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    Multi-Coloured Yarn and Pattern Tests

    by Stephen - 25th August 2022
    I love multi-coloured yarn! So many colouring techniques to choose from (variegated, self-striping, ombré, gradient, speckled, marled...) and the colour combinations are endless. The right choice of multi-coloured yarn can make for some amazing and unique projects.

    As a designer running pattern tests, my priorities are somewhat diametrically opposed.

    The main issue is that multi-coloured yarn sometimes makes it hard to see what's going on with the stitching when testers send you photos of their work.

    This can make your job very difficult in many situations that are common during pattern tests (I'll give you a for instance in just a second) and may even be detrimental to your test's results. Not to mention the unnecessary waste of time for everyone involved.

    Unless you have specific reasons not to, I recommend that you make solid colours a requirement for your tests.

    For instance...

    Helping a tester track down a mistake in their work is par for the course.

    It could be for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they've noticed their stitch count is off. Maybe the stitches they're expecting to find in the previous row are not lining up. It could even be something less specific where something just doesn't look quite right.

    So they send you a photo and you start tracing their work.

    Now let's start piling any of the below to that:
    • It's a relatively busy or convoluted pattern
    • They've sent you a grainy, unfocused, or poorly-lit photo
    • They're not sure how long ago the mistake was made
    • The yarn fibre splits easily and has poor definition
    Troubleshooting the problem has started to become a daunting task. Certainly more time consuming.

    Now top that up with the use of a multi-coloured yarn, and it's fun times ahead! It's like camouflage for stitches. Good luck identifying those individual loops.

    Even if the pattern is simple, the photo is well-lit and high-res, the tester is engaged and working with you to figure out the problem, and all the other stars's just an additional complication you can do without.

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      What if it's a light, two-tone ombré gradient that changes gradually over the course of...

      And other similar protestations.

      I hear you. There's absolutely a big difference between a neutral, subtle ombré and a vivid, heavy variegation with three or more contrasting colours, beautiful as it may be.

      I'll ask you to also consider the following:
      1. Who's going to draw that line? It's a subjective evaluation.
      2. Extremes are obvious until they aren't (apologies for the tautology). As per the previous point, it's all subjective. For you it might be an extreme, for someone else it might be a moderate option. You might also be considering different aspects.
      3. Not to be harsh, but some people have poor judgement and/or terrible taste. Sorry.

      Eliminate possible sources of contention

      Why squabble over the details when you can eliminate the issue outright?

      No one is going to give much thought to a (clear, and upfront) request for solid colours.

      On the other hand, if you deny someone's choice of yarn they're going to feel slighted. The fact that you have valid reasons does not matter if they were really excited by the idea of using that particular yarn.

      Perhaps it's been in their stash for a while and they've been holding on to it for just the right project. Maybe they felt like they were granting you a boon by using what they consider to be a fancier yarn. And you said no. Granted, you were nice about it (I hope). Still...

      Oh, and you could make it so much worse if you do this on a case by case basis.

      Say you've just asked a tester to use a different yarn. Imagine how they'd feel if they then see another tester using multi-coloured yarn which they consider to be more inappropriate than the one you've just denied them. You'll be perceived (or worse) as someone who uses two weights, two measures.

      It's not worth all those hard feelings and the add-on effects of a potential semi-public disagreement in your test group's chat.

      Especially when it can all be avoided, at zero cost, by making a simple request at the very beginning.

      Such a pretty colourway! Unfortunately it can make it unnecessarily hard to track down problems within the context of a pattern test.

      Some exceptions (just to be comprehensive)

      Some situations where you might want to allow, or even require multi-coloured yarn:
      1. Your design or product offering depends on it. It's improbable, but possible.
      2. You need to use a specific product by a specific maker which only comes in multi-coloured options.
      3. You have a test group of testers who've all proven themselves to you before, you trust their judgement, and who all have enough skill and experience to not have to rely on you to find a dropped stitch or two. The key word here is all.

      Set it and forget it

      Your testers should indeed enjoy making the item. If by letting them pick their preferred colour you can make the experience that much better for them, then that's wonderful. They might be able to make more frequent use of that shawl or table runner they've just made.

      At the same time, this is not just a fun CAL/KAL (crochet/knit along) between friends. The primary goal here for both you and them is testing the pattern.

      By making the relatively unrestrictive condition that they should only be using solid colours, you are still allowing them the freedom to pick their own yarn while ensuring that the purpose for making that item is still given priority.

      You'll be setting expectations clearly and upfront. You'll also be eliminating the possibility of you being inconsistent about it with different testers, sparing yourself and your testers the potential aggravation.

      Make the decision now, once, to always require solid colours. You'll never have to give this issue another thought and you'll have made a tangible, positive impact on all your future tests.

      Tell me your stories

      What's your policy on yarn colours? Have you ever had to ask a tester to use a different yarn?

      Conversely, do you have a story about how multi-coloured yarn was beneficial to the test you were running or involved in?

      Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

      I'd love to hear about it!


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