How to avoid flashing and pooling
Over the past few weeks, I've defined some common dyeing terms, and shared how methods like hand-painting and kettle dyeing can be used to create different types of yarn, from solid to semi-solid to variegated (check out the series here). Last week, I shared my top tip for creating a uniform color with solids and semi-solids (alternate skeins). This week, I'm sharing my secret for avoiding flashing and pooling when working with variegated yarns.*
Variegated yarns can be challenging. When working with handpainted skeins, you'll find that they have a "repeat," a set sequence of colors that repeats over and over as you knit the yarn. The repeat results from the dyeing process, which entails laying out a skein or loop of yarn and painting it with horizontal or diagonal stripes. The length of the repeat is determined by the size of the loop. (You can check the length of the color repeats in a skein by unwinding the yarn into a loop and matching up the two instances of the same color.) Depending on the length of the color repeat, the lengths of each individual color within that repeat, your gauge, and the stitch count of your pattern, you may find large blocks of the same color showing up in your project. Some call this "pooling," others "flashing."
For some knitters, this unexpected effect is part of the fun of knitting with handpainted yarns. And some clever knitters have figured out how to plan for these color patterns in their finished objects—check out Laura Militzer Bryant's Artful Color, Mindful Knits to learn more about how to do this.
Other knitters—and I am one of them—find flashing and pooling irritating, or even maddening. We want a more blended look. Here are a few tips on how to achieve this:
1. Alternate skeins. Just as when knitting with solid or semi-solid colors, you can alternate skeins every one or two rows to achieve a more "uniform" distribution of color, as long as you start using each skein at a different point in the repeat.
2. Knit with two strands at once. Doubling up your yarn will randomize the color distribution, provided you start each strand at a different point in the repeat.
3. Choose a stitch pattern that will minimize flashing and pooling: look for patterns that contain floats and dropped stitches. I have a whole slew of them on my Patterns for Variegated Yarns board over on Pinterest. Go check 'em out!
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