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Everyone's Autobiography



When I tried to choose a sweater to wear at Woollinn, I faced an interesting dilemma: All my weather-appropriate sweaters were being used as samples. So of course I had to knit a new one.  And to make it tie in with an Irish yarn festival theme, I brought to life an idea I've had for some time: to blend 3 skeins of sock yarn from separate local dyers, for a sweater that appeared to be knitted in one colourway. See if you can follow my logic here:

We all buy single skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn, which then accumulate beyond the point where they are likely to become socks any time soon. For some of us this means having single skeins in lots of random colours. But others, like me, tend to buy the same colourways again and again. So, for instance, I have accumulated a pile of single skeins in various variegated greens, and also a pile of mauves. Realistically, I am not going to spend the next year knitting pair after pair of similarly coloured socks! So it occurred to me, that I could turn some of these seemingly mismatched skeins into a sweater quantity, by putting together a set of 3 and strategically blending the colourways.

I will describe how to do this, for anyone who would like to try:


1. Choose Your Yarn
Out of yarn which you already own, select 3 fingering-weight skeins of hand dyed variegated yarn, each from a different dyer, in variations of your favourite colourway. If you find that you have more than 3 to choose from, you could select thematically. For example: choose skeins from 3 of your favourite dyers. Or 3 skeins that you think are least likely to become socks any time soon. Or skeins from dyers local to you. Or skeins acquired while traveling. You get the idea. Whichever ones you select, the key here is for the 3 colourways to be sufficiently similar, so that they will blend together when alternated, without creating a blatantly striped effect. For best results you also want to aim for similar meterage and bases. For example, I would feel comfortable mixing BFL sock yarn with merino sock yarn. But I would not mix, say, merino singles, with high-twist BFL-nylon, with a mohair blend, as those are quite differently-behavig bases. But of course it is up to you.

For my Woollinn sweater, I selected 3 skeins of variegated light-green sock yarn from 3 Irish dyers:
. a merino-nylon from Fine Fish Yarns,
. a BFL-nylon from Woolly Adventures, and
. a BFL-nylon from Ewe Momma.
All three of the colourways were speckled, but in completely different ways. And the shades of green were also quite different, in terms of saturation and cool vs warm tones.


2. Choose Your Pattern
Find a basic sweater pattern that calls for 3 skeins of fingering weight yarn. The design should be sufficiently plain so as not to compete with your variegated colourways. In other words, you probably do not want to get involved with cables or lace here. A basic raglan design should work nicely. Or something with an interesting construction or neckline. 

My Woollinn sweater is based on a design I am working on, called A Gentle Morning (not yet published), which is a simple henley top with contiguous sleeves. 


3. Alternate Skeins as You Knit

If you have ever worked with skeins of yarn from different dye lots, or even with hand-dyed yarn from the same dyelot sometimes, you will already be familiar with the concept. But basically: Work with the 3 skeins at the same time, alternating between them as if you were knitting stripes. 

One way to do this, which makes for the most even blend, is to work all the colours equally throughout the sweater. For example:
Work 2 rounds/rows in colour A.
Work 2 rounds/ rows in Colour B.
Work 2 rounds/ rows in Colour C.
Repeat all the way through the sweater.

Note that the reason I suggest alternating every 2 rounds rather than every single round, is that if working in the flat or doing short rows, the yarn would need to 'return' before you can alternate colours again. But if your pattern is mostly in the round with only brief flat sections, you could  alternate every single round for most of it, and every other round for those sections where you have to go back and forth. 

An alternative way to blend the colourways, would be to aim for randomness. For example:
Work 1 round in Colour A.
Work 2 rounds in Colour B.
Work 3 rounds in Colour C.
Work 2 round in Colour A.
Work 3 rounds in Colour B.
Work 1 round in Colour C. 
Continue varying each colourway's stripe thickness all the way through the sweater.


And yet another alternative, would be to use either of the methods above in a central location (i.e. the yoke) and then gradually separate the colours so that you have substantial sections knitted up in each individual yarn. 

For example, here is what I did with my own top-down sweater:
. Yoke: Alternated 2 rows/rounds of each colour evenly.
. Bodice: Started out as for yoke, then gradually increased the number of rounds in Colour A, until I was knitting the lower part of the bodice with Colour A only.
. Sleeve 1: Started out as for yoke, then gradually increased the number of rounds in Colour B, until I was knitting most of the sleeve with Colour B only.
. Sleeve 2: Started out as for yoke, then gradually increased the number of rounds in Colour C, until I was knitting most of the sleeve with Colour C only.

If you transition from the 3 colours to a single colour gradually, it is surprisingly unnoticeable - unless you know to look for it - that the sweater contains swathes of separate colourways. And the benefit to this method is mainly sentimental: You can look at portions of your sweater and identify patches from specific dyers. For instance, I think of my left sleeve as the 'Fine Fish Sleeve,' and so on. 


I think that combining single skein yarns from our stockpile into our own unique 'custom' colourway blends in this manner, can be an interesting exercise - in that it makes us consider our colour preferences, as well as our yarn acquisition histories. It is for that reason I call this recipe 'Everyone's Autobiography' (which, yes, is a Gertrude Stein reference).

Also, if you are looking to decrease your stockpile of variegated sock yarns, this can be a useful and wearable way to go about that.

Personally, after 2 years of being genuinely open-minded and experimenting with superwash nylon blend yarns, I am returning to my original preference for working with minimally processed yarns only (yes, even for socks!). So most of my remaining superwash sock yarns will probably either be gifted or become 'Everyone's Autobiographies' in the course of this coming year.  

I hope this has been useful. If you would like to knit an Everyone's Autobiography and have questions about combining yarns, selecting a pattern, or alternating skeins, feel free to ask!