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First Snow

Last night saw the first snow of the season. It didn't stick, and it was mixed with rain, but it counts!

Living in along the Great Lakes means that we're used to early frosts and snows and long, cold winters. With climate change, the duration and snowfall amounts has definitely been disrupted, as has the water table. While many of us grumble about the snow, it's actually vitally important for our area as snow melt replenishes wells, balances our soil for spring planting and growing, and assists in a more natural cycle for our wildlife.

And, quite honestly, when you're a stitcher, fall and winter are welcome things. Not only can we work on our fiber projects in comfort (because it's not as fun to work on thick woolies when it's super hot and super humid outside) but we can also wear them.

There's just something so soothing about being able to slip into your favorite cardigan or wrap up in a comfy handmade afghan, donning your favorite boot socks around the house or keeping your hands toasty with fingerless mitts.

I love this time of year, which isn't much of a surprise as I've been celebrating fall and all things autumnal for months now. And it gives me no small amount of joy to be able to pull on my most recent favorite cardigan--Plum Wine made using malabrigo Rios in Diana. You can find the pattern here (it is truly an awesome pattern. The cable repeat is easy to remember, and I really enjoy the sizing options). And by using such a highly variegated yarn, this sweater pretty much goes with my entire wardrobe.

This brings me to a highly debated topic: do you alternate skeins when using variegated and/or hand dyed yarn?

Most yarn companies will tell you if you are using skeins from different dye lots that you really ought to alternate skeins every row or every other row to prevent odd striping. However, many variegated and hand dyed yarns don't have a dye lot because they are made in small batches (sometimes fewer than four skeins at a time and their coloring often depends on whether or not the water temperature remains consistent throughout the dye bath.

Generally speaking, most of the time you'll want to alternate skeins if you want a less noticable color variation. There are a couple of caveats, though. First, some yarn is dyed in such a way that it will self-stripe when being worked up. You can't really get rid of self-striping even by alternating skeins and doing so may make the striping more pronounced. Striping may just be the way the yarn works up. Second, just because you alternate skeins doesn't magically get rid of color pooling, which happens as a result of your personal guage, the technique you are using, and sometimes even the project you are making.

Full disclosure time: I RARELY if ever alternate skeins. I certainly didn't when making Plum Wine, nor did I when I knit the Creature Comforts cardigan using Rios in Volcan a couple years ago. Why? I actually like the surprise of the way the different skeins works up and it really doesn't bother me when there are variations because the projects are handmade. And part of being handmade is that they shouldn't look like they came off a factory assembly line. I like the way that colors pool or stripe or look different. One of my favorite parts about my Plum Wine caridgan is that one sleeve is quite green and purple whereas the other is mostly red and burgundy. I think it's cool.

As you hunker down and get ready for winter, enjoy your yarn play and don't stress too much about color pooling. Humans aren't machines, and that which we create with our hands should be unique and one of a kind. Enjoy the process and let go of attempting to achieve machine quailty.

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