Thursday, October 23, 2014

Polychrome Yarns

Or as they are more commonly know in the knitting world, clown barf yarns.You might never have heard that name before, but you know exactly what I mean.  

And yet in spite of that name, we all once in a while fall victim to loving skeins of it. It's worse in the early years, when those bright colorful skeins look so wonderful and  we are unsure of what color we want.

There are new colors and kinds and weights of clown barf all the time. They look so pretty in the skein, all the colors in such pretty harmony. Even seasoned knitters, who have disaster after disaster with polychromes, are still sometimes suckered into buying another skein (or two, or three!) every once in a while.  If they are not suckered into buying these skeins themselves, the receive gifts of them from well meaning friends, who present them with single skeins of them as gifts.

We love they way the colors line up in the skein. We keep thinking we'll get those pretty, balanced pools of color when we knit them up.   Then when we do finally take them to the needles,  what looked so pretty in skein—the beautiful ombre, the colorful skein, becomes, in very short order, a pile of clown barf. YOU know exactly what I mean.

So what to do with those skeins? Toss them? (Never!) There are solutions. Ravelry has a group, (for everything) but one especially for these yarns. You can, depending on the color patterns and how they are printed—knit scarves or hats that self stripe, or self pattern into something like a argyle type design.
Sometimes, things work out--but the results often seem more suited to a child garment rather than an adults.(That is one of my darling granddaughter, when she was 6 or so, modeling a Meg Swanson design.--Knit circa 2005)

Another option is to pair with a solid color. Narrow stripes of polychrome, paired with narrow stripes of a solid can create a beautiful design. Using polychromes in stranded knitting can work, too. Though long colors runs that self stripe are more suited.

Here are some tricks for picking the solid yarn.
1—the solid yarn should not have any color in the mix. Sometimes, this means, only white or black are are available for coordinating solids.

2—the solid yarn should be about the same color value as the polychrome—Pastels match best with other pastels, mid tones match best with mid tones, dark colors match best with dark tones.

3—try for high contrast. A colorway of red violet/violet/blue violet and peach, is best matches with a yellow (yellow being the contrasting color to violet) A color way of blue, blue green, green goes best with a coral (the contrasting color for blue is orange, for green is red, for blue green, a reddish orange or coral—which can go pastel, (and still be seen as coral, or go dark, and be sort of a brick-ish red.)

Other options (and other rules!) can be found in Margaret Radcliffe's book The Essentials of Color Knitting. (a treasure trove of ideas!)

Once you have your matching solid, you have to decide: should the polychrome predominate, or should the solid? I tend to like the solid to predominate—but that is my taste and choice.

What do you think? A good use, or not? More on this bit of knitting tomorrow.


Marciepooh said...

I'm just commenting in defense of the fourth skein pictured ( Peacock is the color way, iirc). It made some awesome striped socks and lovely i-cord (safety) glasses holders.

Laura said...

In combination with a predominating solid the "barf yarn" looks quite pretty! Good suggestion, thank you! I had never heard the expression "barf yarn" - it might explain why I always felt a bit queasy when succumbing to one once in a blue moon...

Unknown said...

Marciepooh, I never knit socks with worsted--and close--it's birds of paradise color way.

Laura is not barf, its clown barf...but yes, it can make you queasy--and at the same time, it has the fun aspect to it.

Marciepooh said...

Ah, yes, Birds of Paradise! I love my sandals with wool socks in the winter and so far haven't enjoyed knitting socks enough to try anything lighter than worsted. :)