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Hold on to your yarn!

Feb 19, 2014

    
The Meltwater Pullover by Kate Gagnon Osborn is a beautiful example of colorwork knitting.



Colorwork is one of the most beautiful knitting techniques, as you can see from the beautiful Meltwater Pullover, pictured at left. However, a big challenge to color knitting is how to hold your yarn. Daniella Nii's article, Holding Yarns for Stranded Colorwork by Daniella Nii, found in the Spring 2014 issue of Interweave Knits, is really helpful.

I use what Daniella calls the Combination method, where I hold one strand in each hand. Here's an excerpt from Daniella's article, showing how to hold your yarn in your right hand and how to work the Combination method.

Yarns Held in Right Hand
Yarns Over Middle Finger Yarns Split Between Index and Middle Fingers
The foreground color comes first and sits toward the tip of the finger, followed by the background color to the right.
The foreground color runs over middle finger and the background color runs
over index finger.
To knit a foreground stitch, insert right needle through next stitch, wrap foreground color (left yarn) around needle. The yarn will come from below the background color (right yarn). Knit stitch with foreground color.  To knit a foreground stitch, insert right needle through next stitch, wrap foreground color from middle finger around needle. The yarn will come from below the background color on index finger. Knit stitch with foreground color.
To knit a background stitch, insert right needle through next stitch, bring needle over foreground yarn, wrap background yarn around needle. Background color will come over foreground color. Knit stitch with background color. To knit a background stitch, insert right needle through next stitch, wrap background yarn around needle. Background color will come over foreground color. Knit stitch with background color.
If holding yarns in both hands is awkward for you, try the Combination Method.
Set-Up

The foreground color is in the left hand for picking; the background color is in the right hand for throwing.
Foreground Stitch Background Stitch
To knit a foreground stitch. Insert right needle through next stitch, pick up foreground color (left yarn). The yarn will come from below the background color (right yarn). To knit a background stitch. Insert right needle through next stitch, wrap background color from right hand around needle. The yarn comes over the foreground color.
To learn more about the background and foreground colors, otherwise known as "yarn dominance," and to see how to hold two yarns in your left hand, check out the article in Interweave Knits Spring 2014.

Did you know you can get a digital subscription to Interweave Knits? Check it out!

Cheers,

P.S. How do you hold your yarn when working stranded color knitting? Leave a comment and tell us!


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Comments

Ginny Peck wrote
on Feb 20, 2014 11:41 PM

I use both hands and there are no floats, took a class to learn this technique.  Also, the yarn doesn't tangle.

Ginny Peck wrote
on Feb 20, 2014 11:37 PM

I use both hands and there are no floats.  Took a class to learn this technique.  

DebE wrote
on Feb 20, 2014 9:38 AM

I was disappointed that the article totally ignored the third method, which makes most sense to the millions of Continental style knitters.  Holding both yarns in the left hand and picking up the needed color with the inserted right-hand needle tip is the easy, efficient, least amount of movement and hand strain method.... and yet it was not even mentioned, let alone photographed.  The article makes it seem as though Combination is the only method available to Continental knitters.  Personally, I use the Combination method when working with 3 colors in the same row or round (two in the left hand and one in the right), or when a two-color round has far more of one color than the other.  In the latter case, I find that holding both yarns in the same hand can lead to tension inequalities.  But in a row or round of two colors that are used in about equal (no more than 3 to 1 ratio) number of stitches, Continental knitters will usually find it simplest to hold both yarns in the left hand.  Since the majority of knitters in the world knit with the yarn in the left hand, rather than the English style that is currently popular in the US and Canada as well as Great Britain, and are famous for colorwork (Scandinavian, Latvian, Turkish, South American, for instance), I find it a bit odd that Interweave Knits would fairly consistently ignore Continental style altogether, as if it did not exist.

on Feb 20, 2014 9:19 AM

I was taught years ago to use the combination method.  Having always been a thrower as taught by my English mother, this did require some perseverance, but I find that I end up with beautifully (if I do say so myself) woven in yarn at the back of the work, giving a warm, stretchy, neat effect with no strand longer than one stitch.  

