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Hello, Color! Learn How to Bring Two Colors to Your Knitting

As you gain more confidence in your knitting, we bet you’ll start to dream of projects in more than one color! While adding another strand of yarn to the mix can make a project more complicated, the results are totally worth it.

Want to try two-color knitting? Start with one of these techniques

1. Stripes

Stripes are a simple way to practice color changes and get a handle on managing two colors in your work. For a newbie knitter, this is an easy way to add some colorwork detail in your knitting without using more than one color in a round.

When working stripes in the round, you’ll run into the issue of a jog in your knitting. Because knitting in the round is essentially creating a continuous spiral, your first stitch from a round will not directly line up with the last stitch in the same round. Don’t let that stop you away from stripes — there are a few ways to knit jogless stripes in the round.

2. Stranded knitting

In stranded knitting, you’ll use two strands of yarn in a row, stitching one at a time and carrying along the other one. Stranded knitting designs may have more than two colors in them, but they generally use only two colors per round to create the design.

3. Two-color cables

Two-Color Cabled Hat Pattern

Two-Color Cabled Hat Pattern from Colorwork Made Easy with Melissa Leapman

If you’re feeling adventurous, this is a really fun two-color knitting technique! A form of stranded knitting, with two-color cable knitting you’ll be managing two colors per round but you’ll also be working cables at the same time.

While it sounds scary, you’ll get the hang of it quickly once you get going. The trickiest part will be casting on with two strands and making sure to take a moment to untangle your yarn every few cast-on stitches.

4. Brioche

Brioche knitting can be done with one color, but using two colors really highlights the technique’s texture. It’s one of the more advanced techniques on this list, so be prepared for a challenge!

5. Double knitting

Double Knit Scarf

Duvino Cowl Pattern from Adventures in Double-Knitting with Alasdair Post-Quinn

In double knitting, you work with two colors of yarn to create an interlocking, double-sided fabric that has no wrong side. This way, you get a two-color design on one side and its inversion on the opposite time. It takes a while to get used to knitting two pieces of fabric simultaneously, but the results are well worth it.

When you’re ready to start knitting with two colors, keep these tips in mind

If you haven’t tried colorwork knitting before, it’s easy to be scared off, but don’t worry! With a few tips and perfectly picked patterns, you’ll be on your way to creating the colorwork knitting projects of your dreams.

Here are a few tips to make your adventure into knitting with two (or more!) colors a little bit easier.

1. Start small

If you’ve been eyeing a gorgeous Fair Isle sweater but aren’t ready to take on the challenge (or time commitment) start with a smaller project. After all, smaller projects can be just as gorgeous and are also lower risk. If you notice an error or are having tension issues as you go, you only have to rip back a few yards — not a few hundred yards!

2. Go with a small section of colorwork

If you have your heart set on something big, that’s OK — but try to break it down into sections. A round yoke sweater is a great choice. Not only are these sweaters a joy to knit, but most feature the colorwork only on the yoke, cuffs and hems, so you can take breaks from the tricky parts.

3. Work in the round

Checkerboard Squares Cowl

Checkerboard Squares Stranded Cowl from Modern Stranded Knitting Techniques with Mary Jane Mucklestone

If you’re using a stranded knitting technique, choose a project that’s constructed in the round. Stranded knitting can be worked flat, but many people find it easier to maintain tension when working only the knit rounds, rather than having to purl back.

In fact, when knitting a colorwork project in the round, you don’t have to purl at all. Many people find purling colorwork to be a bit fussier and hard to manage (especially if you’re new to two-color knitting). Starting with a round project like a cowl will allow you to practice the motions of switching between colors without worrying about switching between stitches.

4. Don’t pull!

Maintaining an even tension is the key to beautiful two-color knitting. When you’re learning, try to keep your tension looser than normal. Many beginners’ instinct is to pull the yarn taught, but pulling too tightly will cause puckering in your knitted fabric and throw off your gauge.

Tension just takes some getting used to, especially if you tend to have a tight tension already. Practice, practice, practice, and stick to easy-to-use yarns and needles.

5. Control those floats

Trapped floats on the wrong side of stranded colorwork

Floats refer to the strands on the wrong side of your stranded knitting that link from stitch to stitch. Some patterns require holding a float over 5 or 6 stitches, but some go over 8 or 9 or more stitches!

A handy trick many knitters use is to trap their floats by twisting the float yarn and the working yarn every 4 stitches or so, so that float isn’t loose and floppy. Not only does this make the project easier to knit, but for wearables like socks and sweaters, it also makes the garment more comfortable against your body.

knitted hat in progress

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4 Comments

Kay Chapman

I did this many years ago and stopped. I was sure I was doing it wrong (before the internet and I am self-taught). It is the back of two-color knitting that I would like to see presented. I want to compare to what I did.

Reply
Jimena Rojas

I’m always wondering what it looks like in the back. I’ve tried two color knitting patterns with swatches, and there’s yarn that hops over the second color stitches until I need it next, but leaves these weird loops on the WS of my knitting… I’ve tried it with gloves too, and my fingers get caught in the loops and snag – I know I’m not doing it right.

Reply
Liz

That sounds right, actually. You have to twist the yarn around each other to carry it along… If you have long stretches of 1 color though, you will have longer “loops” of yarn that hang and you could get your fingers caught in if using stranded color work in gloves… To fix this, every 3-4 stitches, “twist” the yarn again by tucking the color you’re NOT using behind the color you are working with before knitting the next stitch. Its easier to watch videos to have this explained, there’s plenty on YouTube to check out. Sounds like you were doing it right though, so you do have the general idea.

Reply
Marie Daschbach

Knit with right hand and carry yarn with left. Easier with circular of double pointed needles, knitting every row. Works with magic loop also. You don’t really need to twist yarn carried. I’ve never tried it with straight needles. I use mostly circular or dp needles.

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