supreme Batik would be a fun and easy way to knit for kids.

And cotton socks…well, not likely out of worsted weight, but they would make great bed-socks or wheel-chair slippers for the elderly.

I hope that through this tour of Cotton Supreme yarn, you’ve seen that there are many possibilities and dishcloths aren’t the only thing that can be made with worsted weight cotton. Tomorrow we’ll look at one last variation on this theme.

This is part 4 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 3:  Make a splash with Cotton Supreme Yarn


1 comment

Leah March 18, 2016 - 10:45 am

Great post! I’m always stuck when it comes to variegated yarns that have varying lengths in the colorways and often enough I only have one skein of said yarn. The instructions for the German short row is great as well!


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