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Rave: get your party on!

December 7, 2018

The Rave pattern, originally published in the Pom Pom anniversary issue, is now available as an individual pattern here.

Is it a scarf? Is it a shawl? It’s both! Everyone needs a great statement piece to wear with their winter coat. Perhaps something in a kicky colour that makes everyone smile as you contrast with the grey days of winter. Something with a lot of sumptuous garter to keep out the wind and cold, and a cable to look suitably fancy.

Mmmmm, just look at that delicious braided cable!

The Rave shawl has a simple construction, it’s knit from the smallest point to the widest with a heavy dose of garter stitch and a delicious braided cable. This dense, cozy cable is so easy to work it becomes nearly mindless once you’ve gotten started, yet looks so impressive!

We knit up the Rave shawl in squishy yarn in a vivid bright purple, in Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in ‘New Nailpolish’. Who else wishes their job was naming colours? I’m contemplating casting on a Rave shawl for me in a lovely red for the holidays… or maybe a deep emerald green, I’ve been seeing that colour popping up everywhere lately!

Rave Pattern Details:
Pattern: Rave by Tin Can Knits
Yarn: 750 yards DK /light worsted weight yarn (sample shown in
Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in ‘new nailpolish’)
Needles: US #7 / 4.5mm (or as required to meet gauge)

More cabled goodness from TCK:

Golden Light

November 29, 2018
I knit Em’s Antler Toque in Quince and Co Osprey in ‘honey’

This summer I knit four Antler toques, for four of my favourite people, and we photographed them at one of my very favourite places.

Love this pattern? Download your free copy today! And if cables are something new, see our in-depth tutorial too.

We had spent a long and happy day hiking on Meares Island, splashing in the Pacific Ocean, sitting around the campfire, and eating delicious burritos. As the light began to fade and the temperature began to drop at the campsite we headed down to the beach, bundled in woolen blankets and topped with toques. Everyone was in a grand mood and the light was golden, it was a perfect evening to sit on the driftwood and watch the sun disappear.

The pleasure of these simple knits, the warm evening light and the company combined to form a golden moment. Our annual Tofino camping trip is a family tradition stretching way back, and occasionally the Wessel family travels from Scotland to join us on the exquisite beaches of Vancouver Island’s western shore.

The Tin Can Knits family enjoying another golden sunset in Tofino back in 2017

An Antler Cable Obsession

I’ve been obsessed with the antler cable since I began designing knits. First came the Antler mittens, then the free Antler toque and the Antler cardigan too. There MIGHT even be a pullover in the works… if you sign up for our emails we will let you know when it’s ready. This is simply my favourite cable pattern, I can’t get enough!

I used the lovely Quince & Co Osprey for Hunter, Jones, and Emily’s hats (in Aleutian, Fox, and Honey respectively). The yarn is so soft and plump, the cables really pop. I’m already plotting another Antler sweater for myself in this yarn! Jordan’s toque is knit in Stone Wool Cormo, a yarn I’ve been rather smitten with lately, and have used in the Mountain Mist and Moraine sweaters.

So Many Fab Free Patterns

The Antler Toque is just one of more than two dozen free patterns that we’ve developed over the years!

We’ve created 11 Simple Collection patterns, specifically designed to help you learn the basics from cast-on to turning a heel, and knitting your first sweater. And we have dozens of other free patterns too, to get you started with lace, cables, or colourwork!

Free patterns are indicated on our website by asterisks *** – and you can find them all in one place on this page

We take just as much care when developing our free patterns as we do with our paid patterns; learn more about our process here! This is one case where the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ doesn’t apply. So if you haven’t tried a Tin Can Knits pattern yet, download one for free now and see what you think!


November 22, 2018

Sometimes things come easy, but Marshland? Not so much.

Sometimes the knit design process is straightforward. Starting with a concept, we swatch or knit up the prototype and then grade it (that means figuring out directions for 25 or so sizes), knit up the final sample, photograph, test-knit, tech edit, and lay it out. Simple right?

