Thursday, 23 February 2017

Striped Sock Yarn Using a Skeining Board

            There are many attractive self-striping yarns in the market place, so many that it can be difficult to choose from the numerous colour ways and stripe patterns. It is interesting and relaxing just to sit and knit, watching the patterns growing on your needles, but for a hand-spinner, what could be even more satisfying and exciting than to choose your fibre mix, spin your own yarn, dye it to produce your chosen pattern in your favourite colour way and ending up with a unique pair of very comfortable footwear.

            I first used this method of creating self striping sock yarn, with very definite, well defined stripes, several years ago. This led me to preparing a workshop for Bedfordshire Guild WSD.

The first, most important, piece of information that I gleaned is that an average sock size – ladies shoe size 6 – takes 30cm of commercial 4ply yarn to knit one row using 2.5/2.75mm needles. Armed with this fact, my husband helped me design and make adjustable skeining boards.
There is now a deal of information and advice online describing methods of producing self striping yarn, but many of them make use of chairs and other pieces of furniture around which the yarn is wound. Some, more sensible, more practical methods use weaver’s warping frames. (See Ashford’s site

I have long wondered if a niddy noddy could be used to produce yarn with 2 to 4 stripes.
The Skeining Board

There are three horizontal rows of holes in the board that give the possibility of up to six skeins, each of which begins at one of the six positions in the centre of the board.

Depending on the length of yarn needed to knit one sock row, up to another six posts can be positioned in the relevant positions on the board by being screwed from underneath with longish countersunk screws. The distance between the posts, from skein to skein, is as short as workably possible.

N.B. The length/circumference of a skein is measured around the outside of both posts, not just between the centre points of the post positions.

Now the big decisions…  
a. Colour scheme,
b. Number of colours,
c. Number of stripes,
d. Colour sequence repeat. Is this to be continuous – red, blue, green, red, blue green or mirrored i.e. Red, yellow, blue, green, blue, yellow, red, yellow, blue?
e. Are all the stripes to be the same width?
I find coloured pencils and lined paper useful in planning and making these decisions.

Decisions made, you can get the board ready.

Winding the skeins

            It is a good idea to ‘plan your route’ on the board and whether you want a different number of rows of any colour in your sequence, then it is a good idea to make a note/list of the sequence so you can cross it off as you progress.

            Always start your skeins at a post in the centre of the board. This ensures economic use of the yarn and the shortest distance between skeins.

I start with a slip knot at post A, *, and take the yarn below and around post B anti-clockwise to above post A for skein 1.Then down under C anticlockwise around D to the top of C to make skein 2. Then taking the yarn down below E to F and back to the top of E is gives the pathway for the third skein.
For the next three skeins, the yarn travels from E above G, anticlockwise around H, back to G, up to and around I, over to and under J, back to I and up to and around the top of K, over the top of L and back to K, *, – a complete circuit of 6 skeins.
The next ‘move’ depends on whether you want to repeat the same colour sequence or mirror them.
To continue the same colour sequence, whether or not the number of knitted rows is to be the same, the yarn continues from below K, over to A to repeat the above instructions from * to *
To mirror/reverse your colour sequence, *1, wind the yarn as described above, from * to *, but you then have to wind the yarn completely around the last post, K, taking it to the right of I and wind the next skein clockwise around I and J. After the desired number of circuits/rows you take the yarn down to below G and again wind the skein clockwise. Moving to the right side of the board the next skeins at positions 3, 2 and 1 are wound clockwise and the yarn has to be wound completely around post A, (*2) to repeat the above sequence * to *, followed again by *1 to *2 and so on, until all the yarn is used.

As a weaver, when warping, I am used to putting a length of crossed yarn between each group of threads, depending on the number required in an inch or cm. of warp width. This can be useful when counting the number of rows of sock yarn laid down for each colour. It also helps, after dyeing, to know which way up the skeins should be placed on the posts so they can be easily unwound.

 For my 4 ply yarn, I decided upon a mirrored sequence with 6 colours. I began the skeins at post A, as described above. I continued winding my yarn in this way until it was all used, then tied it off at the nearest post. I repeated the sequence for the second 50g. yarn. Then I tied each skein with figure of eight ties in four places, i.e. at each post and on each side of the skein. I also put ties around the yarn leading from one skein to another. I left the cross ties in place and knotted them loosely.     

Once the skeins were tied and taken off the board I put them to soak in warm water. When thoroughly wetted, the dyes mixed and work surface prepared, they were squeezed to remove excess water and laid on cling film. Before putting any dye on the skeins I wrapped each one in cling film to protect them from any splashing of unwanted colour. I also used plastic bag grips, on the yarn that ran between skeins, to prevent dye from migrating to adjacent skeins.


            After the acid dye was applied I wrapped them again in a second layer of cling film and steamed them for 45 minutes. Once cooled and rinsed I put the yarn to dry hanging it on a broom handle which went through each skein. When dry I replaced the skeins on the frame to remove the ties and then unwind the yarn. As you can see, the skeins don’t easily go back onto the posts but this can be rectified by moving the outer posts in one position on the board. The cross ties in the centre of the skeins were a useful way of showing whether the skeins are the same way up as before. I also checked that there were no twists between the skeins and, thankfully they unwound easily.

This shows the six colours of 4 ply yarn dyed for the second pair of socks. Again I used acid dyes but either project could have been dyed with natural dye extracts.

Knitting the socks.
The socks with 4ply yarn  my preferred way of cuff down using the basic ‘Regia’ yarn pattern which can be found at The Ashford website – – also has a basic sock pattern, along with a ‘Spiral Sock Pattern’ and funky pattern for ‘Dreadlock Socks’, all of which are freely downloadable. You can see from the photo that a lace or indeed any textured stitch tends to distort the stripes.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant Idea, may have to copy at some point. thanks.