Working with 5 Yarns

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Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2008

As we drift slowly into winter (Feb is just the beginning here in the Sierras) and look back at this past fall, we can't help but feel a little giddy about some of the things we were able to accomplish. For instance, the success of the Breast Cancer Support Kits still astounds us - the kits are still selling - and we are still writing donation checks. Thanks again to all of you!

Because of that success (and the overwhelming charitable response from ALL OF YOU), we recently decided to put together another kit for February and American Heart Month (Heart Disease is the #1 Killer of American Women). This time, we were even able to get some yarn companies involved - and each of them graciously agreed to donate $ for each hank of yarn that was sold (thank you to Ashland Sky, Cascade Yarns, Crystal Palace Yarns, Manos del Uruguay, Mountain Colors, and Nashua Yarns). Their commitment (combined with ours) brings the total donation amount to $8 per kit sold! We've also stepped up our involvement and production by getting high-quality glossy patterns printed. And there are even a few heart-healthy tips on the back of the pattern. We think you'll be pleased.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, if you decide that you are in the market for a red scarf or shawl (you can make either with the kit), I wanted to share one of the tips that i learned while knitting mine.

This shawl (or scarf, if you want to make it more narrow) is knit using 5 different strands of yarn. In the breast cancer kit, we stranded all 5 strands together and knit them using a huge needle (US 19). You can do the same with the red shawl yarns - and can even follow exactly the same pattern as the breast cancer kit (one of my favorite patterns ever) - or you can drop down a few needle sizes (US 13) and use our Biased Scarf / Shawl Pattern. If you choose the Biased Scarf option, you'll be knitting with 1 strand of yarn at a time - and each row will be knit with a different yarn. Needless to say, when i first started knitting the test shawl, i ran into some 'tangling' issues... i had 5 strands of yarn that all look similar (well, they are all red!) and i was changing yarns every single row. I was creating a mess. And the mess got even worse when i would set my shawl down - or move it - and then try to pick it back up! Thank goodness that after a few days of trial and error, i finally got a system going. Here's what i did:

  • First off, I noticed that i always seemed to have 3 strands of yarn on one side of the work - and 2 strands on the opposite side. If i set my shawl down and then picked it up later, i figured out that i always needed to start knitting on the side with 3 strands... and i always started with the strand that was the closest to the bottom (the least recently used).

  • Secondly, i found things to be the least confusing when i could knit someplace where i could lay everything out (like my kitchen island). What would naturally happen is that i would lay out the shawl (3 balls of yarn on one side, 2 on the other), then knit a row with one of the yarns. Once i knit that row, i'd physically move that ball of yarn over to to the other side of the shawl. I'd knit another row and then move that ball of yarn to the opposite side. Basically, i'm shifting a ball of yarn across the shawl after every row knit. In the photo below, i just finished knitting a row with the Pink, Fuzzy Yarn (the Merino Stripes). At the beginning of the row, the Merino Stripes was in the red pouch. After i finished the row, i moved it over to the tote bag. That way, it will be in the right spot when i'm ready to knit with it again... (in 4 more rows)

  • Thirdly, I realized that having everything in my 1 Project Pouch was creating a total mess. I quickly grabbed my Burgandy Palm Leaf Tote and stuffed 3 of the 5 yarn balls in it. Using my project pouch as the 2nd bag, i constantly move the balls of yarn between the Tote bag and the Project Pouch - and this 'technique' allowed me to knit in the car - and on the plane. Plus, when i needed to put the shawl away for a bit, i just dumped the Pouch and the Shawl into the Palm Leaf Tote ... and could then pull both pieces back out with very little disturbance!

Whew - I'm almost finished! I can't tell you how much fun this has been to knit... the colors are incredible, the pattern entertaining, and the result quite unique. And, if you're not into shawls, you can make yours more narrow and end up with a long, comfy scarf (that's my plan for the next one!).

Posted by Jimmy (Laura) of Jimmy Beans Wool

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