Posted on May 23, 2004 at 11:43 am


You may have noticed that I have a fear of three colours across a single row. And in the Insomnia Sweater, there are several occasions when this is required.  In fact, when I put this sweater into the Rubbermaid Time Capsule several years ago, it was precisely on the brink of one of these dreaded three-colour rows.  However, this time around I have figured out that three colours are no worse than two colours.  I used to knit two colours one at a time, even in fairisle, which meant that I twisted them around each other.  The colour being knit would always have to be "on top", as you can see in the somewhat blurry photograph here on the left.  Each row resembles a barberpole because of the twisting.  I always thought this was rather attractive.  But when three yarns are being workd, the whole thing becomes a bit of a rugby scrum.   The area highlighted is three colours, which you can see is just a mess of twisting yarn.  Imagine what the rats’ nest of the bobbins looked like. 
This year I made myself knit two-colour mittens using the two-handed stranding method described by Alice Starmore in her book Fair Isle Knitting .  The simple revelation for me there was that the strand of yarn about to be knitted does not have to wrap itself over the other strand as it comes to be knitted.  The two strands seem to follow a parallel track behind the work, the stitches are secure as colours change, and no holes happen even if the two yarns never touch at all back there.  The thing I learned this week is that the way that two colours fall in parallel tracks when one knits them in the two-handed method is transferable to three colours.  I can’t explain this well without a diagram, and since I can’t draw well enough to make you a diagram, you might have to just trust me on this. You probably already know this, but for me it was a thrill to not have my bobbins all tangled  together at the end of every row.  I just kept the green yarn on top, the brown yarn in the middle, and the rust yarn at the bottom, like lines on a musical staff, if you can follow what I mean.  And it worked beautifully, as you might be able to tell from this photo on the right.  The three rows closest to the needle are the beginning of the same three-colour pattern that is highlighted in the blurry photograph above.

Meanwhile, I have worked on Jaipur in the reviled Linen Drape.  I don’t know why.  It’s like chewing on a hangnail: it hurts, but it sort of feels good at the same time.  You know?