But sometimes it is not very simple at all. The Marshland sweater was a design that required some elbow grease. I swatched and I swatched, changed colours and changed motifs, then swatched again. It was a good lesson in perseverance and try-try-again!

The first yoke was just okay. It was more blue than I wanted and I only liked about 1/2 of the motifs together. I picked out the motifs I really liked then cast on again!

It also turned out I had made a mistake in the initial increase and it was the wrong size to boot…

Next came the colour debate, I had chosen Brooklyn Tweed Shelter for my sweater but should I use Artifact or Button Jar?!

After a couple weeks, I had swatched in the blue/green combination so many times I needed a change! I ran out to my LYS and picked out the yellow/brown/cream palette I used for Jones’ sweater just to break up the monotony! It was as I worked on the kid size that I finally struck upon what I wanted: chunky motifs, strong blocks of colour, and bold shapes. It was perfect.

I graded the yoke design up, cast on Gary’s sweater and I was FINALLY on my way. While we always hope to have our sweater samples bound off well ahead of photoshoot time, I was still working away on the sleeves as we headed out on the Icelandic ring road from Reykjavik!

Marshland Pattern details:

Pattern: Marshland from Strange Brew
The Marshland pattern includes sizes from 0-6 months through Women’s and Men’s sizes up to 4XL (61″ chest). The design is worked in worsted / aran weight yarn, we used Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, a lofty soft woollen-spun yarn that comes in an excellent palette of tweedy colours.  Find all sizing, and yarn details here.

You can also find some really amazing versions on our Pinterest board here:

Mountaintop Views:

Normally while driving over a mountain pass you can see your path laid out in front of you. There is a space between two mountains through which you might pass, or you can see the line of the road cutting across the slope. One day on our Icelandic journey, as we drove north to Akureyri we headed towards a wall of mountains and all we kept saying to each other was ‘where will we get through?’.

The road had the appearance of heading straight into the mountainside. Finally, as we approached we could see a narrow winding dirt road that led up. It was so faint we couldn’t see it from afar. Up up up we climbed and finally came out on top. We found a stunning vista of lake, snow, the warm dirt and bright green mosses.

The wind that day threatened to blow us over, but we got Gary and Jones sweatered up and these are some of my very favourite shots from the book. Father and son in coordinated sweaters, enjoying the great outdoors.

Crunchy Leaves: a Strange Brew Example

November 15, 2018

I’m a seeker after beauty. I find it in the everyday, which is very useful. As a parent to small children who works from a home office, there’s a lot of everyday to be had! I manage to squeeze in a little exceptional between wiping sticky tabletops, clearing away Lego, and doing battle with the inbox.

My morning jog, in the autumn, is often interrupted by beautiful moments.

One way that I find beauty in everyday things is dressing my children in handmade items. No matter how snotty and contrary they are on a given day, a hand-knit sweater can make it seem a little better. Not always great (I’m not gonna lie, kids can be tough), but better. Even if you can’t enjoy their behaviour, you can at least appreciate the great knitwear!

When we were developing the Strange Brew pattern, a year ago, I made a pair of little sweaters for Max and Neve to test the sizing and yoke shaping after we decided to add aran and sock weights into the recipe pattern.

Kids playing at the park, in all of the hand knits! It doesn’t get much better than this!
These sweaters were just intended as ‘little swatches’ – opportunities for me to trial colour combinations and concepts, test out motifs, dipped hems, and colour combinations.
I loved the ‘bubbly’ shape of this colourwork motif, and this grapic idea eventually worked its way into my design for the Almanac sweater, which incorporates a similar motif at both yoke and hems.

A disclaimer : Jess, dyer at Ginger Twist Studio, is a friend of mine. So… obviously I’m gonna big up her sweet sweet product. But I wouldn’t be working with it if I didn’t love it! When Alexa and I decided to embark upon a colourwork collection, I’m not gonna lie, I knew that I’d need to amp up my stash big time. So I collected quite a great collection of colours, and used a little of each of them in these sweaters!

