In this post, an easy hack for how to control all those bobbins when you’re doing complex colourwork, especially intarsia. 🙂
Colourwork is a fantastic thing in knitting and crochet: it’s like painting with yarn – even painting in three dimensions, should you choose to engage in that level of crazy. I love most colourwork – stranded/fairisle especially, but also, slipped stitch work, and stripes. But I do not love intarsia*. Intarsia hurts my sanity. It’s a technique in which even the tiniest increase in the complexity of motif leads with terrifying speed to an exponential rise in the number of bobbins dangling and tangling in a hideous hairy heap in your lap, and needing to be painstakingly separated from each other every row because they just wanna mingle. Trust me, I’ve been there and I’ve got the fluent facility with swear words to prove it.
Stranded/fairisle work, on the other hand, is a lot more civilized in my un-humble opinion, because even if your finished object is a wonder of many-hued complexity, you only have to wrestle two shades within any given row. Two! I can cope with two. I even have two hands: look! So I’ll leave the intarsia to octopuses and millipedes, thank you very much. Also to spiders, as long as they keep the hell away from me whilst they’re doing it.
But despite the sanest of intentions, I still occasionally end up making something that involves a lot of different mini-balls of yarn, all at once. I know you can buy or make those mini-bobbins to control your wool, but they’re not much use for larger quantities of yarn and they’ve never completely saved me from the need to de-tangle. Elastic bands or hair bobbles can work quite well for larger quantities, if you remove the band from whichever ball of yarn is ‘live’ and then replace it when you swap to the next colour.
But the easiest technique that I’ve found to control the mess is to use small butterfly hairclips. AND they can cope with both larger and smaller quantities of yarn.
Quick to take off and then put back on as you swap each colour in and out, you can even use them to clip the yarn to the actual knitting so that there’s NO WAY it can sneak off for a group hug with its neighbours. Your knitting will still move happily along the cable/needle when you do this. Result! Problem solved!
So far, I’ve only discovered two disadvantages to this technique. First, when I’m doing intarsia, I CAN NEVER FIND ANYTHING TO CLIP MY FLIPPIN’ HAIR. And second, if you leave your knitting lying around like this, you risk coming back to find all the clips missing, and several small children running around giggling at the clips on their hair, their ears, their noses, the curtains… I haven’t yet found a good technique for managing tangled children, sorry.
And look, you can pick the whole thing up and NOTHING TERRIBLE HAPPENS!
I still don’t like intarsia, though.
- Just in case you’ve never had the ‘pleasure’ (by which I mean ‘soul-wrenching torment’), intarsia in knitting or crochet involves working a picture or motif by swapping in and out different shades of yarn as needed, without carrying them all the way across the work as you would in stranded work. OK, that’s not the best description: go take a look at THIS.
YAY! I LOVE your idea!!! I’ve been spending more time detangling lately than crocheting! I make a lot of graph khans and the latest is a doozy with color changes…making me wonder why on earth I’m making this – even though it’s for a dear friend!
The Knitwit says
I now have a good visual of the kids with clips on their noses!!
Worry brill idea, Ms Twisted.
I currently have a fair isle pullover on the needles for our son, though it’s in abeyance at present. I’m up past the armholes and it’s just too big and thick for this weather (cooler though it is.)
Sounds like a good time to scour the pound shops and market for useful clips.
Vivianne Kacal says
So how do you know how much yarn to make into a bobbin ? I just know mine would always be like 2 inches less than I needed …. 🙂
Lou Mitchell (Devon UK) says
Twisted that is genius. Why on earth didn’t I think of that before? (having tried rubber bands etc) This means I can take my fair isle with me on call without a tangley nightmare. Have you tried my other favourite fair isle technique for being on the move – make two balls of random lengths of different colours – like one in darks and one in lights, or one in hots and one in cools, and knit away? Means you get mid-row colour changes sometimes, but it’s so very portable and frankly quite exciting… might lead to all night knitting sessions where you just have to see what happens next? Or maybe that’s just me.
Such a clever idea!
Love it! And I only need one for my hair for work(I prefer simple styles, and it rides on my purse strap with it’s companion hair band at all times. Next time I try anything with more then one color at a time (that isn’t self-striping), I will be using this hack. Thank you!
“Bet you couldn’t do intarsia and walk…” I can’t drink a cup of tea and walk. I bow to your obvious talents Ms T. Using hair clasps to grasp those wayfaring bobbins is a stroke of genius (born of necessity which is, according to my grandmother, “the mother of invention”). If I ever take up intarsia whilst walking, you will most likely read about it in the local newspaper before I am able to produce even a rudimentary piece of artistry.
You are a genius! I bow to your creative knitting hack. I think this may finally end my fear of intarsia!
Born To Organize says
What a clever idea!
I like the way your twisted mind works! I won’t try walking and knitting at the same however as I’m sure to do myself an injury in the process . I bow to your greater coordination!
Bobbie Larson says
I’ve completed throws for 4 of my grandchildren and am in the middle of my 5th and last one. Each throw has a large block-letter initial in a contrasting color in the middle. I’ve used the intarsia method, which is so aggravating, but I love my grandchildren so much that I would never quit until each one has an initial blanket. I’m only using two different yarns, but the number of tangled bobbins is crazy. I spend more time untangling than I do knitting! I’m going to give your hair clip hack a try. If it works for me, I’m going to kick myself for not googling “How to manage bobbins when knitting intarsia” six years ago! Dang! 😉