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Dear Kay,

There is one rule of knitting that I have followed without fail. I was taught this rule right when I was beginning my knitting mania, in 2002.

There I was, in a yarn shop for the very first time, and the shop person was giving me a little tour. I reached immediately for a ball of Rowan in the shade I wear pretty much every day—black—and she practically whacked me on the wrist. “Don’t ever knit with black yarn,” she said, shaking her head, disgusted. “What’s the point?”

Knowing nothing much about knitting, I did what she said and never knit anything with black yarn. What’s the point?

Well, I think I’ve busted my perfect record of non-inky knitting. It turns out that the yarn I have chosen for my next sweater adventure says “Navy” on the label, but I think that’s British for “black.” This Frangipani 5-ply Guernsey wool is the lightest of the three different navy shades they show on their shade card, but I can’t imagine anything dimmer than this. Once the sun sets, it’s a long, dark night of the soul.


It’s a sort of twine. It is unromantic and stout stuff. You can’t break it with your hands unless you give it a heave-ho, and it would never want to be called “squishy.”

I love it. I really, really do. Above: unblocked. Below: washed and blocked. The double moss stitch is as tidy as a turk’s head knot.


This swatch is on a 4 mm/size 6 needle. I can hardly imagine working with this on the traditional size 2.25 mm/size 1.

I know you are about to expire at the prospect of watching this colorless project emerge. I am going to have to figure out some way to brighten up the blog while knitting this. But I have to say, knitting this forbidden shade of doom is kind of great. What’s the point? The point is that black is the new black!



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  • Stunning… The details are magnificent! Should we worry about you knitting on the dreaded black after 3 straight days of rain here in Nashville? Looking forward to following your progress… Happy knitting!

  • I don’t understand why you shouldn’t knit black things. I do it a lot. (I know you’re shocked.)

    • I know! She seemed to think that there is a fantastical world of color available to knitters, so why limit yourself to something so dark. At this point, black is the only color I haven’t knit–so it feels like the most fun ever to be doing it.

  • That is gonna be one awesome sweater! I’m not sure who came up with the no knitting with black rule. My aunt, as a new knitter, was told the same thing.

  • I taught knitting to junior high students about a million years ago. Yes, I agree with your sales person—don’t choose black yarn. But the rest of that sentence is IF YOU ARE A BEGINNER. It really is hard to see what you are doing when you don’t have a clue what’s going on with your yarn and needles anyway. The one girl who brought in black yarn for her first-ever knitting attempt was so frustrated that I went and bought more yarn for her. It got much easier with a lighter color.

    But once you are a “knitter,” have at it! You know your abilities and you understand the challenge.

    Your knitting is looking perfect, but the most impressive is that you photographed navy/black yarn so that we can see the detail.

    • I think you’re onto something re beginner knitters. I have to be under my brightest lamp to make sense of where I am, and I even know how to knit.

      • Exactly! I am at the age where “I need more light” is my constant refrain, but as long as I had enough light, there’s no reason not to knit with black as long as you know what you’re doing.

        • I DO know what I’m doing, and I have about the best light I can get, and I’m still spending as much time tinking as knitting a black Madrona scarf. It’s a lot better now that I’m familiar with the pattern, but knitting with black is not for beginners, for sure!

        • Agree!

  • I’m sitting here admiring your scandalous knitting and pondering why her edict didn’t extend to “Don’t ever SELL black yarn.” What’s the point if you’re going to tell people not to buy it? But I go and do that weird logic thinking thing sometimes. Enjoy the dark night of your knitting soul, it’s looking good.

    • Such an excellent point. Why did she even stock it? Maybe it’s like the waiter telling you not to order the salmon–it totally worked on me. I mean, I haven’t knit with black yarn for 13 years because I trusted her judgment!

  • I made a sweater with black wool in 1992 and lived to tell the tale! It is now a bit stretched here and there, and I don’t like the style so much, but has held up admirably and I can never now get rid of it!

  • Black is one of my favorite colors. I love my vest knit in black from an Interweave magazine pattern. It has fringe at the neck, armholes and hem. The stitches were knit on big needles so I didn’t have any trouble seeing them.

  • Wow, I have never heard the “no black” rule for knitting! But now that I have, it makes me want to go run out and buy some black yarn. And maybe even try to knit a black sweater (I’ve never made anything more complicated than a hat). Hmmm…..

  • Wow, I love that swatch. It looks so crisp and well defined. I sort of assumed that texture would fade away when the yarn is black.

    I also assume that if I were to try to knit black yarn, the light I’d need would cause my bifocals to start a fire. Are you finding it easy to see your work when you need to?

  • This black absolutely glows—it’s a beautiful yarn.

