It’s All About the Fade

I like to think of myself as an astute observer of knitting trends. I feel like I walk around with my head immersed in the knitting universe at all times. I guess that means the knitting universe hovers about 5 feet above the ground. I’m not sure how astute I really am, but I’ve noticed one thing lately: it’s all about the fade. There’s really nothing new about this look that’s variably called gradient, dégradé, ombre, and fade, but there’s a slightly different emphasis in the “fade” of 2017.

Pink hair + ombre hair!

Side note: Remember when ombre-dyed hair was all the rage, like 10 years ago? Ok, so I’m not as up on hair dye trends, though I have noticed a preponderance of soft pink hair ever since I read this article about “Millenial Pink” on thecut.com. I even tried it myself, but nobody ever tells you just how much upkeep is involved in maintaining pink hair! Has anyone ever used hand-dyed yarn as inspiration for a hair dye job? Mim keeps talking about Malabrigo hair lately. But I digress…

When I first started working at Over the Rainbow Yarn just a few years ago, I noticed that long-striping gradient yarns were all the rage. Noro in particular is famous for the long-striping gradient look, and we’ve carried a few yarns in the gradient-striping style for years including Gina, Seasons, and Jawoll Magic Dégradé.

Lace shawls in super-long gradient yarns are practically magic. Pictured: Winter Largo shawl by Anna Victoria.

Then there were the super-long striping gradient yarns that took the entire length of a skein to fade from one color to the next. They were hard to find, being mostly arduously hand made and necessarily wound into cakes before selling in order to display the full color spectrum. But oh my, they made the most stunning shawls. Alternatively, there were the sets of gradient mini skeins which produced a similar look when worked in wide stripes.

The Anastasia scarf.

And there was also the marled gradient formed by knitting with two strands held together and switching the color of one strand at a time. The Anastasia Scarf, for example, has been on my mind since well before I wrote about knitting with two yarns held together in September 2016.

Color play has always been one of my favorite aspects of knitting. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I can hardly ever limit myself to one color in any given project. When I wander about the yarn shop or peruse my personal yarn stash, I’m always thinking about color combinations before thinking about weight, fiber or even what I intend to knit. I once visited a yarn shop that was organized entirely by color rather than yarn weight, yarn company, or fiber content. Even yarn from the same line was separated by color. I imagine it was a nightmare for most shoppers, but it completely delighted me. Patterns like the “Find Your Fade” shawl are all about the color play, and I personally love it!

I think knitwear designer Andrea Mowry has been the vanguard of the latest gradient knitwear trend ever since she released the “Find Your Fade” shawl pattern in December 2016. To date, 4048 Ravelry users have shared photos of their own Find Your Fade shawls and 17,408 people have added the pattern to their favorites. Frankly, it’s surprising how popular this particular shawl is because it’s a big project. I mean, it’s really huge – it takes at least five full 100g skeins of fingering weight yarn, and it recommends using seven colors. It’s like a blanket. A big, gloriously colorful and eminently wearable blanket. But on the other hand, it’s the look of 2017!

Find Your Fade is different from the popular gradients of a few years back in several ways:

First of all, you get to pick your colors. In my opinion, calling it “Find Your Fade” was a stroke of genius. The implication is that you played a part in the design of your own shawl. And you did! A shawl of seven colors affords you all kind of opportunities for personalization!

Second of all, it typically features the speckled and hand-painted yarns that are also wildly popular these days.

And thirdly, it’s less subtle. You can make a fade out of any bold combination of colors – be free, color-loving hearts! The transitions from one color to the next are simply produced by knitting a swath of color A, then a swath of Colors A and B alternated every other row, then a swath of color B.

Andrea Mowry and other designers including Stephen West have released a number of fade-themed patterns this year, so the sheer big-ness of the Find Your Fade shawl need not stop you from getting your fade on. I’ve collected a few patterns for your viewing pleasure and inspiration, and maybe for posterity. I’m really curious too – are any of these fade-themed designs on your to-knit list? Which colors would you choose?

Other posts that might interest you:

Fidget Spinners:Everything old is new again

Have you all seen fidget spinners? They are the newest, hottest fad toy to hit the small fry in every school and neighborhood. If you haven’t heard of them, you can look at this CNN article about the fad here.  They were originally developed as an concentration aid for children with…what else can I call it…fidgeting disorders?…who seem to be able to concentrate better with their minds when their hands are occupied with something endless, mindless, but physically absorbing. But the toys have become so popular with kids of all thinking styles, that teachers are complaining that fidget spinners have become more of a distraction than the original fidgeting that fidget spinners were designed to help curb. Hmm. My sister has been looking high and low for a fidget spinner for my 7 year old nephew, and every place she’s looked has been sold out. I found a supply and picked up several of them in different colors, not knowing his preferences in the matter. (At Ocean State Job Lots in Rockland, Maine if you’re in similar straits and can’t get ahold of one) All the time with a nagging sense that I may be missing an opportunity.

