Gradient Yarns look so enticing in a cake with all of the pretty colors showing, but sometimes it’s hard to picture how they’ll knit up. Here are some tips for
getting the most from your gradients with different shawl shapes.
Long-Striping vs. Short-Striping Yarns
Yarns like Knitcircus or Freia Fibers gradients have long stripes, approximately 75-100 yards in fingering weight skeins. Other yarns, like Noro Sock, may have shorter stripes that last a few rows, then change color.
For a short-striping yarn, choose a plain or very predictable pattern. Short-striping yarns, like handpaints, tend to obscure complicated stitch
patterns, since they only last a couple of rows and most lace patterns need four or more rows to visually finish a repeat. For this kind of stripes, the yarn itself is the pattern; shown it off with a simple stitch pattern!
Patterns to Try
Silk Moon Crescent Shawlette, by Jaala Spiro
Boneyard Shawl, by Stephen West
Hitchhiker or Lintilla by Martina Behm
Simple But Effective Shawl, by Laura Chau
The Age of Brass and Steam, by Orange Flower
Long-striping yarns look great in simple patterns as well, but because each color lasts longer, they can be paired with many lace/cable/texture patterns and look stunning. You should be able to see several repeats of the lace pattern per color, so it’s perfect for simple lace, but maybe not for a complicated knit-purl image of a windmill, for example. If the gradient gets darker, rather than
staying in approximately the same value, it will visually mask some of the complexity of the stitch patterns in the dark color. Using a pattern that begins simply and becomes more complex works perfectly when you begin with the darker portion of the gradient and let the lace emerge in the lighter sections.
Gradient Triangle Shawls
Most triangular shawls begin with a few stitches, and work their way up to two-three hundred. Depending how your shawl is constructed, it will either begin or end with she shorter rows. The most important gradient yarn consideration comes here; wherever the shorter rows are, that end of the gradient will appear longer than the other. A loose rule of thumb would be that the first half of the gradient will look much bigger and will seem to form the “ground” against which the other gradient stripes look more dramatic. An example: A four-color gradient used in a top-down triangular shawl will visually appear that the first color takes up half the shawl, while the second takes up 25% and the last two seem to be decorative ribbons at the edge. A bottom-up shawl will, of course, look the reverse. There is no right or wrong answer here, so choose the direction you would like to go!
These are fantastic ways to use gradient yarns. You can begin at the bottom tip or at the top neck edge, and your gradient will slowly spread outward from the center or upward from the bottom. Any pattern with a repeated/predictable lace pattern works perfectly for gradients, and, as above, any pattern with a simple lace/cable pattern will look stunning in a gradient, especially if you make sure to work the more complex lace sections in the lighter stripes.
Patterns to Try
The Tehachapi Project, by Michelle Miller
Juniper Lemon Shawl, by Jaala Spiro
Haruni, by Emily Ross
Holden Shawlette, by Mindy Wilkes
Ishbel, by Ysolda Teague
Multnomah, by Kate Ray
Henslowe, by Beth King
Water Dragon, by Michelle Miller
Mystic Light, by Anna Dalvi
Traveling Woman, by Liz Abinante
Aranami Shawl, by Olga Buraya-Kefelian
Patterns like Michelle Miller/Fickleknitter’s designs make wonderful candidates for gradients. The top-down portion of the shawl will look very similar to any other triangular shawl, with one main color forming the base triangle, and others getting progressively narrower as the triangle expands. With knit-on edgings, though, you do have to be aware that the color will most likely change while you work your way across the bottom edge, which means that any color changes will appear to be horizontal, contrasting with the vertical color changes of the first part. Some people may like, some people may hate the result, which will have a color shift highlighting the difference in construction between the body and knit-on edging.
Patterns to try:
Flambe, by Michelle Miller
Limestone, by Michelle Miller
Crescent and Half-Pi Shawls
Crescent and half-pi shawls look wonderful in gradient yarns, and will appear similar to triangular shawls. Half-pi shawls and crescents usually start with a few stitches or a smaller cast-on and increase through the body of the shawl so that gradient will appear more exaggerated in the section with the smaller number of stitches.
Patterns to Try:
Summer Flies, by Donna Griffin
Annis, by Susanna IC
Citron, by Hilary Smith Callis
Northern Lights, by AnneM
Have fun experimenting!