I’ve been knitting since I was 9 years old but only knitting seriously for the last 15 years or so. I’m a frequent sock knitter because they are simply better than anything store-bought. I’ve knitted mittens, hats, scarves, jumpers, lacework, cables and more recently I have ventured into stranded knitting.
I marvel at the intricate work of stranded knitting, the colours; the patterns; and the skill are just so inspiring! If I had to settle on one area of knitting to become proficient in it would probably be stranded colour work. However, it has to be said that this particular art requires a little practise that that is exactly what I intend to do over the coming year. I am setting a knitting goal to improve my colour work skills!
My first venture into stranded colour work was the Drops pattern for mittens called ‘Christmas Rose‘. I’m embarrassed to say that according to my Ravelry page, I started this project in 2014! It’s true that the first mitten was more challenging as I tried to work out my tension and trying to get to grips with knitting with two strands of yarn, one in each hand whilst trying not to get tangled up. Honestly, in the beginning, I was all fingers and thumbs! I’m not going to lie, it felt awkward!
But I still really enjoyed the process. It didn’t feel awkward enough for a pair of mittens to take 6 years to come off the needles! I put it down to a major move down to Devon, dealing with homeschooling our highschoolers and not being terribly motivated whilst down in Devon. The delay in completing the project had nothing to do with the project and everything to do with my mindset and levels of procrastination.
Needless to say that experience is a great teacher! Here are a few things that I learned from this project that I will take into my next colourwork project.
Go Up A Needle Size
When knitting stranded knitting I found that my tension tightened a little. I put this down to experience but also down to the floating threads. The floating threads at the back of the work take away a little of the stretch factor which is why your tension is so important. A tip often given when beginning stranded knitting is to try and make sure that you don’t carry the floating strands to tightly, ensure that they are a little looser however, personally I find this even more awkward to try and do so going up a needle size or so would compensate for my tighter tension.
Readjust Your Stitches
One thing I found helpful was to regularly spread out the stitches I had just worked. This loosens the floating strands and gives a bit more elasticity to your project. It also helps the floating strands at the back of the work to lie flat and fall smoothly which allows the front of the work to avoid looking bunchy.
Hold the Pattern Colour in your Left Hand and the Background Colour in the Right Hand
I mentioned this in episode 1 of my podcast, it makes a difference which hand you hold your pattern and background yarns in. You need to figure out which is your pattern colour yarn, in a project like my Christmas Rose mittens it is obvious, the white is the pattern and the red is the background. It may be trickier the more colours you knit with. Think about which colour you want to pop more, this will be your pattern colour. Then hold your pattern colour in your left hand consistantly. It is really important not to switch hands during the project for if you do the domanant colour will switch and you will end up with a higgildy-piggildy pattern.
Quick explaination as to why this is…its known as colour dominance. When working with two colours one of the strands will fall below the other one as you work. The colour below ends up with more yarn that the one that is stranded above making the stitches in that colour larger and causing them to pop more to the eye than the stitches stranded on top. Knitting science at its best!
Keep Each Ball Of Yarn On It’s Own Side
Ahh, the stresses of colour work…tangled yarn! When I first started knitting the first mitten I was constantly getting tangled and had to stop and untwist the two strands…SO ANNOYING! Finally, it dawned on me that I should put the yarn I held in my left hand on the left-hand side of my body and the right on the right-hand side. Eureka! It worked. No more tangled yarn! You could pop them into their own individual yarn bowls or project bags to keep them from traveling all around the living room floor which incidentally the cats think is wonderful. Me – less so!
Did you get that? Block your work before you judge it – it makes a difference. Wet blocking evens out the stitches and gives the overall look of your project a more polished and even appearance. In the case of my rather tight mittens it also stretched it out a bit which means I can actually wear them this winter and not just look at them, which would be a real shame considering they took 6 years to complete!
Simply soak your project in some warm water and wool wash, rinse, roll in a towel to remove excess water and pop onto your blockers to dry. If you don’t have mitten blockers (which you can get on Etsy) then you can lay them flat on a towel and pin them to shape. Allow to dry.
So, back to my goal of improving my colour work skills…I plan on choosing sock, hat, and mitten patterns over the next year to improve on my technique before I tackle one of the lovely nordic jumper patterns I see on Ravelry. I always like to have a pair of socks on the needles anyway so choosing stranded colour work patterns kills two birds with one stone so to speak – not that I would ever kill anything! I have some lovely Shetland Wool Week annuals which are full of such projects so I will utilize those first. Garnstudio has an extensive library of free patterns and I love the Drops yarn that they use for all their designs. It’s affordable and readily available and great yarn. I buy mine from Wool Warehouse here in the UK
I hope that I have given you a little food to thought to give stranded knitting a go. After all…we only grow in a skill when we try out hand at new techniques don’t we?
Wishing you all a wonderful creative week.