I spent a lot of time in my teens and twenties making mixtapes. Every road trip needed its own mixtape, a new friendship was cemented with a mixtape, a crush was proclaimed with a mixtape, finals week got a new mixtape, and all broken hearts were soothed with mixtapes.
Everyone had their special “thing” for distinctive mixtapes too. I had a friend who made song list inserts and labels so amazing I almost didn’t care about the music. Another always slipped Neil Diamond in somewhere—“Sweet Caroline” is the original Rickroll. As a fan of women blues and R&B singers, I wove Billie Holiday, Ruth Brown, and Etta James in between the Replacements and Elvis Costello.
I think marls are like mixtapes—once you’ve knit one, you are ready to knit another, just a little different, but with your own twist.
Marls can be subtle or bold depending on a couple of things: the contrast of the colors and the size of the yarns you use. I like my marls on the bolder side with color, so I usually have to swatch or at least twist colors together to see if they work.
Imagine my delight when I discovered Freia Minikins, nine different gradients that all go together because Tina Whitmore is an amazing dyer. Minikins are small gradient cakes, 107 yards per wee cake and 963 yards for the whole box. Minikins are great if you want more color—a variety of shorter gradients that work together rather than one or two long gradients.
I’m peeking down the weather timeline here in Michigan and seeing a big old gray winter ahead, so I want to play with more color. I want the knitting equivalent of a segue from The Pogues to Aretha Franklin. Play is really the key here. There is no color stress because each of these Minikins go together, all nine could be used in one project marled in one way or another. Or you can break them up and use them in twos or threes to add a little spice to smaller projects.
we’re with the band
I worked with the Minikins (the MDK-exclusive Picket Fence box) in three different ways. The colors in these boxes are so tempting and well coordinated that I could have used the whole box in any one of the three ways for a bigger project.
I had to try them in different ways because I love to experiment with color, I want to have options, plus it’s fun!
Two Minikins held together
The first thing I did was grab two random Minikins and knit them together. This yarn is a single-ply that is lightly spun, very lofty and very soft. The colors move together beautifully; some mixes are higher contrast than others, but it all works. It was very hard not to just grab two more balls and keep going, especially since I had cast on a the perfect width for looped cowl.
It was also hard not to change to a different stitch pattern when the colors changed—I wanted the texture to move with the colors. This is how I get lost when I swatch and sample.
One Minikin with a unifying yarn
There is a whole lot of this style of color knitting going on these days. Usually, it’s a sock yarn held with a brushed mohair/silk yarn. I went for something less ethereal. I wanted the color to show more, marl more. I used a Minikin and Felted Tweed.
The teal Felted Tweed I chose works with all of the colors in the box, but I only knit through one.
Using a single color with a gradient balances and grounds the colors of the gradient, and when used with more than one gradient ball it gives a continuity to your knitting—it’s a more subtle way to marl than holding two different gradients together.
If I had knit through the whole box of Minikins with the Felted Tweed, I would have enough yarn to use as the main focus on a sweater in my size. It would be easy to use the Felted Tweed alone to finish the rest of the sweater. (I can hear Kate Atherley and Patty Lyons about to say something about different gauges—yes, I would account for that.)
Colorwork isn’t my favorite to knit. I think it’s beautiful and I will buy all the Fair Isle knits I can get my hands on. However. Using a solid in this case Neighborhood Fiber Company Rustic Fingering and one of Tina’s gradients makes fantastic slow moving color without having to keep track of multiple yarns.
Using a gradient against a solid, especially when the yarns have high contrast really shows how the colors in the gradient move. I can see that there are many variations on the three (or so) main colors of the gradient.
I realize how long I’ve been knitting when I see old techniques with new names.
I’m sure Faux Isle is called something else now, like mixtapes are now playlists.
I try to be polite and kind about it, I know change is the only constant, but some days I need to mutter about getting off of my lawn while I fix my unspooled mix tape with a pencil.
I love this combination of yarns so much and the two yarns together are so snuggly soft, that I ripped out my swatch, and cast on for a close-fitting cowl. I think it’s time to make a new playlist to knit to while I finish my cowl and knit more marls with the rest of the Minikins.