Sunday, September 30, 2007

Socktoberfest: thinking about handpaints

Recently, Greta_Jane has been asking me for commentary on what makes a good match between handpainted yarn and sock pattern. Predictably, whenever I've seen her lately, we've been too busy with everything else to pull out socks and ponder patterns. Not to mention that it wasn't yet sock weather. Now that sock weather and Socktoberfest are here, though, I've been thinking about this question of match between pattern and yarn, and I thought I'd try to pull together a few thoughts on the blog.

Looking at the socks I've knit over the past couple of years, it seems there are a few factors I consider:

1) Plain vanilla stockinette socks
I choose these when the yarn is something special, when I want the colors to carry their own weight, or if I just want an easy sock to travel with. I also tend to choose stockinette when the yardage seems likely to be too short for a complicated pattern (as is often the case with the Jitterbug - the two bright blue socks).

Trekking #100 socks Fleece Artist Autumn socks Colinette Jitterbug socks Blue Colinette socks 4

2. Socks with ribbings
Ribbing seems to work well since the strong vertical lines counterbalance the horizontal effect of the handpainting. It's also usually easy to memorize, is stretchy, and fits well, all good combinations.

Conwy socks FO: Cable and rib socks Garter Rib Socks.JPG Mock Cable Wave Sock.JPG

3) Things just go together!
Stylistically, this is my favorite option: when the pattern moves in such a way that it itself highlights the changes in the yarn, and the variegation of the yarn emphasizes the movement in the pattern:

Cherry Tree Hill Feather and Fan socks Monkey sock detail.JPG Gentleman's Fancy Socks.JPG Embossed Leaves detail

Some patterns are just too intricate for self-striping. Knitty's Hedera strikes me as one example that really needs a solid-colored (or mostly solid) yarn.

What guidelines do you, readers, follow when pairing sock yarn and sock pattern?


Greta_Jane said...

Next time I see you, I will show you the yarn that I currently love most and want a good match for. It was the ball by Knitting Angel's spinning teacher.

PHD Knitter said...

Great guidelines! I think I basically follow the ones you stated, but I'd never articulated it like that before.

Zarzuela said...

I'm pretty much with you. Really complicated stitch patterns call for semi-solid or solid yarn. Something with more variegation would obscure all that work. You have a nice collection of socks there! :) Hope you are enjoying fall down there. :)


Sheepish Annie said...

I tend to knit plain, stockinette socks most of the time. But I really like the way they work with handpainted yarns! The colors just sort of do what they are going to do and I love to see how they play themselves out.

The_Add_Knitter said...

I really dislike intricate patterns with variegated yarn, it does both a disservice. So I completely agree with your guidelines!

Stephanie said...

Plain stockinette for solids or wide self-striping only - I dislike the pooling that seems to happen with handpaints and short repeat color changes. For these, I agree, ribbing patterns break up the pooling nicely. A zigzag pattern like Jaywalkers looked nice with this yarn too, for me. For heavily textured or lacy patterns, a nearly solid, or variegated where the colors are all in the same tonal range works well - the color does not hide the pattern.

Craft Attack! said...

I love all the socks you've done over the years. I tend to stick to more conservative colors, especially with texture patterns and lace, as I don't want the wool to steal the show. I like the near solids that are becoming popular.