Intarsia Knitting with Variegated Yarn

I’m getting lots of swatching done this week! A fun perk of the job, for sure. Yesterday, I shared my experiments with ombre yarn, and today I’m taking a look at other kinds of variegated yarn. At the recent yarn trade show in Phoenix, I picked up a skein of the new yarn from Lorna’s Laces: Cloudgate. This is a fun, SQUISHY, superwash merino-nylon blend that comes in Lorna’s signature variegated and semi-solid colorways. I grabbed this color called “Ma Ruth,” because the palette here precisely matched the outfit I was wearing that day. Once I got home and thought about how to best use this yarn and this kind of dye effect, I stumbled across a novel idea: what if I broke the skeins into two balls and worked them together with intarsia? My hypothesis was that, though both balls are the same color, the variegation in the yarn would create two distinct sections in the fabric, across the intarsia join.

Intarsia knitting with variegated yarn

Well, you can see that didn’t really happen. Worked on size 9 needles over 25 stitches, my swatch is very cool-looking, but it does not demonstrate the effects of intarsia well. That diagonal line across the swatch is the join line between balls–or “colors” if you will–where I expected to see more contrast happen. I realized that this colorway has very short color runs, which leads to awesome allover spurts of color that don’t pool. But I needed pooling to make the intarsia sections stand out from each other. So I needed to try another colorway.

Intarsia knitting Before I continue with my swatching experiments, I want to talk about the intarsia method I used in these swatches. If you’ve ever worked intarsia, you’ve no doubt noticed the jagged outline that occurs between colors. A stairstep effect, as shown in the motifs at right.

See how the umbrellas don’t have clean, crisp edges? That’s because, as the motif grows to make angled and rounded shapes, they’re being built on the grid of knitted stitches. Which makes stairstep outlines. But designer and teacher Daniela Nii developed an intarsia method that avoids the jagged, stairstep effect when making angles in intarsia: she calls it shaped intarsia. And this is the technique I’ve utilized in my variegated yarn experiments for this post. You can check out a tutorial on shaped intarsia in a new video, hosted by Daniela. Check out the digital download or DVD of Shaped Intarsia today!

So, I knew I needed to find a variegated yarn with longer color runs, in order to get the effect I wanted, which was to use one colorway in two intarsia sections and get an interesting juxtaposition of colors across the joining line. I went upstairs and faced The Stash. After moving this past fall, I stripped down my stash significantly, but surely I had tons of variegated and handpainted yarn still. Well, I didn’t have much, actually! I did find an older skein of Noro, an unlabeled angora blend that I bought years ago, and might be a discontinued yarn. Noro is known for their gorgeous colors and long color runs with gradual transitions between shades. Aha, I’ll try this, I thought. I wound off half the ball into a second ball, cast on, and tried my shaped-intarsia experiment again.

Intarsia knitting with variegated yarn

You can see this worked much better for my idea. This yarn has SUCH long color runs, though, that I got almost through the whole swatch without the lefthand (green) side ever changing color. There were a few more colors in this one ball—some blues and purples and ochres. But this swatch represents one single skein of variegated yarn, broken into two and worked in two intarsia sections with shaped intarsia. It’s quite pretty, I think! I’d like to try working intarsia with more variegated yarns, some with medium-length color runs, and some ombres would be very cool.

What other cool ways of using variegated yarn have you discovered? Share in the comments, we’re always looking for ideas for our beloved handpaints and hand-dyes!

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