Fat Tuesday*

Thank you all so much for your very kind comments on Acer and previously on Aidez! I really appreciate them. I have to say I’m quite proud of all this sweater knitting. I actually have one more finished sweater to show off and talk about, but I wanted to say a little something about my new sweater project given the date.

Being flush with my sweater successes, I decided that it was finally time to try something I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time but was too timid a knitter: a fair isle cardigan. With a steek and everything! I find it kind of ironic that I’ve been too timid to knit this because I’m usually the one preaching if you can knit and you can purl you can do anything!! But for some reason color work kept scaring me and I decided now was the time to conquer it!

I’d had Elinor Brown‘s Plum Frost Cardigan in my favorites for a long time and I finally pulled it out. I decided I wanted to knit the sweater in some Quince & Co. yarn because they had some great colors and I really really enjoyed knitting with it when I knit Aidez. So for my birthday I treated myself to a bunch of colors in Chickadee, their sport weight 100% wool yarn:

And then I started swatching:

Before I even STARTED the sweater I knit no less than ten swatches, eight of which were fair isle swatches. CRAZINESS! But I learned so so much along the way. First I knit just to see if I knew what the hell I was doing. Turns out I’m not so bad at fair isle – I hold both yarns in my right hand and throw them. My left hand is basically useless. I knit pretty tight in fair isle, but the pattern even tells you to go up two needle sizes so that kind of solved that problem.

Look how pretty my floats are!

It didn’t take me long to settle on a main body color and the remaining five fair isle pattern colors and I knit a swatch, then switched a couple colors around and knit another swatch, then figured out that my gauge was NO WHERE close to what was called for – I might as well have been knitting with a laceweight! – so I switched up to Lark which is Quince & Co.’s worsted. BINGO! I got a pretty close approximation to gauge – enough that I could knit the smallest size and have it come out to a 36 – which is what I need. And as a bonus I put my gauge numbers into the Elizabeth Zimmermann Percentage System and came out with exactly the right numbers. I was ready to start!

But something was nagging at me about my color choices. Something wasn’t quite right. I ignored myself and ordered all the yarn for the sweater. I went so far as to cast on the sleeves (my first time using a tubular cast on! SWEET!) And then I called a couple of friends and asked them to look at the swatch. Margene tried to be nice about telling me she didn’t like it – that it wasn’t working and Ann was much more straight forward – this swatch DOES NOT WORK.

As much as I knew they were absolutely right, I was heartbroken. I’m exhausted. My children, it turns out, are terrible sleepers and with one hitting a stubborn four in a couple of weeks and the other already squarely in the terrible twos, knitting is the only respite I get. AND I bought the yarn. What was I going to do?

It turns out some learning.

I went to my knitting library and found Deb Menz’s Color Works. Color. The all important COLOR. There are three aspects to color: Hue, Saturation and Value. Hue is easy – is it orange, green, etc? And Saturation is easy – how deep/light a green? But Value – oh all important VALUE. Value had kicked my color ass.

The way I understand it, Value is the way the eye sees color immediately, before it registers Hue or Saturation. Value is the BLACK & WHITE of color. So to find out the value of a color, you need to see it in grayscale.Check out these pictures:

Check out that muddled muddy mess! Here are the skeins still wound:

Not so bad, right? They look like a fine bunch of colors! Here they with their values exposed!!

So I’ve got a very high and a very low what with the dark purple and the light pink but oh my god! The other four colors might as well be exactly the same. Three of them really ARE the same value and one is only slightly off.

Frankly, I was kind of embarrassed I had come up with this combination in the first place. I mean, true or not, I fancy myself something of a color connoisseur and it’s not like I didn’t know about value. I’ve talked about it before and everything! Really, I was very disappointed. BUT, not to be deterred! I took my book and all of the skeins I started with and into the car we went! (I say the car because that’s where I do most of my knitting these days. The baby, WHO WILL BE TWO IN JUNE!!!, has pretty much stopped napping at home and will only nap in the car. So when I drop off Meli at school we drive home, Cali falls asleep and I sit in the car with her and knit for a glorious couple of hours. It’s BLISS!)

I flipped through Menz’s book and checked out all the color combinations and rearranged them a million times in my lap all the while taking bl
ack and white pictures with my phone. Good times! My neighbors must think I’m crazier than they originally suspected! Anyway, so I’m snapping away but I’m also trying to use the least amount of new colors I can. Remenber – I’VE ALREADY BOUGHT ALL THE YARN! I want to keep the original dark purple as the main color and as many as the pattern colors as I can. I switched around and switched around and then – hey – this looks kind of nice together. Let’s see the values. Okay, okay – this looks kind of perfect!! I immediately started more swatching!

By switching out TWO colors only, I got these gorgeous values:

Look how well defined the pattern has become! No more muddy mess! BEAUTIFUL!

Now there is a definite high and low, but the low isn’t SO low and the middle has RANGE! Look at that glorious range! TWO colors. I changed out two colors only. Let’s look again!

Now, just for shits and giggles, let’s see the values of the original swatch compared with the values of the new swatch:

Isn’t color AMAZING?!? Blew my mind. And now I’ve got a Mardi Gras Cardigan brewing – purples and greens and gold (and yes pinks!) Completely changes the look of the sweater I’m knitting and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been plugging away on the sleeves and I only have two more increases. Shouldn’t be long before I start the body and then FAIR ISLE BABY!

I still have at least one swatch left. Ahem. I’ve never cut a steek before so you can bet your ass I’ll be practicing!

*A day early, but who’s counting, right?