In preparation for knitting these prototype sweaters, I collected a pretty fabulous rainbow of Ginger’s Hand Dyed Masham Mayhem Aran and Sheepish Aran

I LOVE the main colour I used for Neve’s little yoke. It is so rich, so vivid, but such a great ‘neutral’ at the same time. It’s called ‘crunchy leaves’ which feels so very appropriate for autumn days. Lately it feels like every day I have to stop to capture another photo of the brilliant morning light shining through the blanket of leaves in the park near my house that I run through in the mornings. Or perhaps I’m just stopping to catch my breath?

I made Max’s jumper first, and discovered that the ‘crunchy leaves’ colour played very nicely with the bright teal, the warm yellow, and both the cobalt blue, the deep grey-blue.

In making Neve’s yoke, I simply picked some lovely little colourwork motifs, and played with them, alternating colours quite often to add richness to very simple patterns.

When we shot this little example yoke in Iceland, I ripped out the bottom hem treatment (which you can see in the earlier photos above) because I thought it was better without.

The Strange Brew pattern is a recipe for designing your own unique colourwork yoke sweater, and it includes 3 gauge options and both top-down and bottom-up construction methods! Check out our in-depth tutorial on how to use the pattern to design a yoke, and our other posts on the process of knitting a colourwork sweater are listed here.

An Example Yoke, created using the Strange Brew recipe pattern

This little example was worked as follows, using top-down aran weight instructions in size 1-2 years:

  • Neckline: Cast on per the pattern, worked 1×1 ribbing
  • Increase Round 1: worked in MC following pattern instructions
  • Pattern Section 1: Worked chart A (it is 3 rounds, not the 4 called for in the pattern)
  • Increase Round 2: worked in MC following pattern instructions
  • Pattern Section 2: Worked chart B (it is 9 rounds, not the 4 called for in the pattern)
  • Increase Round 3: worked in MC following pattern instructions
  • Pattern Section 3: worked chart A; but flipped it (it is 3 rounds, not the 4 called for in the pattern)

So I worked a total of 3 + 9 + 3 = 15 pattern rounds, whereas the pattern called for 4 + 4 + 8 = 16 pattern rounds. The increases fell at slightly different points than the pattern called for, but it WORKED OUT JUST FINE.

This is an important illustration of the fact that you can adjust the Strange Brew recipe pattern, moving the increase or decrease rounds up or down, and your yoke design will very likely still work out! The numbers are SQUISHY.

A Family of Yokes

November 13, 2018

Alexa’s been the one to go ‘epic’ in her personal knitting projects in the past. This has had some unbelievably inspiring results, but I always saw it as impractical for me personally. That is, until now!

I decided to use this year’s #strangebrewKAL as an impetus to really ‘go big’ with my holiday sweater plans for this year. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but my sweater production has really skyrocketed this year! This is because I’ve been experimenting and gaining skills on my knitting machine. It’s a fabulous tool that I’ll share more about in a future post, but the long and short of it is that by zooming through some of the stockinette portions of a project I can get to the part that I love most (the colourwork! The design challenges at the yoke!) a little bit faster.

As such, I have decided that this year is the year for an epic family photoshoot from the Edinburgh side of the business! I pulled out my stash, and looked at some various options for me, John, and the kids.

Of the four sweaters, Max’s is the furthest along. BUT despite the fact that this yoke looks GOOD, I feel like ripping it and changing the colourwork somewhat might make it GREAT. I documented the design process for the yoke in this post.

My overall vision was a Christmas sweater palette that featured greens and pinks. My parameters were as follows:

  • Work from my stash as much as possible, mixing yarns fearlessly!
  • Make a colourwork yoke sweater for myself, my husband John, and my kids Neve and Max following the Strange Brew recipe pattern
  • Document my design process, in order to provide learning support and examples for knitters!

A coordinated palette of sweaters

The body colours I settled on, after much back-and-forth! The olive tweed is for John, the grey tweed for Max, the deep red tweed for me, and the lovely pink is for Neve!

