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The Unexpected Expected

The Unexpected Expected

Hmmmm . . . . the unexpected expected . . . . . now that’s an oxymoron! But those words are the perfect description for the outcome of this project.

Let’s start at the beginning of the tale.

fox paws knit by debby g

I like to learn new things. And I tend to like to learn complicated new things. So when I saw the Fox Paws pattern, it just called to me.

Fox Paws uses a knitting technique developed by Xandy Peters which she calls stacked stitches. Without using stranded or intarsia methods, the gorgeous color work is created by stacking combinations of increases and decreases.

Yes, it does take some time to get the hang of knitting stacked stitches, but like any new skill with repetition you learn and then one day you just find it works! Fortunately, a lot of people have knit Fox Paws and offered their tips and resources. Here are some that I found particularly helpful:

  • Fox Paws KAL discussion board in the X & Y Knits forum on Ravelry

    • Although the actual KAL (knit-a-long) took place nearly 5 years ago, this thread continues to have posts. The discussion board contains a plethora of examples, resources, and links. If you are thinking of knitting Fox Paws I highly recommend checking it out.

  • “Stacked Stitches: Knitting in Wild Color” an online course by Xandy Peters on Bluprint

    • In this course Xandy teaches the stacked stitches technique. The project is a scarf, but not the Fox Paws pattern. I did find it helpful in learning the basics of how to knit stacked increases and decreases. In the downloadable materials there are also some charts that I found I could adapt for knitting my Fox Paws shawl.

  • Bluprint (Craftsy) has made a Fox Paws kit with the pattern and yarns for those who don’t want to put together their own colors. The kits have five choices of colorways.

  • Coloring page link (provided from the Fox Paws pattern page on Ravelry)

The interaction of colors in the Fox Paws pattern is one of the details that really caught my attention. Even if you never plan to knit Fox Paws, it is worth it to look through the projects that have been posted on Ravelry (as of this date there are 1451!). While the number of colors used can be whatever you want, the most common is to choose five colors.

my Fox Paws colors

Above are my five colors and my coloring page that shows their sequence. I used:

  • Louet Gems Fingering Weight (100% merino wool) in:

    • Cream

    • Hand-dyed with Cushing Perfection ‘Blue’

    • Hand-dyed with Cushing Perfection ‘Egyptian Red’

    • Hand-dyed with Cushing Perfection ‘Old Gold’

  • Lion Brand Sock-Ease (75% wool/25% nylon) in:

    • Green Apple

Now at this point you might have noticed something. The colors above and on my knitting needles don’t look like the same piece as I used in this post’s header. Did I use some editing software trickery? No. Did I enjoy knitting Fox Paws so much I immediately had to knit another? No, although I enjoyed the project, I was certainly not ready to jump into another. The answer lies within the title of ‘The Unexpected Expected’.

hand spun hand dyed lincoln longwool yarn

You see, several years ago I did my first dyeing for a project. Being a newbie to acid dyes, the concept of just how much dye to use per amount of fiber was a bit fluid (no pun intended). I dyed multiple skeins of handspun Lincoln Longwool yarn for the project.

hand dyed merino roving

I then dyed some merino roving . . .

handspun handdyed merino yarn

. . . which I later spun.

handdyed merino

And with still remaining dye solution, I dyed the three colors of Gems Fingering weight yarn that I later used to knit my Fox Paws shawl.

Now I expected when I wet finished the shawl that I would have some bleeding of color, particularly the red. One, because red just tends to bleed even when using commercially dyed yarn. And two, because I was a bit overambitious on the amount of dye I used.

color catchers

So I washed the shawl in cool water using color catchers; four color catchers at a time repeated three times!!! And yes, the color catchers did capture plenty of red dye. But not all!

Fox Paws Shawl

I had expected color bleeding, but the new colors that resulted were totally unexpected. I absolutely adore them! The bleeding of the red overdyed the entire piece and produced rich shades that are really harmonious. I would never have thought to put these colors together, but what a beautiful effect. Total serendipity!

side by side comparison of yarns

Here’s a side by side comparison of the colors post (left) and pre (right) washing.


This is one of those times that a photo just does not do justice to the true colors of the project.

May all your unexpected expecteds turn out as well!

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