By Ailbíona McLochlainn
There are knitters who feel the need to perfect a skill before attempting a project which requires it.
Practice makes perfect
I, however, am of the opinion that the best way to hone a skill is to put it to practical use. And colorwork is no exception. If there is a colorwork project which makes you swoon, which you can visualise yourself wearing as your fingers tingle with delight, what better motivator to practice the technique?
As long as you accept that the result may not be perfect on your first attempt! And when it comes to colorwork, ‘not perfect’ usually means one thing: the dreaded puckering.
One of the key skills to master with stranded colorwork, is that of keeping floats sufficiently loose. The floats are those strands of color that are carried at the back of the work while the other color is being knitted with.
What is puckering?
Puckering is what happens when the floats are too tight. And it’s a tell-tale sign of a novice colorwork knitter, who does not yet have sufficient control over their technique to avoid this pitfall.
Worst of all, are those sweaters where the yoke is worked in colorwork and the rest in a single color. When the colorwork puckers, the yoke appears scrunched up compared to the rest of the sweater, and the problem is extremely noticeable.
Saving the day...
That being said, a puckered colorwork project can sometimes be rescued. And if the yarn you used is Yarn Vibes Vale, you are in luck. A rustic, airy, woollen-spun wool, Vale is extremely pliable - making it possible to mitigate the puckering in the blocking process.
The first step is to turn your sweater inside out and soak it in lukewarm water for an extended period of time. Don’t just submerge it and remove it, but soak it for at least an hour - so that the fibres have the opportunity to relax and grow heavy.
Remove excess moisture and place your wet sweater upon a flat surface. Then prepare to do some physical work!
Like making dough!
With the sweater inside out and the floats visible, begin, very gently, to knead the wet woolly heap, like dough, while carefully stretching out the floats. In its wet, heavy state, the Vale yarn is extremely pliable, and you will be able to get quite a bit of stretch out of the floats without doing damage. The key is to do this ever so slowly and gently. This is not a quick job!
Focus on one section of the fabric at a time and knead it. Then move on to the section beside it. Once you have gone over all the puckered fabric in this manner, repeat from the start - until the floats have stretched sufficiently. Finally, spread out your sweater and leave it to air-dry. Once dry, turn it right-side out. The puckering should be visibly diminished.
To be clear, this practice is not ideal and should be viewed as a last resort. But when a situation warrants it, it’s good to have it in your bag of knitting-rescue tricks.
With practice and experience, your colorwork will become even, and the problem of tight floats will fade into distant memory. But until that time comes, don’t be deterred from giving colorwork a try and know that if your floats aren’t perfect all is not lost!
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