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Knitting Bummer: Joining New Yarn

Mar 19, 2012

Here's one of my overlapping joins. You really can't see it at all! Note that this is pre-blocked, so when it's blocked it'll be impossible to find. Now, the puppy hair that's knit into the sweater? I think that'll be visible forever!
There's no getting around it: there are some knitting bummers that we just can't avoid. Joining a new ball of yarn is one of them, but I think I've finally figured it out.

I always try to join a new yarn at the edge of my piece of knitting, but there are some instances where that's not possible, such as when knitting in the round.

I'm currently working on the Lapis Yoke Pullover knit-along, which is knit in the round. On the body section, which is basically a tube, all of the yarn joins happen at about the same place—or within an inch or two of each other because of the waist shaping—so it's really important for yarn joins to look nice (or be invisible if possible!).

Throughout my knitting career I've been joining new balls by knitting a stitch with both the new and old yarns and then dropping the old yarn, just like all of the knitting instructions say. But I always got what looked like a twisted stitch! So frustrating.

So I switched to a method of simply starting the new ball on a new stitch without knitting the two yarns together. Technically it works, but it's not elegant. There's a hole that needs to be fixed when weaving in ends and the tension is so loose that I have to tie the end of the old ball and the tail of the new ball in a bow to secure them until I weave them in.

I was getting fed up with this technique so I decided to check my knitting Bible, Vicki Square's Knitter's Companion, to see what it recommended.

There are a lot of ideas for joining yarn in the Knitter's Companion, but I wanted to perfect the knitting with old and new yarns method.

I studied the entry and I realized that my mistake was that I was wrapping the yarn the wrong way and therefore making a twisted stitch. Here's the correct way to execute this join and avoid the bummer in the process!

Overlapping the Old and New Yarn

Use this joining method in an inconspicuous place, such as 1-2 inches from the side edge or in a textured area. This method is well suited for wools, synthetics, blends of any kind, and novelty yarns that are worsted-weight or finer. When worked with nonelastic yarns such as cotton and ribbon yarn, this join may be visible from the right side.

Step 1. Overlap the end of the old ball and the beginning of the new ball for about 6 inches.
Step 2. Work two stitches with the two strands held together as if there were a single strand.
Step 3. Drop the strand from the old ball and continue working with the new.
Step 4. On the next row, work the double-stranded stitches as if they were single-strand stitches. During finishing, secure the two loose ends by weaving them diagonally into the wrong side of the knitted fabric (weaving them horizontally or vertically may create a visible ridge on the right side).

—From The Knitter's Companion by Vicki Square

Now the trick here is how you position the new yarn with the old yarn. Take a look at the "Step 1" illustration above. See how the tail of the new yarn (shown in blue) points to the right and the end of the old yarn points to the left? that's the key. I was holding the tail and end of the old and new yarn together and not overlapping them correctly, creating a twisted stitch with the new yarn.

No more bummer!!

You can turn your bummers around, too, with The Knitter's Companion, now available in iPod app! It's the perfect companion when you want to know how to work a certain technique or when you just want to know how to knit something better.


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AngelaZachs wrote
on Feb 3, 2013 11:16 PM

I really can't get my mind around this explanation. Why does the end of the old yarn point left? Do you knit continental? Maybe a picture of the wring way to do it would help, then I could compare with this diagram. It's not clear to me!

on Mar 25, 2012 4:52 PM

That's valuable information. I was doing the other way.

Can I have The Knitters companion on my Kindle? Let me know.


on Mar 25, 2012 10:57 AM

Also, I love the puppy hair. My pieces all contain a few strands of kitty hair - my "signature" effect!

on Mar 25, 2012 10:56 AM

I tried this on a sweater I am knitting with cotton yarn. It didn't make a ridge, and looks so much better than the other methods I have tried - thank you!

IrmaS@2 wrote
on Mar 25, 2012 7:20 AM

This is the method I use with one simple variation. When the yarn is multi-ply, I untwist each piece and use half the thickness of the old and new held together. The joined yarn is now the same weight as a single strand and eliminates the bulkiness of the joining stitches.  

Jena Molina wrote
on Mar 24, 2012 5:21 PM

I cannot wait to try this, I need a big project to work on!

on Mar 24, 2012 1:48 PM

I've been using this method for years--ever since I discovered it (somewhere on-line!). It works perfectly, and doesn't show on either

side when you're finished.  I keep telling my knitting friends about it, but it seems everyone wants to "knot" their two ends together--I can't stand knots in my knitting!

