Tips with Trish – Knitting with Hand Painted Yarn

I’m an experienced knitter. I’m not a fast knitter and I am by no means an expert but generally speaking, I’m confident and proficient with most knitting. Which is why, when I made the biggest faux pas a knitter can make with hand painted yarn last week, I knew I had to write a blog post about it. Mainly because I hope it will save you some time and frustration, but also to demonstrate that experienced knitters can still make the simplest of mistakes.

Can I even call this a mistake? Not really. In this case my mistake was my eagerness to cast on for a darling baby sweater and ignoring everything I know about knitting with hand painted yarn. I had two gorgeous skeins of Manos del Uruguay Alegria in the Ghostbuster colourway that were calling my name. I wound my first skein, I cast on and I began to knit with reckless abandon.

I noticed within the first few rows that the colours weren’t knitting up quite the way I had imagined. The green, rust and cream were the predominant colours, with the lilac disappearing into the background. The resulting fabric wasn’t unattractive, but I knew if I carried on, I would continue to create blotches of colour rather than the speckle effect I was hoping for. It was the delicate cream base with sprinkles of the other shades that had initially drawn me to this colourway and so I knew what I had to do – what I should have done from the start.

The number one rule of thumb when knitting with hand painted yarn is to knit two rows from one skein and two from another to avoid colour pooling. To say that I know better would be an understatement. Not only do I know about colour pooling, most labels of hand painted yarn say to alternate skeins every other row to give an overall blended effect. Colour pooling is what occurs when all the stitches of one colour come together in one section creating one large spot of colour.

If you are working with one ball and wish to avoid colour pooling, alternate rows by working from both ends of the ball or simply wind your skein into two balls. The photo below shows how differently the colours are distributed when I began to alternate skeins every other row. Now the cream is the predominant colour as I had envisioned it would be when looking at the skein.

Depending on what you are making, you may not be bothered by colour pooling. For small projects, it might not be noticeable at all or it could add an interesting design. However, should you be working on a large project like a sweater, it is always wise to alternate skeins for even colour distribution. It just goes to show that each skein of hand painted yarn truly is one-of-a-kind!

One of the many great things about knitting is that all I lost in this exercise was my time, and any time knitting is never time lost in my mind. That said, the next time I start a pattern with hand painted yarn I will take the time to consider whether colour pooling might affect my project and wind a second ball just to be safe!

Happy knitting and crocheting everyone!

5 thoughts on “Tips with Trish – Knitting with Hand Painted Yarn

  1. I love hand painted yarns, and always alternate skeins when knitting something straight. But if I’m knitting something like a shawl, with lots of increases, I go ahead and start knitting with one skein, and trust that the shaping will lessen the chances of pooling. I sometimes have to rip out, but it usually works. If I have to add in a new skein of yarn, I work with alternate skeins a few times (usually 8-12 rows) to blend any big differences in the skeins.

  2. Thanks for the information. I’m a novice and I certainly drool over beautiful wool. If I decide on a hand painted skies I will certainly remember your comments

  3. Hahahahha oh my , did I ever learn that lesson! If you are so inclined go to my Ravelry page and have a look at Dragonladylewis’s Breakwater lol…wow. As I was knitting it I kept thinking , no its just a small piece of knitting, when its bigger it will look better. Sometime you just can’t force a yarn into being what you think it should be, sometimes you have to work within the limitations of the yarn itself and just let it be. I frogged that sweater but kept the post up to remind me to knit swatches, knit from two skeins and trust my gut! lol….

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