Speckles (a primer and a giveaway)
If you’ve been here for a while, you know I tend to gravitate toward rather…um…let’s say mellow yarns. Solids or semi solids, often in grays or purples or the occasional pond-scummy greeny yellow. They’re what I like to knit with, they’re what I like to wear, and they’re almost universally well behaved.
But a few years ago, I started seeing speckled yarns everywhere. And I would have expected to just sort of admire them on the shelf and move on. But, much to my surprise, they started following me home. But then…then I had to figure out what the heck to do with them. Because speckled yarn is not necessarily quite as accommodating as its more mellow cousins. If you pair it with the wrong pattern, it will totally fight you. But I sorted a few things out along the way.
I started by keeping the speckles firmly in line with a more sedate counterpart. That worked out rather nicely. The gray is Chickadee by Quince & Co, the speckled is Meridian by Seven Sisters Arts. I think of it as somewhere between a highly variegated, short color run yarn and a true speckle…and you’ll note it has both purple and greeny yellow. What can I say, I was easing myself in. The pattern is Pleagic.
I had enough fun with that one that I did it again. The enthusiasm of the colorful yarn is kept in check by a much much calmer background. The brown yarn is Cressida and the colorful yarn Capella, both by Space Cadet. This is again something between a speckle and a highly variegated, short color run yarn, but the color blips are really short…look how much color change you can find in just one stitch. We’re inching ever closer to full on speckles. The pattern is Permutation.
Then I got a little braver and worked out some stitch patterns that will actually stand up to speckled yarn and so used it by itself. The yarn is Squish DK by Spun Right Round. I totally think it’s a full on speckle, though again the definitions on this are rather subjective, and I’m not going to fight anyone about yarn styles. The pattern is Circumvolute.
Then I started getting a little cocky, and I felt comfortable enough to make something where the yarn would really steal the show. (The yarn is DK by The Lemonade Shop. It’s maybe more of a consistent, repeating, short-color-run yarn than a true speckle, but all the drama still comes from the yarn, so it has a lot of the same constraints. The pattern is Keepsies.)
And I’ve learned a few things about what makes a pattern a good fit for a speckled (or otherwise dramatic) yarns. The first and most important thing is to keep it simple. Stockinette is good. Reverse stockinette is good. Strong, straight lines are good (think wide ribbing or strong diagonals). Complex lace is…not. You need to have some sizable stretches of plain fabric where the yarn has room to do its thing and show off its magic. Don’t go cluttering things up with too much pattern or texture.
The second thing is to consider using a companion yarn to anchor the wild yarn. I did that with Pelagic and Permutation above, but anything where you have a background yarn and an accent yarn could look great with the speckles for the accent. This is one of my favorite approaches just in general, so I have lots of patterns that do this. Think Collusion or Entrapment or Vestige or Varagires. Anything where the speckled yarn can come in and play special guest star will work great. It gets to shine, and you don’t run the risk of things getting out of hand.
And finally, and you probably knew this was coming, I’m going to encourage you to swatch. A lot. You never truly know what a yarn will do until you knit it up, and that’s especially true for speckles. The only way you’ll get to know them is by experimenting. And, it just so happens I have some lovely speckled skeins to give away to get someone started on those experiments!
Black Trillium Fibres has recently introduced some seriously speckled yarn. Big dots, little dots, oodles of colors, this is the full on speckle. It’s lovely (this is their Lilt Sock base which has silk instead of nylon and is a particular favorite of mine), and it will be great fun to work with. It would look fabulous on its own, or as a guest star paired with a solid yarn in whichever of the speckle colors makes your heart skip a beat (I love that sort of periwinkle color up at the top).
The yarn has been a hit, and it is all sold out at the moment. But the good folks at Black Trillium just happened to send me some to give away. If you’d like to see what magic you can do with it, just leave a comment here telling me what pattern you’d like to make with speckled yarn (it doesn’t have to be one of mine or anything, I just like seeing what you guys like to do with speckles). I’m giving one skein away here, and the other one on Instagram. You can totally enter over there too if you want to double your chances of winning.
Comments left between now and the end of the day (eastern time) Monday, April 30, 2018 will be entered to win. I’ll pick a winner, contact them to get their info, and arrange to send the yarn their way. Be sure to use a real email address so I can contact you if you’ve won (I won’t do anything with those email addresses besides notify the winner). If I do email you, I need to hear back from you within 72 hours or I will pick a new winner and contact them. I can only ship yarn to US addresses.
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