Hi Christi — you are certainly a great sport for taking on that dark project! Working with dark yarns can be a real pain in the eye, but over the years I have come up with a few tried and true tricks to help your work in progress (WIP) get going without giving you a major headache.
The very first thing I always ask when questions about yarn come up: Did you make a gauge swatch? We use the gauge swatch for more than just measuring stitches per inch. The gauge swatch will help you make sure that the stitch pattern and the yarn will work well together. Sometimes, not matter how much light you have to work with, the yarn and the stitches just will not play well together. When you’ve done the swatch and determined that the two will play well together, we can work on getting you set up to work on the big project without stressing your eyes too much.
First, if you can, work outside, or alternately, next to a brightly lit window. The natural light will make such a difference. Often, the problem we encounter with working with dark colored yarns is that the soft diffused yellow light indoors makes stitch definition hard to see. Sitting by a window is my preferred lighting method, and I will often find myself doing a quick daily weather report check when I have a dark colored project in my WIP pile. If I see that the weather is favorable for sitting in the window, that project will come to the top of the pile for the day.
If you can’t work outside during the day, invest in special lights for your crafting endeavors. Proper lighting indoors will reduce eye strain and you’ll thank yourself later. The craft stores all have a selection of “crafting lights” that have a special lightbulb that simulates bright outdoor light. The bulbs produce a clear white light that will help you see your stitches clearly. They can be a bit pricey, but catch them on sale or with a coupon. Your eyes will thank you for the investment. You can also replace the bulb in the lamp near your chair with a “daylight” bulb that produces a whiter light than the standard yellow light.
Another trick of the trade is to keep an old white pillowcase in your WIP basket. Whenever I pull out the dark colored WIP, I will place the pillowcase on my lap. Why does this help? Well, I am usually wearing either dark jeans or black work pants. The white across my lap provides a much needed contrast between what’s in my hands and the background. It helps me see where the yarn is going and helps me see the gaps in the stitches so I can get the hook in the right places.
Give these tricks a try and see how much easier your dark colored baby blanket comes along!