One sweater I was instantly certain of was John’s. I have been saving this lovely sweater amount of olive green Studio Donegal yarn. It’s super soft and exquisitely tweedy, and a great match for John’s beautiful green eyes. I have (gasp) NEVER knit my husband, father of my two kids, a sweater. To be fair, since we’ve been together I’ve been pretty busy building a business and then producing two beautiful children, but is that really an excuse? Yup. It is. But very good excuses notwithstanding, I think the moment for me to complete a sweater for John is NOW.

So that was the body colour for one sweater nailed down; and as you can see in the photos above, I’ve got a few ideas for palette options for the yoke colourwork.

I couldn’t resist this pink!

Next, I had recently become obsessed with some soft pink yarn dyed by my friend Nina at Rainbow Heirloom. She dyed this colour ‘birthday suit’ on a base called Brit Light, which is 100% superwash British BFL. It’s a plied sock-weight yarn, so it will be durable but soft; perfect for a kid’s sweater. I took the plunge, bought the yarn, and got started selecting colours to coordinate at the yoke.

I’m using Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight at the yoke, as I want to use Fair Isle style blending with LOADS of colours… Learn more about this colourwork technique in this post.
I’m part-way through the design process on this yoke, which I’m working from the top-down. I’ve stalled a little bit, so I’m swatching some more before I rip and re-knit the yoke.

Third was the sweater for me, and I struggled to choose among several options for a body colour. I have this exquisite ‘vintage green’ from Rennies, a deep blackened red DK weight from Green Mountain Spinnery, and this voluptuously soft deep red custom spun 4-ply which I made at The Border Mill in the summer.

The deep red is the main colour; and I think I’ll choose a single CC to keep the colourwork for this design quite simple.

Looking at the colours together, I decided that the best option to coordinate with the other two body yarns was the Border Mill Alpaca. Possibly I was also seduced by its opulent drapeyness and outrageous softness? I can’t wait to get this on the needles!

The concept I have for my own sweater is a drapey, boxy body with a high-low split hem. It will have quite a bit of positive ease (4-8″ I’m thinking). The sleeves will be long, and slim fitting. So at the yoke join I’ll modify the Strange Brew pattern to mesh the large body size to the smaller sleeve size. The concept is a single colour body and sleeves, with a yoke that has a large-scale transition pattern. I haven’t cast on yet.

Last I had to fill in the blank, and choose a body yarn for Max’s sweater that would coordinate nicely with the three already chosen. I thought perhaps a mid green would be best, but then I found a sweater’s amount of this grey tweed that had been languishing in my stash boxes, and decided it had a delicacy that would round out the palette quite nicely!

I’ve made the body and sleeves for Max’s jumper working bottom up. I did the sleeves by hand. I hand-knit the body rib, and then worked the stockinette portion on the knitting machine. Then I joined it all together, adding in a few stitches for the steek (they’ll be lost when I cut and pick up the button bands).

So the decision about the main body yarns made, I’ve been slowly chipping away with the process of working from idea to completed sweater for each of us! Will I finish before the end of the KAL? Hmmm I’m not holding my breath. Will I finish before Christmas? Hmmmm still not certain! But I’m enjoying the process nonetheless!

How to Design a Strange Brew Yoke

November 9, 2018

The Strange Brew Yoke Sweater Recipe allows you to ‘brew up’ a seamless yoke sweater of your own unique design. The pattern guides you step by step, but also includes plenty of room for experimentation and improvisation. A sweater, after all, is just 3 tubes (sleeve, body, sleeve) which join to a single tube (the yoke). And you can knit a tube, right?

I’ve made this body & sleeves as part of our #StrangeBrewKAL – it’s going to be a colourwork cardigan for my son Max… I just need to design the yoke!

This post is one of many in our tutorial series about how to knit or design a colourwork sweater, so it assumes you’ve already made decisions about what size to make, what yarn to use and thus which gauge option to follow. Before you begin your yoke design, you also need to decide what construction method to use (bottom up or top down).

