So, what exactly IS Colorwork? Colorwork is a fairly generic term for any work (either knit or crochet) that has more than one color in it. Yeah, everything from basic two color works like this:
to more complicated works like this one:
Even patchwork pieces or “scraps” pieces like these are considered colorwork:
Any time you are working either knitting or crochet and you change colors, you have a piece that can be called colorwork. Don’t get confused though, there are some pieces that employ color like these:
All of those are worked with variegated yarns (or multicolor yarns). In those cases, the yarn does the color changing for you and it’s not considered colorwork.
Colorwork is a LOT easier to design than it is to actually make, but there are still a few rules of thumb to follow when designing a colorwork piece.
Knit or Crochet?
When you’re designing, you need to know if you’re going to be designing for knit or crochet or both. When it comes to color work, I strongly advise designing for only one or the other unless you are either very experienced with both knit and crochet or planning to keep your colorwork VERY simple. Things don’t always translate well from one to the other and it’s difficult enough without throwing color and pattern in there–especially when it comes to ANYTHING round (i.e. eyes, polka dots, noses, logos, etc…)
Crochet is DEFINITELY easier to put color into because working with only one loop at a time lends itself well to changing yarns. If you are unsure about which to design for, or this is your first go of designing colorwork, I would suggest trying it in crochet first. If you’re a knitter and want to give colorwork a go, don’t be afraid. You will need a little more patience, but there are several different techniques you can use that may make changing yarns easier. (We’ll go through those in a Knitting 101 post, so keep an eye out).
Yup, everyone’s favorite acronym. Keep It Simple Sweetie.
As cool as that pattern with 47 colors using nine shades of orange looks, make sure that you aren’t spending $3oo in materials for colors you’ll use less than six inches of once. There’s also the issue of being able to find the yarn at your local store. When working a big colorwork project, sometimes it is best to go the the store FIRST (no, you won’t buy anything this time) or check out their website to see what colors they DO have and in what styles. If you can get every color you want, but some of it is worsted and some of it is sock yarn and some of it is super bulky, you won’t have the consistency in the piece you may want. Checking first to see what colors are available to you in what weights will help to keep your work doable when you’re done designing it. Another good way to start your color work is to take a look in your stash and see what you have on hand that you need to get rid of (if you’re anything like me, you have just a couple lying around ^_~) and work your design based on those.
Now, there is a way around the problem of what is available. Buy all the yarn you will need in white and dye it yourself. I’ll put up a blog post about dying your own yarn in a couple of weeks so you can see how that is done. Dyeing your yarn is time consuming, but if you know about how much you will need, it will save you some money on materials. The real trick with dyeing your yarn is to keep it feeling soft and not crunchy. If you go this route, do a couple of practice runs to find your favorite method before you do your final dyeing for your project.
Will Variegated do the Trick?
Sometimes when I think I like something in stripes or in a pattern, I really just want those colors in a variegated yarn. If you find yourself switching colors every three stitches, as yourself “is this what I want or should I use a variegated yarn?” A lot of times you can find the colors you’re looking for in a variegated at your local yarn shop, mega mart, or online. If you can’t, it is possible to dye your own variegated yarn. Keep an eye out for that yarn dyeing blog in a couple weeks to see how!
Again, there are a couple methods to this, so before you come up with the final, take some scrap yarn or an extra skein to see how it comes out and which is easier for you.