“You can’t use those two colors together.  They have different color values.” The woman behind the register delivered these words as she looked at the two skeins of yarn I'd placed on the counter.  One was an earthy green color (I'd brought this one from home); the other an icy blue.  

Confused, I immediately responded, “They need to be  different values for stranded colorwork.  One color needs to pop.”  

Thus I unleashed an explanation from the yarn shop employee on how color values need to be the same to make a work appear harmonious.  I was a bit perplexed, as her comments were contrary to everything I’d learned in my reading and in classes I’d taken, including one from Mary Jane Mucklestone.  I knew that choosing colors of similar value (or the same level of light and dark) would result in what the author of an article entitled “Color Theory for Stranded Colorwork” published on the Brooklyn Tweed website describes as a “muddy motif.”   

I should have stopped there.  But my pride—and the teacher in me who often can’t quell her instinct to instruct—wouldn't allow me to put on the brakes.  I pulled my work in progress partially out of the knitting bag I toted and said, “See. The yellow has a lighter value than the brown background, so it stands out.  The dark orange also contrasts with the lighter yellow.”  With a sour expression, the woman peered over the counter at the yoke that peeked out of my bag.

I love the contrasting color values of the yarn used to work the Latvian Braid and corrugated
ribbing.  Webs has a great tutorial for working the braid.

My test knitter made her swoncho with a fuchsia background and the same yellow
yarn I'd used to knit my swoncho. For a helpful tutorial on the two-color long-tail cast on,
 go to Marlene Dysert's YouTube video.  

“I don’t like that,” she stated.  Needless to say I was quite taken aback.  She’d insulted my latest design.  Plus, isn’t the customer always right?  But I also had to chastise myself a bit for needlessly contradicting someone who probably had good intentions and who probably didn’t appreciate instruction from someone at least a decade younger than herself.  

“I’ll take these,” I said with a smile and purchased the blue yarn along with some other colors of fingering weight yarn. 

As I drove away, I was pleased that my response to the odd interaction in the shop was one of amazement and wry humor.  In the past, I might have been subject to sadness or even tears, resulting from all sorts of negative self-talk about the experience, including questioning whether I had some kind of sign on my head (only visible to others) that said, “Kick Me.” I might have also spent time bewailing the fact that I hadn't just kept my mouth shut after the woman had spoken about my color choices.  Now, older and wiser—or probably just more accustomed to public humiliation—I could laugh, but I still couldn’t entirely fight the twinges of regret at my lack of self-control.  I should have said nothing.  I also couldn't help  but question why someone trying to make sales would insult a customer’s work.

I didn’t frog my project, and the final result, with its popping patches of lavender and orange, is what you see here, the Saluda Swoncho.  This past September, I had participated in the Charlotte Area Yarn Crawl and had experienced a bit of a revelation, one which resulted in my swoncho design.  I walked into a fun new shop with lots of whimsical notions and pretty yarns and saw hand-dyed Hedgehog yarn in a DK weight.  I have lately fallen into the costly habit of purchasing single hanks of hand-dyed fingering weight yarn.  In the manner that other women sort through vegetable bins to find a good looking tomato, I have spent many hours fondling piles of brightly colored hanks and have amassed quite a collection, really an art installation, as I have my most prized purchases in a curio cabinet.  While I love knitting with fingering weight yarn, finding some DK with the same speckles and vibrant colors seemed a bit liberating, as using this DK weight might result in working a project fairly quickly.  The fact that I was (and still am) in the throes of knitting the last couple of inches on a fingering weight sweater dress probably had something to do with my pleasure at finding some novel DK yarn.    

I was also inspired by a sample at one shop on the crawl to attempt stranded color work with hand-dyed yarn.  After much playing with color combinations, I chose hues that I think are reminiscent of Indian corn.  

The project is worked in the round from the neck down and includes some fun techniques such as a two-color cast on, corrugated ribbing, and a Latvian braid.  There are some good Youtube instructional videos that the knitter can avail herself of, if she needs help with these skills.  

I named the swoncho after a mountain town that is a little over a hundred miles from my home.  Saluda is a Cherokee word that means, “Green corn.”  It is also the name of a river in South Carolina.  The swoncho is warm and cozy, so I wore it to Saluda on a day trip there on Black Friday, as it was gray, misty, damp, and cold.   Because of the weather, I decided to forgo a hike in the mountains, but I did wander about the town, where I visited a train depot museum and some shops and galleries.  I also enjoyed a salad and a cup of soup at the Purple Onion, a local restaurant.  

On that day, I walked into a gift shop filled with handicrafts, and an employee there looked at me as I entered, smiled brightly, and said, “I love your sweater!” 

“Thank you.  It's a swoncho.  I designed and knit it myself,” I replied with a smile, happy that I'd ventured out on a gloomy day.  

These winsome kittens were in a vintage shop.  

I enjoyed the Saluda Station Historic Depot & Museum.



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