Use the Strange Brew Worksheet to pull out the key numbers from the pattern

Bottom-up: knit it this way to get rocking and rolling before confronting the yoke design step! Cast on now and ponder the yoke as you enjoy the relaxation of knitting the body and sleeves. You won’t get stuck on ‘sleeve island’ and you get to save the best (the colourwork yoke) for last!

Top-down: knit it this way to get into your yoke colourwork pronto! Once your exquisite yoke is done, you’ll bust right through body and sleeves so you can get the sweater on your body ASAP. Top-down also makes it a little bit easier to try things on as you go and adjust lengths.

Once you’ve identified your size, gauge, and construction method, you’re ready to design your yoke. Download a copy of our yoke design worksheet, it will be your guide as you designing your yoke. The worksheet includes a page for bottom-up construction, a page for top-down construction, and a page of graph paper that you can print out for playing around with stitch patterns.

Fill in the key numbers indicated for the section that applies (either top down or bottom up). Pick the instructions and stitch counts that apply to your gauge & size out from the pattern, copying them into your worksheet.

I filled the worksheet with the instructions for my chosen size (4-6 yrs), gauge (aran), and construction method (bottom up). Then I sketched the yoke design on the included chart.

Once you’ve filled in your worksheet, you’ll know a few things:

  1. How many total rounds (approximately) you’ll need in your yoke.
  2. Where (approximately) you’ll work adjustment (increase or decrease) rounds, and what the instructions for these adjustment rounds will be, and the stitch counts in the pattern sections following the adjustment rounds.

I’ve thrown the word APPROXIMATELY in here a lot. This is because it’s very important to know that these numbers are SQUISHY. As you proceed to design your yoke patterning, you can move these adjustment rounds up or down a few rounds without ‘breaking’ the yoke. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good in this endeavour!

Insert patterns into this yoke framework

Once you’ve identified the approximate yoke depth you’ll be working within, and the approximate locations of decrease rounds, the next step will be to choose patterns to fit within the yoke itself.

To plan a yoke incorporating a number of narrow patterns, I would:

  1. Choose the patterns, and decide what spacing to put them at.
  2. Stack them up, to calculate how many of them I could fit into the number of yoke rounds I have to work within.
  3. Decide where to my increase or decrease rounds. These can float up and down within the yoke, so long as they don’t move TOO far from where they are suggested by the pattern.
The draft chart that I created for the yoke sweater I’m making for Max.

How to adjust for a different stitch count

Each pattern section within the yoke is designed to be a multiple of 24 stitches. This is so that MANY stitch patterns will fit evenly without any adjustment; any patterns having repeats of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, or 24, and some others too (ie a stitch count of 240 is also divisible by 5, 10, 15, 16, 20, 30, 40, 48, 60, 80, and 12, in addition to the above). You can get a list of divisors from an online calculator like this one.

You may have your heart set on a pattern which does not fit evenly within the section’s stitch count. In this case you must adjust the stitch count of the piece before you can work the repeat. Luckily knitting is stretchy, and adjusting a few stitches here and there is easily accomplished. After working a decrease round, determine how many further stitches need to be decreased in order for your patterning to fit evenly.

For example, if your stitch count is 144 sts, but you want to work a pattern with a 10-st multiple, you’ll need to decrease an additional 4 sts to get to 140 sts.

Then on the following round, decrease the required stitches to get to the next even multiple that will work for your motif’s stitch repeat. Just use k2tog or ssk to reduce the stitch count. After the patterning in that section is worked, the next decrease round won’t work as written, as your stitch count will not match the pattern. Thus you will need to decrease a few less stitches on the following decrease round.

Then, if the next step in your pattern was to decrease to 96 sts, by working (k1, k2tog) around (from 144), then simply work that decrease repeat 4 less times, then knit to end, since you’re only decreasing from 140 to 96, so you have 4 less to decrease.