  • my brother in law asked me to knit him a black sweater. The guy is built like a navy seal, and it was to be in stockinette I politely said no.

    I could not imagine knitting with a dark yarn, in a darkish house, on the size needle he wanted. SHUDDER.


  • Wow, cool calligraphy. Could you move that dark shadow out of the way to show more?

    • I agree about the calligraphy! My daughter is getting married next year & I’m immersing myself in all the modern options out there for invitations and save-the-dates! I can stare at videos of calligraphers doing their thing for hours.

  • I would require industrial lighting to be able to knit anything of size with black yarn. Perhaps I will try it in June, when the days are long and the sun is bright. But your sweater will b e fabulous. I love that kind of pattern that reflects traditional sweaters.

  • Just yesterday I bought what I thought was navy blue yarn (to make a hat for my cousin) but when I got home and looked up the colorway number on the website (because it looked black in my car and at my house), it turns out it’s called “Cast Iron” and is most definitely black! Oh well, he’s going to love it anyway.

  • I was told early in my knitting career to not knit black (one of my favourite colours) because it can be hard on the eyes and it’s also easy to make mistakes. I took this advice to heart so I’ve no personal experience to share about whether it’s true or not. I have knit in grey, but usually only a certain times of the year so the the greyness of winter (as season I do love but it can be grey where I live) doesn’t compete with the grey of the yarn.
    I do love the sweater and although you say the yarn isn’t squishy it certainly seems to be the right yarn for that pattern/stitches.

  • I can see the hesitation, but in reality black is so wearable and flattering. One of my knitted scarves that gets the most use is black (cashmere). Knit on!

  • While I’ve never heard that you should never knit with black yarn, I agree with Mimi’s comment above. In fact the ladies who taught the classes at the LYS where I learned to knit wouldn’t sell black yarn to beginning knitters since it was so hard to see the stitches and anyone using black would take too much teaching time from the others. I also find myself using a tip I learned from my knitting teachers – when using black yarn it can be helpful to drape a white towel over you lap if you are trying to find a dropped stitch or other problem.

    I love the swatch – so beautifully crisp and defined. Makes me want to get may hands on some of that yarn!

  • I thought the one ironclad rule was “swatch, swatch, swatch”!

    • Heh heh . . . I was thinking the same thing.

  • It’s not joyless, it’s beautiful.

  • Not just a swatch, a washed and blocked swatch. Good knitter! I think the rule is no black for beginners. I knit a black sweater on ebony needles with no problem, but it was mostly stockinette, and I knit mostly by feel. Your sweater is going to be gorgeous.

    • ps: I just pickup some black alpaca this weekend. Yummy!

  • I wear a LOT of black, but knitting with it is a different story…especially the whole garment. Why? Because these old eyes have trouble seeing it!

  • Heck, yeah, I knit with black all the time! See my Rav project page for proof (and I haven’t even entered all my older projects on it, so there are a few more not pictured).

  • Just finished a black newsboy cap (–me-poor-boy-caps ) for a wee friend. Three different needle sizes, but it was stockinette or garter, so not too fiddly. I had never heard that rule either. I’ve been knitting since I was but a wee child myself (1967) but only got serious about it in 1994… Your sweater will be stunning! Congratulations on pushing back, even though you actually ordered “Navy” 🙂

  • I’d love to see that lady’s shop full of Goth Knitter’s, she’d go crazy running around slapping everyone’s wrist. Goth aside, black is such a wardrobe staple for so many people, and if a black item is good for my wardrobe because it is knit, it is better if it’s hand knit, and best if hand knit by me – maybe not best quality if knit by me, but still best, if you know what I mean.

    No matter how many times I’ve heard the fashionista mantra ” ____________ is the New Black”, I’ve never fallen for it. Black is my black, my only black, and always will be my black. Unless someday they tell me Mauve is the new black. Now that would be something!

  • I have been collecting single skeins of black yarn in light worsted, mostly plain vanilla smooth, but with differing amounts of plies and animal fibers, planning to combine them in a single sweater. Was thinking entrelac but now am wondering if that would be too fussy. We’ll see what happens … I’m not avant garde enough to do a black version of “Eight Yarns,” mine will have some kind of tiling or other effect that uses blocks of yarns, but not sure if I will blur the edges with half-linen stitch or keep them sharp crisp, if the tiles will all be the same size, if some will be in different stitch patterns … but now I am thinking I have to work double moss stitch into the mix somehow.