See, I was recently encouraged to stock some fidget spinners as an impulse item on my counter top. All I could think of by way of reply was, “If you’re standing in the yarn shop and need something to fidget with, why don’t you just take up knitting…or crochet, or tatting, or…well SPINNING, for the love of wool.” I mean, really? Occupy the hands with a gadget that produces nothing, and produces nothing? I don’t think so, thanks.

Once upon a time, I was an education major. I’m also a mom. I know kids need to play. I know they need to bounce around and hop and skip and climb things. I also know there are kids who can learn better if they are engaged in meaningless physical activity while listening and looking at learning materials. I really, really understand that sitting still and absorbing like a sponge is not the ideal learning situation for most kids much of the time. They can do it in short bursts if they must, but then they’ll need to burst out into something more physical.

I also understand that kids like to feel accomplished and helpful. they like to know that they are making something, contributing in some way. In the way old days before there were public schools, children learned about the world at home from their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, anyone who was around. And they were set to work early. Gathering eggs, milking goats, herding sheep, tending gardens, sweeping, washing, and fixing things. Their learning wove in and around all this physical activity. Guess what else they learned? How to card, wool, spin and knit…to keep their hands busy while they did other things. Even into the 20 century in USA schools, and even now in European ones, children learn to knit as part of their curriculum. Yup, right there in school, along side reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Turn the heel of you sock while listening to a lecture on the capitals of Africa.

How have we forgotten so? When I did a Google search for “children learning to spin,” I got an image page that looked like this… I don’t know about you, but I didn’t see anything on this that looked like learning to spin. Entertainment, maybe, but nothing to do with what I was looking for.

But if I Googled, “children learning to spin wool,” I got this. Ahh. Now that’s more like it. If children benefit from having something to do with their hand while they listen and learn, why not give them something useful to do? And actual skill that produces something?

All I can say is, if you’re looking for a fidget spinner for your kids, come in and we’ll hook you up with the original gizmo that children have been learning with for millenia. Look at that face. Works for me.

 

Stitch Proportions

It’s useful to think of your knitting as a grid, especially when reading and writing charts. But as it turns out, knit stitches aren’t equally proportioned like the graph paper you used in math class. Knit stitches are typically wider than they are tall, and whether you’re working in stockinette stitch or garter stitch has a major impact on your stitch proportions too. Furthermore, stitch proportions can be affected accidentally by gravity, or intentionally by blocking.

In stockinette stitch, knitted stitches are typically 4/5 as tall as they are wide. That means that if you cast on a number of stitches, then knit the same number of rows, your knitted swatch will be about 4/5 as tall as it is wide (say 5 inches wide and 4 inches tall).

 

 

In garter stitch, knitted stitches are even squatter at 1/2 as tall as they are wide. Conveniently, if you count the ridges instead of the rows, you’ll typically find that an equal number of stitches and ridges will produce a nearly perfect square. That’s why modular knitting is typically worked in garter stitch and lays neat and flat when you pick up one stitch per ridge along the side!

We usually only measure the height and width of our stitches, but knit stitches live in a 3-dimensional world! It’s the depth of the stitches that explains why garter stitch requires more yarn to cover the same area. In garter stitch, your stitches are deeper. More yarn goes into making a thicker, stretchier fabric. The image on the left shows the same swatches as above with three rows of stockinette colored orange and three ridges of garter colored magenta.

 

Here’s when you want to keep stitch proportion in mind:

  1. When you’re checking your stitch gauge and row gauge. Stitch gauge refers to stitches per inch measured horizontally. Row gauge refers to stitches per inch measured vertically. Many patterns only require matching a stitch gauge for sizing because they instruct you to knit for 10 inches as opposed to 50 rows, for example.
  2. When you’re picking up stitches along a side edge. Skip every 5th stitch (or every 2nd for garter stitch) along the side for a smooth, unpuckered fabric.
  3. When you’re seaming a cast on/bind off edge to a side edge. Skip every 5th stitch (or every 2nd for garter stitch) along the side edge for a neat seam.
  4. When you’re designing a chart for colorwork or surface decoration. If you use regular graph paper (like a cross stitch chart), remember that the design will appear vertically squished.

Knit stitch graph paper is designed with boxes that reflect the typical knit stitch proportions. Download knit stitch graph paper at theknittingsite.com.

More technical gems of wisdom from the blog: