Frustrated & Discouraged

I’m so in awe of all you cool people who can knit beautiful color work projects, seriously. Color work is (was?) one of my goals for the year, and I’m trying, but let me tell you, it’s hard. You know that. I know you know that because you had to learn it once upon a time too. I started by holding the yarns in one hand, but that didn’t work, so I tried with the yarns in two hands, and it kind of worked, even if it was slow as molasses, but then my tension was forked up and way too tight so I had to frog four rounds of color work and start over.

That’s when I started shopping for a ring. Have you seen those? The rings you wear on the tip of your index finger to guide your yarn when you’re working with multiple strands? The one I’d seen on instagram was $77 plus $28 in shipping from somewhere international, and friends, I was not that committed to color work. I was just about to buy a simple one on Etsy when I remembered: I used to make jewelry! Not only that, I used to make rings! As luck would have it, I still had some of the heavier wire I used for the wire-wrapped rings, and I set to work. My first prototype was no good, but my second has a lot of potential, and with it I was able to almost-kind of-sort of-quickly do color work!

The corrugated ribbing went great, just a 2/1 pattern. But then I got into the charted paw prints, and as I had longer floats, I discovered the tension on the yarns became harder to control. Whichever yarn I wasn’t using got loose and floppy, and hard to catch when it was its turn again, so I had to fix the tension pretty often. Still, it was doable, I was making better progress than I’d expected, and I was pleased with myself — look at me, doing color work! But Sunday night I stopped and really looked at what I’d knitted so far, and while I can see that it’s okay, it’s not what I’d hoped for. The paw print pattern is awesome but my tension is clearly too tight in places and it’s pulling together. Argh.

While I’d like to think that sh*t will block out, I don’t think that sh*t will block out. SO. Color work is in timeout for now. I just wanted a darn paw print cowl, that’s all! Is that really too much to ask? I *might* frog this and start over with the charted section, catching my floats more often. We’ll see.

And now, having attempted it myself, I am even more in awe of you people knitting your beautiful color work projects. You have mad skills.

22 thoughts on “Frustrated & Discouraged

  1. The initial class I took on colorwork was at a beach retreat and we learned two-handed stranding and floats after wine. Seems like it would be the worst thing but everyone’s tension was nice and even – very mellow. 🙂 (PS I have taught a lot of colorwork classes. If you want a freebie Zoom moment for some tips and suggestions, just let me know!)

  2. It took about 3 colorowork projects for me to feel comfortable, and I still have places where my tension is too tight! So it just takes practice. I got a ring this year when I had to do 3 colors in a row, and found the one I had annoying, but I like how you’ve made yours. The two yarns in two hands works best for me, but I have to be really careful with the right hand yarn since I naturally knit tightly and the left hand is much looser.

    • Oh gosh. I’m not sure I’m committed enough to do three projects before I feel comfortable! Thank you, though – it definitely helps to know that my experience is common and I’m not just behind the curve! 🙂

  3. I got a yarn ring as a Christmas present. FANTASTIC for 1×1 colorwork but I’m not sure it would be good for colorwork with floats. My ring is pretty cheap on Amazon and similar to the one you made. Just a coil of heavy gauge wire with a loop on each end to hold a yarn. I have to wrap the yarn about 3-4 fingers to get any tention and even then it ends up very loose. My first attempt using a yarn held in each hand was way too tight tension. I had to frog the first 6″ as the tight tension made a cowl instead of the yoke of a sweater.

    • I’ve seen those rings – that’s partly what I had in mind when I made this one! Using it is the only way I could feel comfortable with holding two yarns, so I’m going to try again using it with the charted pattern – after I frog what I’ve got so far. 😦

  4. Let those floats be loose and floppy. My guess is that’s what’s pulling your knitting in. Once you block it, the floats will lay nice and flat. I have an exaggerated stitch movement I do when knitting colorwork to loosen my tension, and I sometimes pull on the knitting to stretch out the floats to make sure they are long enough. I hope this is helpful. And I love your ring!

    • Thank you! I’m guessing it is too – I was trying to keep them loose but not enough or not consistently enough. I’ll keep trying, for now — I really want this cowl!

  5. It’s been so many years since I’ve done colorwork that I have very little to offer except to say that I feel your pain. However, I trust that you’ll master it if you truly want. (And there is no shame in NOT wanting.)

    • Thank you, I appreciate that! Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the “everyone does it, you can get the hang of it with practice” and forget that it’s totally okay to just not want to do a technique!

  6. Stranded colorwork takes practice, just like Kath says. Have you considered trying mosaic colorwork? You still have to be careful with tension, but you only knit with one color per row.

  7. As others have said, it took quite a while to get my tension even for colorwork. It’s really just a matter of finding what works for you, and going from there. But I have learned that I can’t do stranded colorwork if I’m upset, or my tension is way too tight.

    • Yeah, that all totally makes sense. I wonder what it is about me that makes me resist that learning process, and being willing to have multiple crap projects before I get to the good one? Or maybe it’s related to my resistance to fussy socks — it’s just not what I need my knitting to be! You learn so much about yourself with knitting!

      • That’s true, it’s a great way to learn about yourself! My first colorwork project was a sock kit, and it was a lot of fun even though I didn’t end up with wearable socks. They were fun to make, but my tension was so off that I don’t think they fit anyone in my family. I think I did something flat after that? Flat colorwork is easier (for me) to get my tension right.

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