Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Color Bands: A Tutorial

As many of you know, I am a sucker for Wensleydale wool, and it is most difficult for me to NOT spin it into color progression laceweight singles. This Tour de Fleece is no different:

Aquatic Deep Blue Sea
(That's Hello Yarn Wensleydale in "Aquatic", with a bit of SCF Teeswater in "Deep Blue Sea" on the side)

I've knit these up into a couple of shawls, but I am always wary of how the striping/progressions will work out. I'm not a huge fan of having the outer stripes so much narrower than the inner bits. With this in mind, Dale took it upon himself to figure out some numbers for me, and I'm presenting them to you! This is a formula for figuring out the ratios and yardages needed to knit a color progression shawl where the color bands are all equal. The information is for a triangular shawl, a circular shawl, a semi-circular shawl, and a square shawl.

A Few Things To Know:
  •  This has not yet been test-driven.
  •  Dale is not a knitter.
  •  This is written based on the pattern remaining the same throughout. If you change your pattern drastically, the numbers may be a bit off, but in the grand scheme of things I don't think it will be too noticeable.
  • The 10% addition is to account for differences in gauge, etc.
  • This formula does not account for bind-off.

That being said, here you go! (In Dale's words):

COLOR BANDS! Clicky for the xls file.

Based on the overall shape of the shawl I wanted to create a way to create equal bands of color. To use the Excel workbook, enter the overall shape of the shawl (circle, half-circle, square, triangle), the number of color bands (1-24) and the total number of yards required for the pattern. The chart will then produce the number of yards of yarn to use for each band of color.

Band #1 is the center or smallest color band, each sucessive band number radiating outward from that where the largest is the outer band of color. The number of yards is calculated from a ratio of total yards/area for the shape based on the total number of color bands and specific color band. Each successive color band will use more yarn than the one before because it needs to cover a larger area.

The chart shows 4 numbers:
Band: this is the color band #
Base Yards: a value rounded to the nearest whole number of yards
10% Yards: adding 10% to the actual value and rounding to the nearest whole number of yards
Actual Yards: the number of yards down to two decimal places

Each of the yard columns has their own usefulness. The trick is to know which one to use for what you want. One note I would like to make here is that the minimum number of yards is going to be 1 for base or 10% yards no matter the actual value.

The Excel workbook has 3 tabs:
Calculator: where you enter the data
Shape Examples: some quick examples to show what I'm on about
Print Friendly: printer friendly with the ability to add notes

Having some Fun:
There are a multitude of options and patterns you can create using these numbers; it doesn't have to be bands of color that are all the same width.

Let's say, for example, you are creating a triangular shawl but want to have 4 colors in alternating thick and thin bands using a total of 800 yards of yarn. You want the center to be thick, then a thin band, then a thick one of another color, and finally a thin band on the outside. Instead of entering 4 bands, enter 6.

ColorBandsActual YardsTotal
A (thick)1,23.31 + 26.4530y
B (thin)352.8953y
C (thick)4,579.34 + 105.79185y
D (thin)6132.23132y

Bands A and C will be twice the width of bands B and D. In the example I used the actual yards, but it can just as easily be done with the base yards or 10% adjusted yards listed. I would suggest using the actual yards when using larger number of bands, especially when relating to band 1 because the value can get quite small.

ETA: Dale has provided this handy sheet, with some answers at the bottom (should you have any questions).
***Hey! If you use this, please please let me know how it works out! Thanks! ***


  1. Thanks for the info - it looks like it will be very helpful. Can Dale take another look at the file? I don't see the 3 tabs that he referred to in my downloaded copy, and the left side of the one page I have is cut off in the normal view.

  2. Oh, this is brilliant! Thanks for sharing -- an excellent addition to any knitter's/spinner's toolbox!

  3. Whoa... Magic. And awesome spinning!

  4. What a great and helpful thing for your husband to do! :) And like Annie said, awesome spinning...

  5. There is a very disturbing statement buried in this post. It is this: Dale is not a knitter.

    What gives? How can he not have fallen under the spell yet?