The examples above cover decreases; but the principle is the same for increases in a top-down yoke.

Locating patterns within the total yoke depth

There are different points upon the depth of the yoke that you can place your patterning; and each will yield a different effect in terms of the finished look of the sweater. The example above filled in nearly all of the available yoke rounds, but that’s not the only way to do it! See this post for more details.

The depth and placement of the pattern on the yoke (or on other parts of the sweater) can make for so many great options, all using the Strange Brew recipe pattern.

Design planned, get knitting!

That’s all there is to figure out with pencil and paper – now it’s time to get knitting. If you’re not quite sure about the stitch patterns, yarn or colour combinations you’ve chosen, begin with a swatch, or if you’re comfortably knitting ‘by the seat of your pants’ then just go ahead and get started!

I started knitting the yoke design, swapping out colours as I went. The first pattern (the arrows) went smoothly; I was pleased with the colour combination. To determine how to work the next section, I did a little back & forth ‘swatch on the needles‘ then pulled it out, before deciding on which colours to use for that motif.

We always suggest that a hat or cowl (a functional swatch) gives the best results, and so we’ve designed the free Anthology pattern to allow you to swatch in the same 3 gauges that Strange Brew includes. We have also explained a wide range of other swatching methods that may aid you as you knit your colourful way to yoke satisfaction!

More colourwork inspiration from Strange Brew:


Applying Colour to Stranded Knitting Motifs

October 30, 2018

The joy of stranded colourwork knitting is in the myriad of possibilities, and the depth and richness of its many possible expressions. You can start with a single motif, but once you decide to apply colour to it, the possibilities fracture into endless variations, it’s as if you are looking at the world through a kaleidoscope.

One Pattern, near ENDLESS possibilities

The endless possibilities are both the joy of colourwork, and it’s barrier to entry! There are many decisions, much knowledge and experience to gain before a knitter attains a deftness in applying colour to a pattern. But to me, this learning process, with so much experimentation, holds a wealth of satisfaction.

We aim to teach you useful strategies, to ease you into the process with some satisfying results early on, and also set a load of options in front of you in a simple step-by-step way. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the various different ways that a single pattern might be coloured up.

I’ve used this 6-stitch and 7-round motif throughout this post, to illustrate how changing the colour palette can yield so many different results.

I worked my swatches in Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight, a fabulous Shetland yarn perfect for colourwork, with an extensive and nuanced palette.

Keep it Simple : Monochromatic or 2 colours

We talked extensively about using monochrome and 2-colour palettes in this post, which you may also find helpful.

A dark FG colour against a light BG colour.

How does this look on our chosen sample pattern? It’s easy to see; we can either choose a dark FG (foreground) on a light BG (background), or choose a light FG on a dark BG. The different colours chosen, and their relationship to each other, give different effects. There is a range from subtle to strong contrast, and colour combinations that look soothing together, or combinations that scream with vivid and harsh contrast. But in each case the motif reads clearly.

A light FG colour against a dark BG colour.

When speaking of the examples, I will use the terms ‘foreground’ (or FG) and ‘background’ (or BG), as I feel they are more descriptive than MC and CC given the many colour changes that may happen. I typically consider the foreground colour to be that which forms the pattern which reads against the background fabric. It is also typically the yarn which I will hold in the dominant position, forming slightly larger stitches.

The Cartography Hat looks great in a monochrome or two-colour pair.

Add Some Complexity: Use an Ombre

The second strategy, to add further complexity, is to use an ombre. We wrote more extensively about this here, but lets see how it might work on our sample motif.

This example shows an ombre of yellows (from light to deep) in the FG worked against a single dark, neutral BG colour.

The first example uses the ombre in the foreground position, forming the motif. The second example uses the ombre in the background position, against which the motif, in a single colour, pops.

This example shows a single FG colour worked against an ombre of reddy/pinks in the BG.

With the second example you can see how working shifting colours in the background can emphasize horizontal banding.

The Mountain Mist hat uses an ombre to great effect.