  • I have knit with black in small amounts ever since I started knitting. But…I knit my first-ever non-costume large garment for myself last spring. In black acrylic. (Plymouth Dreambaby DK.) It was an abbreviated version of Mags Kandis’ Amiga sweater—really a shrug. It was good sweater practice, but even in the waxing light of springtime, I agree that “once the sun sets, it’s a long, dark night of the soul.” I now have a sweater’s worth of “real” yarn, Silky Wool, in a brighter color for Amiga II. It should be a well-lit walk in the park, at least by comparison!

  • Oh wow, I had to bookmark the animated knot website. I used to macrame a little and made monkey fists.

    I have never knitted with black except in tiny amounts. I have a hard time seeing stitches in any dark color in any light other than bright sunshine.

  • *sigh* My LYS doesn’t even stock black sock yarn because “it’s too hard to see.” But my husband wants black socks. I wonder if they know how infrequently I even look at my knitting, especially socks. Or that some people even knit in movie theaters.

    • Socks are one of the most necessary places to work in black! How else can you get away with wearing hand-knit socks in a conservative workplace? Ok, so I wouldn’t make black socks if I wasn’t getting paid for it right now, because there’s something even better – almost black yarn (from a distance it looks black, but more awesome), but the point still stands. Especially for something like socks – they’re one of the things that I prefer to work in straight stocking stitch (when normally I hate working stocking stitch almost as much as I hate garter stitch), so it really doesn’t matter if it’s hard to see stitches.

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  • My daughter requested hand knit socks for work in black. I picked an easy lace pattern because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see the stitches well enough to correct any mistakes. Am I glad those are done. Now must knit in color.

  • The lady at the yarn store must not like wearing her knitting. Working in black gives you so many more times you can get away with wearing what you make, because the boringness of black counters the loudness of it being hand knit. (e.g. socks at work. Especially if you do the feet in colours, so the black leg disguises loud socks hidden under shoes.)

  • 1. SO glad y’all are blogging again.
    2. Don’t knock black yarn — it is a great accent color.
    3. And a nice dark sweater hides a multitude of sins. (typed while eating cookies)

  • The sweater will be stunning.

  • Just found out that you’re back! Awesome! And Olive is in a RED sweater!! And many exclamation points!!!!!!!
    Welcome back,

  • So good to see your blog back up in action-the last time I clicked on it I got sent to a very dubious site-definitely not about knitting!

  • I heard about Belinda via twitter this summer, very sad. I’m glad you shared all this with us now. Such a loss.

    Not only are the comments broken on the other post, but when I tried to click through from my friends’ blogs on Ravelry, I got your Blogs we Love page instead of the post.

    • Thanks for the heads up, Mary! We’re looking into this weirdness. Which is very weird.

  • I did not know Belinda personally, but Kay introduced us via email when Kay was deep in Bat Mitzvah planning and I had a question on her pattern. Belinda was responsive then, and the few other times I reached out in different items. Her knitting voice will still carry on. I’m sure she will be deeply missed.

  • Sorry about Belinda. I didn’t know her personally, but I think I am going to have to make a perfectly plain dark cardigan with a sequin edging in her honor, I used to get her blog in my email. 46, crikey!

    Margit (sp?) of Morehouse Yarns died of ovarian cancer last week, at least she wasn’t quite so young. I used to buy Morehouse Yarn at Union Square, back even before your blog started, back when the schist of Manhattan was still cooling. The yarn was lovely, and I loved her beautiful, simple (although dare we say it, likely to be slog) designs.

    What a shame, in both cases. The longest lives are too short.

    PS I was also initially directed to “Blogs We Love.” Pls. fix for your multitude of fans.

  • I love how the intertwined world of knitters can make you feel like you know someone you never personally met. I really miss Belinda, she was very kind, funny, and encouraging. Thank you so much for “introducing” us.

  • Rules were made to be broken.

  • Belinda. This chokes me up, I had not known. In the community of knitting there are people one can relate to, have a laugh and a G+T with – she was one of those. Remembering her comments in so many of your blog posts, she was blunt, brilliant, truly British. The silver lining is what she put out there. There are several of her and Wendy’s patterns in my queue – think I’ll knit one. Stonor is beautiful. XO

  • I recently knit a sweater out of the deepest navy (that I can still categorize easily as navy), Madtosh’s Fathom colourway. At night it was super difficult to see mistakes, but I powered through. It’s probably one of the best/favorite things I have ever knit.

    I should mention that I cheated a bit, as it is broken up with lines of bright neon pink (Flouro Rose), but those are few and far between.

  • I have always believed and told many people there are no rules in knitting, only preferred methods. Never did I think that applied to yarn. I think working with the color black gets a bad rap like black cats. We each must do it, with an open mind and a decent attitude, and see what beautiful things we can create with the color black.

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  • Welcome back! Just learned of your return in a newsletter from Knitters’ Review. Now I have to go back and read what you’ve been up to.

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