FLASH DANCE – PART I

First a cool thing:  stud earrings in the shape of the end buttons from old Susan Bates US #1 straights (bottom of the page). 

Flash Dance

I’m working with my latest yarn present – the hand-dyed cotton brought home from Arizona by the Resident Male:

My goal is to turn it into a t-shirt that flashes.  By that I want to have the color segments line up one on top of each other so that the finished product looks like it was painted:

Based on new yarn’s look and circumference, I’m reasonably certain that I can do this, but two questions remain.

  1. Will the final dimensions dictated by having to use full multiples of the skein length for each round of knitting be useful sizes.  In other words, my final sweater size will be dictated by how many stitches it takes to achieve flash.  Will that size fit?
  2. How does one go about figuring out how many stitches to cast on to achieve this effect anyway?

The two questions are closely related.  This skein is  similar to a yarn I’ve used before.  In that yarn (not the one above), it took about 60 stitches to consume an entire repeat (give or take).  At five stitches per inch, that works out to about 12 stitches of linear knitting per repeat.  A flashing garmet knit from that yarn could be roughly 24 inches, 36 inches or 48 inches around.   24 inches would be too small for Younger Daughter, but a 36-inch sweater will Older Daughter.  48 inches will fit me.

 But will my new yarn hit that target.  Not closely enough to be absolutely certain.  This skein is a tad smaller in circumference than the old one.  (To determine the skein diameter of the old one, I took my balled up leftovers and wound some around my swift, lining up the color slices.  When the colors aligned, I knew I had "reconstructed" the original skein’s width.)  The old skein was about a full yard in circumference.  This one is about 30-31 inches so I’d expect that the color cycle would be smaller.   For a rough approximation, I divided 36 inches by 60 stitches.  I get about .6 inch of yarn consumed per stitch.  That seems a bit high but not outside of reason.  30 inches "eaten" at the same rate would result in 50 stitches.  I suspect that my flash value will be somewhere in the 50-stitch neighborhood.  Five repeats of 50 stitches and a gauge of 5 stitches per inch would yield a garment circumference around 50 inches.  A bit big, but not outside of wearability.

Now all the math theory in the world can’t substitute for actual experimentation.  Having done the base noodle work, it’s time to try it out.  I know that whatever I end up knitting, I will want to be as yarn-economical as possible.  It might be necessary to eke out my limited amount of flash yarn with something else for ribbings or edgings, so I’ll start with a provisional cast-on. 

I like the crochet chain provisional cast-on, preferably worked right onto the needles to avoid the fiddly bit of picking up stitches in the chain’s back bumps.  I cast on far more stitches than I needed because with the crochet chain cast-on, you can slide any excess off the needles (or not pick up in the bumps) with no adverse effect on the project.  So using a plain old bit of cotton string for ease of removal later, I cast on about 270 chain stitches and set it aside.

Another complication.  In a screamingly bright  color combo like the parrot sweater above, it’s easy to figure out where a color cycle begins.   That yellow is killer and can’t be missed.  My new yarn however contains colors that are much closer in value.  There are three repeating segments per full cycle: teal, khaki, brown.  How will I know when I’ve gotten back to the beginning point?  Having wound my yarn into a big ball already it is no longer obvious where the cycles end.  An artificial flag is necessary.

Just like I did to determine the skein length of my old yarn, I hauled out the swift again, and re-wound several turns of my new stuff, taking care to adjust the swift until I could align my color patches.  I put a safety pin into the yarn at the end, and another into the yarn five turns (five full cycles) later, making sure that both pins marked matching spots in the cycle.  I now had five repeats marked out.  Starting with the point marked by my pin, I began to knit the loops off my provisional chain and continued until I cit the second safety pin.  Counting up, I had about 260 or so stitches on my circ before joining.  Or so?  Why the imprecision?  Am I ready to knit off happily watching the flash pattern grow?

Not exactly.  Tune in tomorrow to find out why, and what I did next.

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