Pooling, Dyeing and Stitch Counts.

On Friday I posted about a new pair of socks which I had cast on with some gorgeous yarn I had treated myself to in a de-stash. It was an unusual choice of yarn for me as I rarely by variegated or hand-painted yarns because of the pooling dilemma.

Raveller Melonby from A Pile of Sheep left a comment on the post, saying:

The pooling in variated sock yarn depends a lot on whether the dyer knows their stuff. I’m making socks in Yarn Yard Bonny too (in ‘Ice Cream’)and so far I’m just getting perfect pink and green spirals down each leg.

Which started me off thinking of whether it was a case of the dyer’s skill that made it likely whether or not a skein of yarn was likely to pool, as I’d assumed it was a possibility in most yarns dyed in small, repeating sections of colour. So I began an experiment.

I cast on 60sts onto 2.5mm needles and started with a section of 3×1 rib (if I’m honest this was almost an accident, as I hadn’t intended to knit a sock, I think I just naturally and almost absent-mindedly started the ribbing. You can see this section at the bottom of the picture above. There’s a section of pooling in the middle with the colours not quite lining up either side.

As I changed to stockinette (still at 60 stitches) the pooling became even more apparent. I think if I had been knitting 58 or 59 stitches them the colours would have stacked almost perfectly at this point as the pooling is slanting slightly to the right.

I then increased to 66 stitches (above the line of orange stitches I knit to show where I changed from one stitch count to the next) and the colours make the perfect little pink and green spirals similar to those that A Pile Of Sheep mentioned in the previous post’s comment section.

A lot of yarn is dyed in a loop, and if different dyes are applied to different parts of this loop then the regularity at which you reach those same parts of the loop (and so colour) is going to be dictated by how much yarn you use in each row or round of your pattern. You can control this to some degree by adjusting the number of stitches cast on and the size needles that are used, but it’s a bit of a balancing act as you ultimately want a sock that fits, and casting on extra or fewer stitches to prevent pooling is going to adjust the fit of the resulting sock. Other factors such as stitch patterns and tension also have an effect on the way a variegated yarn behaves. Half a sock knit at a relaxed gauge followed by a section of tense knitting which tightens the stitches and so uses less yarn per row is going to result in the colours of the yarn lining up differently, so if a knitter finds a stitch count that works for them it is important to check on the tension of the knitting throughout the project and try to maintain the same gauge throughout.

And then there’s the heel. With a flap and gusset style heel a knitter might find the perfect number to give neat little spirals, find that they have a different stitch count when working the gusset rows and then massive splodge as the colours shift about before returning to the original stitch count for the foot.

I’m using yarn from the same wonderful dyer as A Pile of Sheep is using, and I know that they are at the top of their game, so I think sometimes you just have to either be lucky that the number of stitches you cast on will work with the yarn, accept the pooling, or find an alternative way of handling the yarn, which is how I set about looking for a pattern that would work for me.

So as to make sure that I don’t encounter the shifting stitch counts of a flap and gusset heel I am going to insert short row heels made from the accompanying mini skein:

It’s a chance to get my vintage swift out and put it to work with the Jumbo Ball Winder. The swift was a gift from Stephcuddles for Christmas/ my birthday, and had been in turn handed down to her. It’s is very old and has probably passed through many hands. I have given it a bit of TLC by way of a polish and a squirt of WD40 to try and arrest the extremely loud squeak it emitted every time it turned, and after working hard it will be rested for the next time it is asked to spread its four little arms and help me wind some scrummy yarn

A quick update on Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: I currently have about 800 names signed up and more arriving every day, so it’s all systems go at the moment. I hope to post an update regarding post tags at the beginning of next week, as well as details of the competitions and giveaways and the prizes on offer.

I have sent an email to all those who have so far offered prizes, but I may have missed one or two names as in a couple of cases I was unable to fathom a way of contacting the person who was so kindly offering something to donate. Please do not think that this isn’t appreciated if you are reading! To make things a bit easier I have put together a Contact page to easier leave your contact details (including, importantly, an email address so I can get back to you with the aim of getting pictures of prizes as well as links to websites, blogs and shops of those who are donating, to put on the prizes page). The contact page is easily accessible in the menu bar under the header, any time anyone wants to drop me a line to say hi.

5 thoughts on “Pooling, Dyeing and Stitch Counts.

  1. That is ONE COOL swift! To me, it looks like a man in armor, with a shield spread out in front of him. (OK, maybe I’ve had too much caffeine today.)

  2. Very interesting about the pooling, I might try a few experiments with some variegated skeins soon 🙂 and so glad you like the swift! You make it look so nice! The squeaking got to me a little bit but I had no WD40 in my student flat :p and I think I have bad news 🙁 I don’t think I can take part in the Blog Week 🙁 🙁 my final year submissions are due the week after and it might not be a good idea to be blogging every day around this time. Blast and Damn.xxx

  3. So interesting about the pooling and makes complete sense. Love that swift and am kicking myself as I saw one for sale recently and was a bit unsure so walked on by.

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