Add a Third Hue or a Highlight

When you take the step to add in a third hue, things get a little more interesting!

This swatch uses a lighter version of the same hue (blue). This is a very easy way to develop a 3-colour palette.
This swatch uses two distinct hues, teal and red, in the FG against a single BG colour. Because they both have good contrast against the BG colour, the pattern reads clearly.

The placement of the two hues or values within the pattern itself can create vastly different effects. The same pattern, shown below, is worked in the same colours, with their placement reversed. Which do you prefer?

All of the examples above swapped out the FG colour, but the BG colour can be swapped out to great effect too.

Swapping out a neutral BG colour for a more vivid, but still light BG colour makes this pattern sparkle.

The Cartography sweater is a great pattern to play with this kind of palette. Alexa used a single red for the narrower motifs, and two tones of teal to work the FG of the deeper motifs, against a consistent white BG colour.

Cartography is knit in Brooklyn Tweed Arbor.

Or you can work alternating foreground colours, if you’re making a garment or accessory with all-over colourwork.

Another way to add a third colour into a project is to work whole motifs using a different FG colour. In this version of the Cartography sweater, Alexa knit the deeper bands in light teal, and the narrower bands in golden yellow.

Fair Isle Style Blending

The fourth and most complex strategy for colouring motifs is developing Fair Isle style blends. This style of stranded colourwork knitting was developed and popularized in the Shetland Islands, but has spread far and wide and inspired many knitters and designers.

The basis of this method is the idea the foreground and the background colours may be swapped out over the course of a single motif band, although as a general rule no more than two colours are used per round.

Let’s look at a few ways we could colour up our chosen motif using this method.

I picked three palettes; each one with three different ‘light’ yarns and three different ‘dark’ yarns. It’s easy to convert a photo to black & white on your phone camera, to quickly assess whether a colour might fit the ‘dark’ or ‘light’ category of a palette. You can watch how I picked these palettes in this video.

The critical thing when choosing fair-isle palettes is the VALUE (relative darkness or lightness) of the yarns chosen. The HUE (the colour) is often quite a bit less important. Further explanation of colour terminology for knitters can be found here. This concept is a difficult thing to accept, and I find it counter-intuitive to use different hues within the same blend, but doing so really amps up the interest in the resulting pattern.

This Fleet hat is a good example of how the value of the yarns in FG and BG positions in a blend is more critical than the hue; the brick red is a very different colour than the navy blue, but as it’s a similar value (dark rather than light) the pattern reads clearly, and the palette is richer for its addition.

I worked our favourite motif in each of the 3 palettes I chose, trying light-on-dark and dark-on-light options.

With this brown, blue & gold palette I really like both of the final effects. The striking cobalt blue really adds to the vibrancy of the final pattern.

With this purple, brown and pink palette I prefer the light-on-dark option; perhaps the dark palette doesn’t have enough difference, one yarn to the next, to provide as much interest when it is placed in the foreground.

With this fuchsia and teal palette I really love the dark-on-light option. I chose the pink as the MC, one of the darker, more saturated colours, against which the jewel tones used in the FG really sing.

Get Knitting! Practice is the Only Way to Become Fluent In Colour

Here at Tin Can Knits, we focus on creating crystal-clear patterns and useful tutorials, in part to convince you that whatever the technique you’d like to learn, it is within your reach! This is our genuine belief.

That said, neither Alexa nor I find creating colourwork palettes EASY. The only way to gain proficiency is to practice, but we all love colour and knitting, so the practice is generally a pleasure. With this in mind put together this in-depth tutorial about swatching for colourwork, AND designed Anthology, a great free pattern that will allow you to trial motifs and colour combinations while making beautiful accessories!

Time to rip and swatch more extensively….

Or you can take it easy; just cast on one of the hat designs from our colourwork collection Strange Brew, and mix up the colour usage! Mountain Mist is designed specifically for an ombre, but the Cartography hat, Compass Cowl, and Fleet Hat could be adapted for any of the colour strategies covered in this post.

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