Designing for Self-Striping Yarns

Ever since Meg developed her technique for creating self-striping yarn, over 4 years ago, I’ve been designing patterns to use them.  I’ve found several techniques that I think take advantage of their strengths.  I thought these might be of some interest.  Because one of the commonest uses of self-striping yarns is for socks, this post concentrates on them.

Basic Patterns

This technique can be broken into two subcategories.  First, very popular with others, is to knit plain stockinette.  I can admire the results that others achieve with this, but I am seldom able to do it myself.  I bore very easily.

However, simple textured stitches also can look truly lovely in self-striping yarns.  Here are a couple of my recent socks that use this technique.

Here’s one that’s in progress.  The pattern on this sock is very subtle – in fact you can’t always see it.  But that means it doesn’t compete with the yarn practically at all.

Patterns that Make the Stripes Move

One of the things that I find myself constantly drawn to is stitch patterns that draw the stripes into shapes other than plain horizontal stripes.  The commonest form of pattern that does this is what are often called Ripple Stitch patterns.  I have a book of just these, including both knit and crochet stitches.

In knit stitches, this class of stitch involves clusters of increases and clusters of decreases which cause the yarn to pull in opposite directions.  Here are a couple of socks I have made using ripple stitches.

And these are from a while ago.

But there are other pattern stitches that aren’t really classified as ripple stitches but still have the same effect, to some degree or other.  These socks I recently made for Franklin have only a subtle bend in the stripes, but I like it.

Here is another pair of socks in a pattern stitch that I really love.

Modular Patterns

Self-striping yarns can look really great in modular patterns.  I haven’t too many examples of socks in this technique, but I love the ones I have.

These are Poseys, which are a design from Knitty.  I think the little squares look great with one of Meg’s yarns.

And here is probably my most interesting design, my perpendicular socks.  I think they are much more interesting in a self-striping yarn.

Let the Yarn be your Guide

One other kind of pattern that can be lots of fun with self-striping yarns is to change the stitch pattern when the color of the stripes changes.  Here is an old pair using that technique.

As you can see, this pair of socks combines a ripple stitch with the technique of switching from stockinette on the green to garter on the brown.  Here is another pair using this technique which I am working on now.

The blue is in moss stitch and the pink is in sand stitch.  Both are variants of seed stitch and I’m fond of both, though with a particularly strong predilection for sand stitch – I love how smoothly bumpy it is.  (That sounds silly but maybe someone will see what I mean!)

What you don’t want to do with self-striping yarns is to use an overly complex stitch pattern.  If you do that (experience tells me) you will lose the impact of the stitch and lessen the attractiveness of the yarn.  It’s something of a lose/lose proposition.  I still have to fight against it, but at least now I usually recognize the problem before going too far.  Fortunately all of Meg’s yarns stand up pretty well to frogging.

I hope this will give someone a couple of ideas on what to do to take advantage of the fun self-striping yarns which are available these days.  (Including from my daughter Meg, who sells her special gradually shading striping yarns at Twisted Fiber Art.)


About Knitterly Anne

A knitter for many years, I have become increasingly involved with designing knit patterns in recent years. Other interests include my lovi
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3 Responses to Designing for Self-Striping Yarns

  1. Sarah says:

    Wonderful illustrations and explanation, Anne. Modular knit and self-striping yarns are match made in heaven. Your Poseys’ sample speaks for itself. My favorite of all shown here probably is your latest smoothly bumpy textured stitches. I love all things textural…it creates a real comforting cushy fabric. If perfectly tailored to your feet, it’s like snuggling up in a cocoon in chilly, wintry days. Great post. I look forward to some finished projects from you soon 😀 (hint, hint.)

  2. Donna says:

    Hi Anne:

    We met on Ravelry — the Stars and Moon blanket pattern. I just found your blog. Love the illustrations you’ve done here. How did you ever make those socks with the mitered squares? I love stitches that draw the strips up or down too.

    Awesome post — Thank you!

    • Welcome! Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. The mitered square socks were lots of fun, though they were more work than more standard socks. They’re very comfortable, though – I have them on now, as a matter of fact.

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