Variegated Yarn: A Comedy in 7 Acts

I like boring yarn.

There. I said it.

Okay, by “boring” what I really mean is that I don’t like to get crazy with color. I like solids. Heathers. Tonals. Neutrals. Occasional pops of color that can double as a neutral under the right conditions. Fuchsia and chartreuse, for example. They’re bold, but they play well with my minimalist palette.

I don’t do variegated. Or at least, not on purpose. But I think we’ve all been at a yarn shop or fiber festival and fallen victim to the mesmerizing charms of a multicolor hank. Suddenly all your common sense flies out the window and you think, maybe this time it will be different. Maybe just this once…

You’ve been there, too, right?

I recently joined a collaboration to design something for the most multicolorful yarn in the history of multicolor yarn. It doesn’t just have a few colors – it has all the colors. And as much as I was terrified of it, I was also a little bit excited to test my mettle. It’s one thing to design something terrific with a skein of tweedy grey; that’s my wheelhouse. But what could I do with a veritable garden of color?

Let’s talk about the stages of enchantment, grief and survival when using variegated yarn.

1: Enchantment

I don’t do variegated, but wait… look how gorgeous this is! I mean, this could work, right? Couldn’t you see me wearing this? You know, with jeans. Or that pale linen dress I like to wear in the spring… this could spice it up a bit. Amiright or amiright or amiright or amiright? I know I don’t normally use variegated, but I really think I should make an exception just this once. I’m going to branch out.

2: Fear

Oh my gawd. THIS is how it looks in the cake?!?! But, but… it didn’t look like this in the hank. Maybe once I start knitting with it… maybe it will be okay? It’s just so.much.color. 

3: Horror

Oh no. Oh no. Oh noooo. My eyes! So. Much. Color. I’m going blind!

4. Resignation & Frogging

How do I knit with this yarn? Like, seriously, what do you make with this much color?  Queue frogging and re-knitting – more than I’ve ever done in my entire life. This stitch pattern makes it too busy. This one feels too small, this one too big, this one too much texture, this one not enough texture…  I was so distracted by the color that I couldn’t see the stitches. At all.

5. Exasperation

I tried. I really tried. I tried all.the.things. Variegated yarn is dead to me (for today). It was time to take a break.

6. Grit

GAH! I’m seven attempted-projects into this skein and I refuse to give up. I will not be defeated!!!  I’m going to keep knitting until I finish this thing and see what happens. You know how sometimes blocking turns a potentially crummy project into a masterpiece? By this stage in the process, I decided to wait it out and see if blocking could save it.

7. Surprise

Well, look at that.  I’m not sure, but… I think I might have a keeper. 

The Result: Garden Party Cowl

I have newfound respect for designers who specialize in working with variegated yarn; it’s (a lot) harder than it looks. BUT, what I loved about the process is that it made me stretch. Getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to reignite the creative process. And – much to my surprise – I love the result. Who would have guessed?

How do you like to stretch your skills, knitting or otherwise?

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