Color Work Yarn Management and Swatching

After a long weekend of dying yarn and celebrating the end of summer, Sasquatch kits are back in stock! SO. MANY. MINI SKEINS. The kits have been assembled and you can get yours in the store now. As we gear up for the hunt, ball your yarn, brush up on the Twisted German Cast On and/or Two-At-A-Time socks techniques if you want to try something new with this project, and work on your gauge swatch. Then, you’ll be all set to cast on when the first clue drops next Wednesday!

Side Note: Jac wants me to publicly say that you do not need to use the Twisted German CO for this project, nor do you need to do them two-at-a-time. So, if you’re not ready for that yet, it’s okay. Although, I do think you should at least try the Twisted German. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be happy you spent the time learning how. It’s a superior cast on.

To get you started, I want to talk about gauge swatches. I’ll be honest. I don’t always make one. Sometimes they aren’t that important, like with most shawls. And on other projects, ESPECIALLY color-work projects, you absolutely must have one. One of the biggest mistakes a knitter new to color-work makes is knitting a gauge swatch without color-work on it. No one wants to “waste yarn” on a swatch, especially if you’re worried about yarn economy for your project. But a tiny little swatch is worth its weight in gold. Choose nicely contrasting colors, and if you’re worried about using up the yarn, you can always frog out your swatch when you’re done. It’s nice to keep them though. You can put them in little frames and put them on the wall. Trust me, they look super cute framed.

For our Hunting Sasquatch MKAL, you need seven mini skeins: two of your main color, Elementary My Dear, and one each of Moriarty, Emerald City, Martian Man Hunter, Aqualad, and Atlantis. Get everything balled and labeled.

For your swatch, I recommend colors B (Moriarty) and F (Atlantis). These are the colors you’ll use the least of in your socks. This pattern calls for US0 needles, so that’s where you’ll start for your gauge swatch. If you don’t meet gauge, you’ll go up or down a needle size and reswatch.

Gauge Swatch

To determine your gauge, cast on 22 sts with US0 needles color B. K 2 rows. Join color F.

  1. (K2 with B, then 2 with F.) Repeat to last 2, K2 with B.
  2. (P2 with B, then 2 with F.) Repeat to last 2, P2 with B.
  3. (K2 with F, then 2 with B.) Repeat to last 2, K2 with F.
  4. (P2 with F, then 2 with B.) Repeat to last 2, P2 with F.

Repeat rows 1-4 three times more, creating a checker box pattern. BO. Using a tape measure, measure the width of the center five boxes. If your center five boxes measure MORE than one inch, you should decrease your needle size. If they measure LESS than one inch, you should go up a needle size. If you need to change your needle size, frog your swatch and re-knit it to ensure you are getting the gauge goal of 5 boxes=1”

Yarn Management

Fair Isles color-work, in and of itself, is not difficult. It’s the same knits and purls you were doing with one color, but now you’re using two. The big thing that holds folks back with it is getting nice even floats (the yarn not being used that runs along the back of the work) and figuring out what to do with two yarns at once. The method I’m going to show you can be a little fiddly at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will make your in-the-round stranded color-work fly along smoothly.

This method is based on the idea of knitting in the English style with one color, and Continental style with the other. In English style knitting, the working yarn is held in your right hand and “thrown” over the needle to work the stitch. In Continental style knitting, it’s held in your left hand and picked with the needle to work the stitch. Chances are you have very strong opinions on which one you prefer. So give yourself time to practice this, it takes a little getting used to. Once you do though, it’s SO worth it. I’m going to demonstrate on the gauge swatch for the socks. But you might find your best bet is to cast on 30 or 40 sts in the round, with some stash yarn, and work the checks from the gauge swatch until holding one strand in each hand feels comfortable. It doesn’t matter which color you choose for which hand. You can switch which color is left and right whenever you want. Aim to knit a little loosely, especially at first. Once you get this down your floats will be naturally even and allow a little bit of stretch in the fabric.

By keeping your yarns in separate hands, they won’t twist and tangle while you’re working. Don’t get frustrated if it’s hard to get your hands to comply with two styles of knitting at once. Keep practicing with it, you’ve got this.

~Megan-Anne
Gauge swatches, all the cool kids are making them.