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Wendy Knits Lace Week: To Variegate or Not to Variegate?


We’re celebrating Wendy D. Johnson’s latest book, Wendy Knits Lace, with a series of exclusive guest posts from the lace knitting master herself. Today, Wendy answers a dilemma that plagues many knitters: variegated yarn and how it will look in a finished project. Will it pool? Will it hide the intricate lace details? Read on to find our how Wendy uses variegated yarn to show off lace patterns to their best and how you can, too.

To Variegate or Not to Variegate? by Wendy D. Johnson

That is the question.

Here is a scenario I see all too often: a knitter has completed a piece of lace, beautifully executed, but the results are disappointing. Why? Because the knitter chose a too-variegated yarn for the project and the colors are obscuring the lace.
Yarn can be sneaky. In the skein it might look like it would work beautifully for a lace piece. Just a bit of variegation will be fine, right? But once you start knitting it, the yarn’s true nature is revealed. It is out to sabotage your lace.
What to do? If you have a yarn you suspect might turn on you, knit a swatch using one of the lace patterns in your prospective project. Allow me to demonstrate.

In Swatch Number One, I have used a yarn with very slight color shifts. You can see that the lace pattern really pops.

Now look at Swatch Number Two.

The different colors in the yarn hide the lacework and pool in an unattractive way. While this will differ, of course, with the size of the lace piece you are knitting, pooling is something to keep in mind.
Here is another example using a different lace pattern.

Swatch Number Three incorporates some texture with the lace: there are columns of purl stitches in the design. Knit in a solid color, this design element really stands out.
But with the variegated yarn used for Swatch Number Four, you might as well have not bothered with those purl stitches.

By now you are probably thinking “Oh, great. I have a stash of variegated yarns. Now you tell me I can’t use any of them for lace?”

Variegation is not always a bad thing. If you are using a simple all-over lace pattern, for example, it will probably be able to handle some variegation.

Swatch Number Five is knit in a lovely tonal yarn with very subtle color shifts.

Very pretty, isn’t it? But look at Swatch Number Six!

This is the same lace pattern knit in a yarn with bold color changes. Because the swatch has a simple lace motif repeated over and over, it can stand up to all those colors and still look good.

My rule of thumb: the more complex the pattern, the simpler the yarn. And when in doubt, knit a swatch!

– Wendy D. Johnson

See what’s on Wendy’s needles now at Wendy Knits, and check out the other two posts in this series:
“On Pace for Lace”
and “When is a Lace Sweater Not a Lace Sweater?”



Suzie Picciano August 23rd, 2011

THanks for this awesome information. Just ordered your new book. Have several skeins of yarn awaiting.

Sherri Altieri August 23rd, 2011

Thanks Wendy for the great info on yarn usage. I know this will help choosing yarn for shawls.

deanna August 24th, 2011

received my copy of Wendy Knits Lace from Amazon last evening. So many projects, so little time



About the Book
Wendy Knits Lace
Essential Techniques and Patterns for Irresistible Everyday Lace
Written by Wendy D. Johnson
Category: Crafts & Hobbies – Knitting
Format: Paperback, 144 pages
On Sale: August 23, 2011
Price: $22.99
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