The Bethel Tank is one of the three projects in Knitted Tanks and Tunics that uses more than one color of yarn (the others are the Roanoke Tank and the Beverly Tank)-- but the only one that uses the stranded or Fair Isle technique. In this technique, many colors may be used, but traditionally only two colors are used in any one row or round.
For stranded designs, the color choices are all-important: when combining yarn colors, a particular color displays very differently depending on the adjacent hues. Traditionally, Fair Isle knitters use a fingering (#1 super fine), Shetland wool yarn such as Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift, which comes in over 200 colors! The Brown Sheep Company makes a similar yarn, Nature Spun, from U.S. sourced and spun wool, which comes in over 80 colors, but since Bethel is primarily a warm-weather garment, I decided to use Brown Sheep's Cotton Fleece yarn for this project. Cotton Fleece is 80% cotton and 20% merino wool AND it comes in over 60 colors. It's also a borderline DK/worsted (#3 light/#4 medium) weight, so it knits up much faster than a fingering weight yarn. And finally, I was already familiar with Cotton Fleece, having used it for the Sherwood child's pullover, one of my first published designs, back in 2006.
I used Brown Sheep color cards to choose the yarn colors, found a few suitable stranded motifs in Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting (highly recommended!), and then I did a lot of swatching, arranging the colors in different ways. I ended up with two favorite motifs, and I went with the one that I thought would have more of the effect of a necklace in the finished design.
Bethel's stranded yoke is worked in the round from the bottom up, and then stitches are picked up from the lower (cast-on) edge and worked down for the body. I used short rows to shape the top of the front and back along the edge of the yoke, so that it keeps its natural round shape. One of the advantages of working top-down is that the top can be tried on while work is in progress, to check the placement of waist shaping as well as the finished length. The hem, neck and armholes of Bethel are all finished with an attached I-cord, which creates a simple, clean edge.
One word of caution: The darker colors of Cotton Fleece can bleed if washed in warm or hot water, so take care to use cold water when washing!
(all photos copyright Tom Moore Studios)
*I used the runner-up stranded motif for the Zinnia Tank, also worked in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece.