The Yarn that’s Taken Me by Surprise

The Yarn that’s Taken Me by Surprise

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know we’re doing a KCAL about combining yarns, and specifically about combining Maia and Celeste.  They’re two of my favourite SpaceCadet yarns with really different fiber contents (Maia is 80% shimmery bamboo and Celeste is 100% merino) that combine beautifully together for a really stunning matte/sheen effect.

You can see it perfectly here in this shawl which I was knitting in Maia and Celeste in Sage.  I am endlessly tickled by the fact that I am creating stripes out of one colourway but it’s true: see how differently the two yarns take the colour and how beautifully they play off each other.

So, for the KCAL, I decided to cast on a shawl with these two yarns.  This is Astronaut Ice Cream, the Limited Edition we dyed for the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival and, even though these aren’t the colours I usually go for, I was totally smitten.  I love how different the colourway looks even though they were dyed together in the same dyebath and I was so excited to see how that matte/sheen effect looked with a variegated yarn.

I caked them up and took my photos…  and then life happened(!) and that photo never got on the KCAL thread but I thought, “That’s ok.  I’ll get a few rows on and photograph that instead.”

But as I knit, the yarns did something I wasn’t expecting at all: they totally blended into one another!  The two yarns are worked in stripes of increasing thickness but, as the shawl grew, the yarns blended more and more.  Even though they looked so different in the skein and caked, I could hardly see the stripes at all in the knitted shawl!

I kept thinking they would become more apparent once the stripes got thicker.  “I’ll post the pictures when the stripes start showing,” I said to myself and I knit onwards.  Row after row, I waited for the yarns to differentiate themselves, to no avail.  We had a team meeting this week.  Sitting under a tree in the local park, barefoot and all knitting, I thought the dappled sunlight hitting the Maia would surely show off the matte/sheen effect but no, as I held up my shawl, everyone remarked at how the colours were blending together.

That was my first surprise, and here is my second: as soon as I turned it over and showed off the purl side, the striping was obvious!  Something about those purl bumps made the differences between the two yarns jump right out.  There was the lovely sheen of Maia, and the deep intensity of Celeste.  The combination of the striping and variegation was exactly what I had hoped it to be — on the wrong side.  And to the whole team’s continued amazement, when I turned it back over to the right side, it all disappeared and, when we returned to the wrong side, it came back again.

So I decided to share that with you: that, even after years of knitting and years of dyeing and feeling like I know these yarns inside and out, they still continue to surprise me.  But then I got the biggest surprise of all…

I spread out my shawl and picked up my camera  to photograph it for this post.  And, as I looked through the camera’s viewfinder, I saw… the striping, as clear as day!  Instinctively, I pulled the camera away from my eye and looked again.  The stripes were gone and all the colours blended.  I looked through the camera again and they reappeared.

It’s the weirdest thing, but I can’t actually photograph the shawl as it appears in real life!  What you see here is what I thought it was going to look like when I cast on.  And I have no explanation other than there are mysteries of light and lens and colour refraction that I don’t understand.  But I can tell you that the yarn is soft and airy and a delight to work with.  And that when I knit the stockinette sections, they’re my favourite part, and then when I switch to the broken linen stitch sections, they’re my favourite part.  And even though these aren’t usually my colours, I just can’t get enough of them!

I guess, when I think about it, this is really why we knit and crochet with hand-dyed yarn, isn’t it?  It’s the adventure, the never knowing how the next row will look, the watching it change stitch-by-stitch beneath our fingers.  And for me, the knowledge that, even though I’ve been dyeing for years and knitting for twice as long, I can still find myself truly surprised (and delighted!) by the yarn in my hands.

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