What Is Stranded Knit­ting?

Creative Knitting - - VERDER HAT -

Stranded col­or­work cre­ates a pat­tern by work­ing with two or more col­ors. When work­ing with more than one color in a row or round, the non-work­ing yarn is car­ried on the wrong side of the fab­ric when not in use, cre­at­ing strands or floats. This makes a thicker and warmer fab­ric than sin­gle-strand knit­ting.

Some­times these pat­terns are called “Fair Isle,” though that term more ac­cu­rately de­scribes the tra­di­tional pat­terns that are at­trib­uted to the is­land of Fair Isle in the Shet­land Is­lands in the north of Scot­land. Fair Isle pat­terns are char­ac­ter­ized by small mo­tifs in al­ter­nat­ing shapes of X’s and O’s, are sym­met­ri­cal both hor­i­zon­tally and ver­ti­cally, may use many col­ors in the pat­tern but only two col­ors per row, and con­tain no more than a few stitches of one color be­fore switch­ing to an­other color. Mod­ern stranded knit­ting de­signs may in­cor­po­rate asym­met­ri­cal pat­terns and longer pat­tern re­peats than the more tra­di­tional Fair Isle pat­terns. How to Man­age Mul­ti­ple Yarns Gen­er­ally you’ll be work­ing with two dif­fer­ent col­ors per row or round, which means you’ll need to man­age two strands of yarn at the same time. Here are a few dif­fer­ent op­tions for han­dling the yarn; try each one and see which feels the most com­fort­able for you:

Drop the old color and pick up the new color. This is the eas­i­est method but also the slow­est.

Hold both yarns in the same hand, ten­sion­ing one color of yarn over your mid­dle fin­ger and the other color over your in­dex fin­ger.

Work one yarn by pinch­ing it be­tween your in­dex fin­ger and thumb, and the other one by wrap­ping the yarn over your mid­dle fin­ger of the same hand.

Hold one strand of yarn in each hand. I pre­fer this method and find it less fid­dly than the other meth­ods. As an added bonus, you’ll learn how to knit the other way (if you’re an English-style knit­ter who throws the yarn, you’ll learn how to knit Con­ti­nen­tal style by pick­ing the yarn, and vice versa). How to Main­tain an Even Ten­sion One key to mak­ing beau­ti­ful stranded col­or­work pat­terns is to main­tain an even ten­sion in all of the stitches, es­pe­cially when chang­ing yarn. If the strands of the un­used color are car­ried too tightly across the back of the work, the fab­ric will pucker.

Be­fore chang­ing col­ors, stretch the stitches on the right-hand nee­dle apart af­ter work­ing them. Loosely lay the new color across the wrong side of your work, then knit with the new color, keep­ing the strand long enough to span the stretched stitches. When the strand, or float, is prop­erly ten­sioned, it will re­lax into what looks like a smile or swag on the wrong side. And any ex­tra slack you may in­cor­po­rate into the floats usu­ally evens out af­ter block­ing.

If you’re work­ing in the round on dou­ble-point nee­dles, it can be tricky keep­ing the ten­sion even when you change from one nee­dle to the next. This is be­cause the stranded color wants to take the short­est path to the next stitch, pulling in rather than con­tin­u­ing to fol­low the an­gle of the nee­dles. You can min­i­mize this by ar­rang­ing the stitches on your nee­dles so that the joins oc­cur at an in­con­spic­u­ous spot in the pat­tern. You can also hold the car­ried yarn in place at the join with a free fin­ger as you knit the first stitch with the new color. Or you can work in the round us­ing a long cir­cu­lar nee­dle and the Magic Loop tech­nique (see page 79), which in­her­ently re­duces the num­ber of joins and cre­ates a more flex­i­ble, rounded join. What Is Yarn Dom­i­nance, & Why Does It Mat­ter? Yarn dom­i­nance refers to one color of yarn ap­pear­ing to be more pro­nounced than an­other. As you work your project, you will switch from one color to the other by pick­ing up the new color from ei­ther over or un­der the old color. The yarn that is worked over the other uses slightly less yarn to cre­ate the stitch be­cause it’s closer to the nee­dle and doesn’t have as far to travel. The yarn that is worked un­der the other uses slightly more yarn. There­fore, the yarn that is held over the other will make smaller stitches and the yarn that is held un­der the other will make larger stitches. The larger stitches ap­pear to be more dom­i­nant than the smaller stitches.

Be­cause of this phe­nom­e­non, it’s usu­ally best to carry the back­ground color over the fore­ground (or pat­tern) color. When knit­ting with a yarn in each hand, the left hand should hold the pat­tern color (car­ried un­der) and the right hand should hold the back­ground color (car­ried over).

It is a sub­tle dif­fer­ence, but can make a sig­nif­i­cant vis­ual im­pact in larger projects. What is most im­por­tant is that you be con­sis­tent in yarn dom­i­nance through­out the project.

Floats on re­verse side of stranded knit­ting

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