My #1 tool for knitting with handspun

multi-colored wool roving

I was about four inches into my toe-up socks made from the autumnal-shades-of-BFL, and I suddenly didn’t like how the colorways were transitioning. It’s a little sock and a long ways to wait between color changes. Not only boring, but it looked likely I would end up with one mostly-blue sock and one mostly-brown one. So I frogged and restarted using what is apparently my fall-back technique when working with variegated colorways…STRIPES!

I didn’t even realize how many times I’d used stripes with variegated yarn until looking back through my project pages.

For example, there were the legwarmers where I paired handspun with a commercial cream yarn just so I’d have enough yardage, but then I must have had leftovers anyway because they made their way into this stash-busting lap blanket (also stripes):


And I used the trick twice when working with Noro – once for some felted slippers and another time (paired with a plain blue) for some mittens:

stripesI’m not generally a stripes fiend or anything – there aren’t many of them in my wardrobe – so why do I keep putting them in the game?

For starters, colors just tend to look more interesting sitting next to one another. So if the whole reason I purchased one of those beautiful hanks of rainbow roving was because I liked the colors, a 2×2 stripe is going to allow them to play off one another a lot more. Watching how colors transition against each other is  extremely fun (just think of the 12,500+ people who made that Jared Flood Noro striped scarf).

Second, interrupting the gradation of a handspun skein with a stripe (be it from another handspun or a commercial yarn) just makes the whole piece look less folksy/homemade. I love spinning from variegated roving and I love knitting with it, but there’s something about the crisp lines and structure that stripes provide. They bring modernity to handspun, and they’ve helped keep a few of my projects away from that “I live on a co-op farm and make my own yogurt” kind of vibe (I might be there some day – after all, I want to raise all those sheep – but that’s not the message I want my pieces sending now).

I have used variegated handspun in sans-stripes projects. I think one of the more successful ones was the scarf that used a swiss-cheese kind of pattern to delineate positive and negative space. Here the pattern (instead of another color of yarn) provided the crisp lines and structure.

collage of Summit Scarf, knit from handspun

I recently finished a nice big scarf/shawl  – Nangou – that has just a few lines running through it, but the sage green handspun also doesn’t variegate (see below – also, my new glasses :).

I’ve knit a couple of other shawls with variegated and liked how often the colors changed (sometimes every row) due to the length of the piece.


I didn’t realize I had such strong opinions about knitting with handspun! Do you? What do you look for in a pattern when you have some variegated handspun to use?



  1. Pingback: Dyeing fiber from a photograph | Foxflat's Blog
  2. becca · October 28, 2013

    I’M OBSESSED WITH YOUR NEW GLASSES. oh, and the knitting is pretty too of course. hahahahaha.

    • foxflat · October 28, 2013

      thanks Becca! 🙂 I almost got them in time to wear out to Oregon, but not quite. Wait…do you even wear glasses? Hmm, I seem to recall you’re one of those enviable people with 20/20 vision. Okay, but if you ever need some, I got these from Rivet & Sway online (from what I can tell, basically a more expensive girls-only Warby Parker)

  3. maureen15 · October 28, 2013

    That last image of the shawl is beautiful!

    • foxflat · October 28, 2013

      thanks Maureen!

  4. AngelaH · October 28, 2013

    I love stripes (and wear them a lot). My two favourite shawls (both Veera Valimaki designs) are striped, which isn’t something I really realized until reading this post and thinking about my own knitting. I think you’re onto something about stripes giving knitting a modern feel, especially when they’re skinny stripes and/or quite contrasting. I haven’t really experimented with striping variegated yarns, but you’re really making me want to!

    • foxflat · October 28, 2013

      oh yes, Veera’s designs are a great example of getting colors in close proximity to play off one another. And all of her things are very modern looking.

  5. Cassy · October 28, 2013

    Love this post! All of these items are gorgeous. I really love your color palette on that lap blanket.

  6. Janet Schumm · October 28, 2013

    I love the scarf/shawl!

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