I’ve had a small epiphany. I might have had this epiphany before, but once is not always enough.
When we heard Kaffe Fassett speak in Nashville last year, I had a little peek at this insight. He was answering a question about how he puts his colors together in such unexpected ways: is it instinct or planned, or both, or what is it?
In answering that question, he said, essentially: you can’t judge when you’re in the middle of it. Every color you add changes the composition completely, so it’s pointless to judge until you’re all the way there. You just have to keep faith with your own color sense, and wait for the moment you can step back and see the whole. You have to trust your instinct, your idea.
(Apologies to Kaffe for paraphrasing or even misunderstanding him. This was my takeaway.)
I recently worked my own way through what Kaffe was talking about, and nearly lost my sense of where I was going.
For my Bottom Line pullover, I had 4 skeins of Jill Draper’s Mohonk light in the Dark Roast shade. When we are sending this yarn out to customers in sweater quantities, we take time (Liz takes time), and choose skeins that will hold hands and be friends with each other. Is there variegation in Jill’s solids? Yes; that’s her dyeing style, and that’s what gives this yarn the liveliness we adore. But it’s not leaps and jumps, it’s soft shifts and subtle striations.
For my own sweater, though, I wanted an adventure. This sweater is a long stretch of stockinette, on size 2s in my case, and I wanted some entertainment in the form of color play. I thought it would be fun to throw in an outlier skein.
The first skein would be for the yoke of this top-down sweater. I hemmed and hawed, but eventually I chose the outlier skein—the lightest, most variegated skein of the four—for the yoke. My thinking was that it would be nice for the sweater to be darker at the bottom and in the midsection, and lighter up near my face.
What followed: knit, knit, knit on that first skein, which took me all the way to Edinburgh and back home again. It also took me all the way through the yoke and past the sleeve/body divide.
Then I joined in the second skein.
Wow. The other skeins were darker than I remembered. I knit along for a few inches.
I started to doubt my plan. The color shift was too sudden, I thought. This was a terrible idea, I thought. I also realized I wasn’t going to need 4 skeins, so I didn’t have to use that lighter skein at all—I could rip it back and start over!
I put my Bottom Line in time out, while I contemplated whether it could be saved.
Last Sunday, I took the train up to Beacon to hang out with Melanie Falick, have lunch, and to look at some swatches for an upcoming Field Guide and some exciting page proofs from her own book project. I had my Bottom Line pullover with me, and I pulled it out of my bag, to unburden myself of my uncertainty.
“I love it!” She said, before I really had the chance to start in. She volunteered that it was so interesting, and that if we saw it on the runway, we’d be oohing and aahing at the singularity of it, and the rich color shading.
I told her I’d been thinking of starting over. Why would you? She asked me, in real astonishment.
Well. That fixed me! I saw my sweater with new eyes. I do like variegation; that was my original instinct, and I won’t know for sure how it worked out until it does work out. On the way home, I was happily knitting away on it, trying to finish the second skein, which looks like it will get me all the way through binding off the body of the sweater. Now I can’t wait to see it.
One More Mod
I did make another mod to the pattern. Instead of knitting 12 inches from the underarm before working the eyelets and ribbing, I got out my well-worn Relax pullover, which is a perfect length for me, hitting at the hipbone.
Whoa! I was nearly there, after only 10 inches on the body. So I stopped, worked the eyelets, and I’m nearly done with the ribbing.
This decision was totally about getting my favorite fit, not about being tired of stockinette. No, no, no. (Yes.)
Now, you may not like it. I may not even like it yet, or not for sure. But Kaffe was right. I’ll only really be able to tell when it’s complete. Melanie’s reaction made me trust my idea enough to finish it and find out.
When in doubt, phone a friend!