Using both hands keeps the two balls of yarn from tangling and is good for the aging brain.  Wendy Leigh-bell  

on Feb 19, 2014 8:49 PM

I make the Yarn Lazy Susan systems as a hobby and am not a business.  If you are interested in how to use one and see the pictures please feel free to contact me. The 4 different systems are designed just for crocheters/knitters and other fiber craftspersons and can be used by the beginner, experienced, and  by older friends who have difficulty with finger use. You can see pictures on Facebook at Yarn Lazy Susan, Huron, Ohio.  I currently have a free giveaway End of Winter Event as described on the Facebook page and the winner will receive a free system as outlined.  Thank you for being the site you are with all the hep and other amenities. I just wanted to let you know about this new and exciting tool.  Bob, a new member  

on Feb 19, 2014 8:49 PM

I make the Yarn Lazy Susan systems as a hobby and am not a business.  If you are interested in how to use one and see the pictures please feel free to contact me. The 4 different systems are designed just for crocheters/knitters and other fiber craftspersons and can be used by the beginner, experienced, and  by older friends who have difficulty with finger use. You can see pictures on Facebook at Yarn Lazy Susan, Huron, Ohio.  I currently have a free giveaway End of Winter Event as described on the Facebook page and the winner will receive a free system as outlined.  Thank you for being the site you are with all the hep and other amenities. I just wanted to let you know about this new and exciting tool.  Bob, a new member  

on Feb 19, 2014 8:49 PM

I make the Yarn Lazy Susan systems as a hobby and am not a business.  If you are interested in how to use one and see the pictures please feel free to contact me. The 4 different systems are designed just for crocheters/knitters and other fiber craftspersons and can be used by the beginner, experienced, and  by older friends who have difficulty with finger use. You can see pictures on Facebook at Yarn Lazy Susan, Huron, Ohio.  I currently have a free giveaway End of Winter Event as described on the Facebook page and the winner will receive a free system as outlined.  Thank you for being the site you are with all the hep and other amenities. I just wanted to let you know about this new and exciting tool.  Bob, a new member  

on Feb 19, 2014 8:49 PM

I make the Yarn Lazy Susan systems as a hobby and am not a business.  If you are interested in how to use one and see the pictures please feel free to contact me. The 4 different systems are designed just for crocheters/knitters and other fiber craftspersons and can be used by the beginner, experienced, and  by older friends who have difficulty with finger use. You can see pictures on Facebook at Yarn Lazy Susan, Huron, Ohio.  I currently have a free giveaway End of Winter Event as described on the Facebook page and the winner will receive a free system as outlined.  Thank you for being the site you are with all the hep and other amenities. I just wanted to let you know about this new and exciting tool.  Bob, a new member  

on Feb 19, 2014 6:33 PM

I use the combination method.  It seems much easier for me.  Color work is one of my favorite pastimes.  It's so much fun for me to experiment with different patterns making hats, and there is always someone who can use one!

lolajl wrote
on Feb 19, 2014 5:16 PM

I'm a thrower and I hold both yarns on my right hand.  The main color I hold over my first finger, and the other color goes under.  When I want to use the other color, I drop the main color and put the other color UNDER my first finger.  

Here's how the yarn passes over my finger:

www.flickr.com/.../set-72157601966307167

And, www.flickr.com/.../set-72157601966307167

Note the orientation of the red yarn.

on Feb 19, 2014 5:10 PM

Please tell me how you work with two yarns when I knit holding my yarn in my left hand.  Continental Way.  Any suggestions?  Thanks.

wendygoerl wrote
on Feb 19, 2014 4:43 PM

I learned to crochet several years before I finally managed to get needles working for me, and I never could get used to routing the yarn through my working hand. When working two yarns, I like to have one in front of the knuckle and one behind, but the yarn doesn't always cooperate.

BTW, your "Yarns Over Middle Finger" pictures are showing yarns over the FORE finger.

on Feb 19, 2014 4:43 PM

I'm a thrower and hold mc in right hand and cc in left hand. I've been doing stranded knitting for over 30 years, my first Fair Isle project was an Elizabeth Zimmermann pullover from one of the first issues of Knitters. As I recall, she suggested holding the mc in your dominant hand. It's worked fine for me through countless projects and I switch colors depending on the dominant color in a round.

I've never noticed any "yarn dominance" problem, in fact, I really can't see much difference in the photos illustrating this "problem" ;-)