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Self-striping options (not just for socks!)

If you're like me, many of you have a ton of self-striping yarn in your stashes but also want to do more than knit socks from it. So I'm sharing some tips about choosing non-sock patterns for self-striping yarn and also giving you some specific pattern suggestions.

First, not all self-striping yarn is the same: Before you can truly choose a pattern, you need to get to know the specific self-striping colorway you want to use. Does it have even or uneven stripes? How many colors does it have? How long is each color repeat (basically, how wide is each stripe)? To really get to know the yarn, I recommend knitting a swatch in stockinette so you can get an idea of how many stitches you can get for each color. (You'll want to use the same needle size as a potential project to do this for the most accurate results.) Once you've figured that out, you can determine if you need a project with a very small circumference/width or if you can get away with something wider.

Projects with Small Circumferences

Picking projects with a smaller circumference/width (similar to a sock), is an easy way of using self-striping without having to do too much pre-planning. For example, instead of socks for your feet, you could make mitts/gloves (fingerless or not) for your hands. I really love Frankenfingers, but if you don't want to knit each finger individually, you could try something like Socks vs. Fingerless Mitts. (Of course, most mitt/glove patterns would work, though I wouldn't go for something with a heavily detailed stitch pattern; even though it's not a variegated yarn, the changing self-striping colors might hide all the work of a complex pattern.)

What else has a smaller circumference? Sleeves! Enter Sock Arms, which I think is a fabulous idea for a sweater. It uses self-striping yarn for the sleeves and a coordinating semi-solid for the body.

How about a cowl knit in the round? (Basically a tube grafted together at the ends.) Tale As Old As Time is one such pattern using that idea.


Hats are a possibility, depending on the length of the color runs on your particular self-striping yarn. You'll want to make sure you can go around the hat at least once for each color to get the striping effect. (Of course, if you're not concerned about make it a stripey hat, it would be okay to use self-striping yarn with shorter color runs.)

A good basic hat pattern is the Sockhead Slouch Hat. If you want to add some extra fun to a hat (and have more than just regular stripes), check out the Checkerwork Hat. Or if you want to try a hat with a completely different construction, imagine the U-Turn Hat with self-striping yarn.

Short Rows

Don't want to stick to small circumferences/width projects? Make a larger project into something that uses shorter widths by using short rows. An excellent example of this (and a collection of patterns that I highly recommend for self-striping yarn) is the geoknittrix collection III: Stripes of a Different Sort, which contains seven different shawl patterns for self-striping yarn. (I currently have Tsunami on my needles and it's a really fun project! I plan to make several of the others as well.)

What about these Color Explosion Mitts? Rather than being knit in the round, they are knit flat using short rows and seamed. Although there's not a project posted with self-striping yarn yet, I can imagine it would look really great.

The Pincha Shawl is another great short row project that can take advantage of self-striping colorways. Or perhaps Optical Delusion: Conflagration. Or the Lakes and Rivers Shawl. Or Scarf Under the Sea. Or...I think you get the idea. There are some really fun options out there.

Mitered Squares

A mitered square is basically a line of knitting that makes use of decreases down the center to create a square shape. They look really great with self-striping yarn, which helps to emphasize the construction. You could go with traditional mitered squares and make a blanket such as the Sock Yarn Blanket (there's also a Tunisian crochet version, the Bandwagon Blanket), or you could try some really fun shawl patterns such as the Brahmin Moth Shawl or the Breakwater Shawl.

Projects for Kids

Since small circumferences are the key to keeping the stripes, look at doing something for kids since their projects usually have fewer stitches per round/row. One example that popped up in my Ravelry searches was the Sweet Pea Dress but there are so many more options out there. I think Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket would also look great in self-striping yarn.

Amigurumi and Stuffed Toys

So many possibilities here! Never Not GnomingSusan B. Anderson's toys. Or Rebecca Danger's monsters and other toys.

Other Options

You don't need to stick to patterns that specifically call for self-striping yarn. Think about other options. What about a pattern using entrelac? What about stranded colorwork? Oh, stranded colorwork! Could you imagine the yoke on a sweater such as Sunset Highway (just use one self-striping colorway in place of the three contrasting colors) or maybe Threipmuir? Especially if you're not wanting to have a "striped" look, this could be a way of both breaking up the color but also adding some extra fun to the colorwork (without a lot of extra work).

Once I stopped trying to find patterns than were specific to self-striping yarn and started thinking of other constructions or other ways to play with the properties of self-striping yarns, I felt a whole new world of possibilities open up. This is just a jumping off point. I hope it helps you stop thinking "stripes" if that's what you're stuck on with self-striping yarn. There's so much more it can do! What are you going to cast on first?

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