MegC wrote
on Mar 24, 2012 1:39 PM

I recently found this braiding method of joining yarns through Pinterest --

Looks much more secure than the spit splice.


MegC wrote
on Mar 24, 2012 1:37 PM

I recently came upon an interesting method through Pinterest -- the lady split the plies of her yarn & braided the plies with the new yarn.  The yarns seem securely joined & seem practically invisible.

kimberGee wrote
on Mar 24, 2012 10:43 AM

first, thanks for this article! it came just in time for my first really big project worked in the round. also, the hats on Once Upon A Time, check the groups on I know there is at least two of them that are active and there are alot of people interested in those hats, myself included.

greylady3 wrote
on Mar 24, 2012 10:42 AM

I just use the Russian Join. So easy and no hassle. If you haven't tried it, look it up on YouTube. Nothing to weave in when you're done.

yaee wrote
on Mar 24, 2012 9:13 AM

Thank you for the new (to me) method, I love to see what others are doing. Too long ago to reveal my Gran taught me the 'dampen' way that others have mentioned - it has never failed ...

Doro Kay wrote
on Mar 24, 2012 8:37 AM

For years i've tried to find a better way for joining yarns.  This  is a great tip, really helps make the join look smooth.  Thank you very much!

lisa.patrick wrote
on Mar 20, 2012 7:30 AM

Thanks for this very helpful tip.  I like you have had problems with being able to see where my joins are when knitting in the round.  I am going to try this next time.  

HollyL@2 wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 9:14 PM

Regarding joining- I have started using an appropriate size needle and creating interlocked loops by weaving in and out through back into each yarn.  Then I pull each yarn tightly and knit on by.  This also allows me to make absolutely clean and secure color changes on a single stitch.  It even works with crochet thread (pretty small needle though)

Holly Leeds

KnitWitchery wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 6:03 PM

I like Ez's and have used it a lot except I only did half of the square  knot and wove the ends in, but there is always a better mouse trap and I now braid my yarn together.

To braid, split the in use yarn in half about  4 to5  inches lay the new ball of yarn as is in the middle of the split just a tad above the end of the split and braid not to snug but somewhat snug.  You should be able to knit  about 3 stitches and then you just continue on and you can snip any little ends from your joining. You will find that this join blends in with your knitting and barely if even notice-able.

JanisI wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 1:48 PM

Enjoy learning something new - and we can all learn more way to join the yarn to make our projects look more professional. I'll add this to my binder on techniques.

I think you should do an article on the "Russian" is by far the best way to join your yarn especially if you are working in the round or have "just enough" yarn to make a project.  I just discovered this as I knit a lot in linen and it is difficult at the best of times.


on Mar 19, 2012 1:41 PM

I just did a quick internet search and I think the hats on the show are commercially produced.

There's a fun forum on Ravelry called "Welcome to Storybrooke" that has a knits discussion thread going on. The members there might have some more ideas.

GloriaP wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 1:23 PM

If it's wool yarn I spit and hand roll the two ends together til they have felted into one strand.

on Mar 19, 2012 11:41 AM

Elizabeth Zimmermann solved this years ago, with no fuss about overlapping. 1. Knit until there are about four inches left of the old skein. 2. Knit the next and subsequent stitches with the new skein, leaving a four-inch tail. 3. After a few rows or rounds, tie a square knot with the two ends, checking the right side to see that it's nicely balanced and the tension is right. 4. Weave in the tails on the wrong side in opposite directions.  I've been making perfectly invisible joins this way for thirty years, with no problems.  I think knitters are sometimes prone to make more worries for themselves than are really necessary.

Carol Urban wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 11:29 AM

I agree with @Aunt Gina!  Those knitted hats on Once Upon a Time are beautiful.  I'd love to see Mary Margaret knitting in an episode or visiting Storeybrook's yarn store to buy yarn to knit her hats.

dogbaker wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 11:19 AM

what a timely discussion and explanation for me. thank you so much and when I restart my smart phone I want to get that knitting companion app. now if I can figure out the same problem for the crocheting I will be happy.

Wigglles wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 9:49 AM

If the yarn is wool, consider unraveling the twist of the two ends, meshing them together, lightly dampen and then rolling to felt the ends together in one strand.

illy wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 8:26 AM

can't wait to try it.



Auntie Gina wrote
on Mar 19, 2012 8:04 AM

OK, Kathleen, I loved that you knit in dog hair :-)  My personal favorite (?) is cat hair!

But I have a question. Do you watch Once Upon a Time? Have you admired as I do the great knitted hats that Mary Margaret wears? Is there anywhere one (like me!) could find patterns for these lovelies?