Yarn choice and helical stripes

We're now just over a week into A Year of Techniques and all over the world, knitters are going round and round in circles - almost. Because this month is all about helical stripes, nobody ever quite closes their circle.

One of the questions we've been asked regularly by people planning to knit from stash, rather than use a Zauberball, is: "Will this yarn work?"

I've selected a few photos of recently finished objects and works in progress to show how yarn choice affects helical striping.

First up is a Mimi's great example of a split Zauberball. The way the yarn is dyed means that there are several metres between colour changes. The upshot of this is that, as you can see, the two stripes slowly change as the wrist warmer is worked.

 ©Eskimimi

©Eskimimi

An alternative is to use a strand of solid colour against a variegated yarn as Annegret has with the grey and the multicoloured sock yarn. As you can see, the transitions between the colours happen more regularly in the Sockenwolle than with a Zauberball. Having just the variegated yarn would run the risk of regularly having the same colours next to each other, diluting the striping effect. Using the solid colour not only prevents this effect, but gives a striking contrast to accentuate the stripes.

 ©Herbscat

©Herbscat

For variegated yarns with short runs of each colour, the striping would get completely lost without a contrast solid colour as one of the yarns. This sock that Nicola has made still has helical stripes, but a very different look.

Ultimately, you could play safe and ensure you have contrast throughout your project by choosing to use two solid, or almost solid colours. Here, Alix is using a light speckled yarn and a dark blue for a strong contrast. There's no way the stripes are going to disappear part way through.

 ©AlixPearson

©AlixPearson

So, if you're still searching through your stash for the perfect yarn to use for helical stripes, there is a way of predicting the effect you are likely to get. If your variegated yarn is in a skein, open it out. If the colour doesn't change for a few loops of the skein, you will get slow changes in colour through your project. The number of loops will affect how likely it is you will want to use a solid colour too. The fewer loops, the more a solid colour will be useful. However, if the colour changes every loop, or more than once a loop (so sections around the skein are different colours), you will get an effect like the socks I've shown. You will most definitely want a solid colour to give the contrast needed to see the stripes. For yarn in balls, wind some yarn from the end of the ball to see the length in the first couple of colours.

 ©BettyBugg

©BettyBugg

Finally on the subject of yarn choice, many people have asked about Crazy Zauberballs and similar alternatives. These yarns have two plies of different colours that don't necessarily change at the same time. In plain socks, this is great because you get much more of a graduated feel to the colours. However, with helical stripes, you run the risk of having the same colours present in both helices at the same time, so you might lose the effect. That's not to say definitely don't use a Crazy Zauberball, just be aware of what could happen.

Whichever yarn you are using, I hope you are loving the mind-bending, yet simple and addictive technique. Please do share your progress in our Ravelry forum and in The Lounge, hosted by Mason-Dixon Knitting.

A Year of Techniques is still available from our shop. Why not buy your copy and find out what all the excitement is about? 

Thank you to the knitters who kindly agreed to let me use their photographs.