Sometimes the yarn dictates the design for the sweater.
I have remnants of four colors of Amazon DK cotton: a variegated green/purple/blue, purple, a vibrant blue, and a light green. I don't have enough of any one of them to make a sweater, but I have enough of all four colors to make something smashing.
Slip-stitch color patterns (often called tweed patterns) are often an attractive way to combine different colors of yarn. Tweed patterns are also a good choice for cotton; the slip stitches make a firmer, less stretchy fabric than other kinds of stitch patterns, and so the tweed patterns help the finished garment hold its shape.
I first weighed my yarn to discover that I have 137 grams of the variegated yarn, 132 of the purple, 51 grams of the green, and 53 of the blue. I then weighed my needles so I could weigh my swatch as I went to determine the amount of yarn I'd need for a particular yardage in a particular stitch pattern.
I started swatching:
Left to right: Progressive Tweed, Syncopated Tweed, Three-Color Basket Tweed, Surprise Pattern.
The Progressive Tweed is a 4-color slip-stitch pattern. It uses even amounts of each of the four yarns. I thought I might be able to use it for part of the garment and make the rest in a two-color or one-color stitch pattern.
32 stitches (5.675 inches) x 50 rows (5.5 inches)
My yardage calculations indicated that I have enough of the four colors to knit either the back or the front of a sweater, or perhaps to put some short sleeves on a sweater knit in another stitch pattern.
I decided that what I needed to do was to focus on 3-color tweed patterns, alternating the blue and green yarns for color C. First up was Syncopated Tweed:
32 stitches (6.25 inches) x 24 rows (3 inches)
Syncopated Tweed has a nice diagonal motion that I like. It also yields 20-25% more yardage than Progressive Tweed for the same amount of yarn. The variegated yarn also played well in this pattern.
Next up was Three-Color Basket Tweed, a pattern that intrigued me because of the long slip-stitches:
Three-Color Basket Tweed (6 grams)
33 stitches (6.5 inches) x 18 rows (1.675 inches)
I like this pattern, but it uses twice as much of color A as it does of colors B and C. The calculations and juggling required to make this work with these yarns seems like more trouble than it is worth. This stitch pattern also eats yarn, something I can't afford on this particular project.
On to Surprise Pattern:
33 stitches (6.5 inches) x 24 rows (3.375 inches)
At this point, even though I had several other candidates ripe for swatching (and a few that had been discarded after reading them carefully and realizing that they wouldn't work with the yarn), I decided that Syncopated Tweed had won the swatching contest and was The Stitch Pattern for this project.