A Slick Way to Weave In Slippery Ends

I'm literally zooming up the shoulders of the Drawstring Raglan (from Summer Knits 2008) and I only have about thirty more rows to go. It's a fun section, because each row is shorter than the last due to the raglan decreases. Whoo!

I was getting really excited about that, until I realized I had a gadzillion ends to weave in. OK, I just counted, and so far, I have 31 ends to wrangle. Eek. Weaving in ends. Not so much fun.

I've noticed a fair number of requests asking for helping with weaving in ends, particularly with yarns like this one, slick and shiny and just a bit slippery. So, let's have a little adventure in end-wrangling, shall we?

Let me preface this by saying: There are many ways to handle yarn ends. You, as Fearless Knitter, have to evaluate your particular knitting situation and choose the method that suits both your fabric and your yarn best. A method that works with a fuzzy stockinette fabric may not work as well in a slick silky lace shawl. So it's best to arm yourself with several methods, and, as the gentleman in Indiana Jones would say: "Choose wisely."

In any yarn-tail weaving situation, you have several basic objectives. You want to weave in the ends so that: (a) they are hidden from the front side of the garment, (b) they do not distort the fabric in any noticeable way, (c) they do not make a stretchy fabric less stretchy, and (d) they stay woven in.

A Method For Weaving In Silky, Slick Ends in an Open Fabric

I knit my Drawstring Raglan (Knits Summer 2008, did I say that already?) in the yarn called for in the pattern: Berroco Seduce, a shiny, half-slippery, half-rough blend of linen, silk, rayon, and nylon. The yarn is slightly thick-and-thin; for you yarn nerds, its construction is a three-ply base held together with a shiny binding thread.

The lace skirt of the jacket is made up of 5 colors distributed amongst 13 stripes; the stripes are too far apart (methinks) to carry the colors up along the edges as one might normally do in a striped fabric. Therefore, I'm going to have to weave in a bunch of ends.

Considerations: I don't want the woven-ends ends to show; I certainly do not want them to come undone. The additional consideration here is that most of the ends will be woven into a lacy, rather stretchy fabric; I do not want to destroy this property of the lace.

Here's how I manage all those silky, multicolored ends:

1. I try really, really hard to change yarns at the end of a row.
2. I tie both ends, old and new, together using a loose overhand knot, leaving about six to eight inches of both ends. (This knot is just to hold the yarns in tension while I knit; it will be undone later.)
3. I knit until several inches past the yarn change, creating enough fabric to give the area around the yarn change a bit of stability.
4. When I am ready to weave in the ends, I untie the overhand knot, and thread one of the ends through the eye of a yarn needle.

5. Working on the wrong side of the fabric, I weave the needle through the first couple of "purl bumps," up and down through each purl bump.
6. This is a lace pattern, so I do not want to run the yarn tail across any of the holes in the pattern. Instead, I make sure the thread follows the stitches already there, weaving in and out of various stitches as I go. Sometimes I go up, sometimes I go down; but I never cross over a lace "hole" and I never cross over into another color.
7. Important: I do NOT pull the yarn tail tight as I am weaving. I try to match the tension of the yarn-forming-stitches that I am weaving into.
8. Every couple of stitches, I use the needle to "split" the yarn in the next stitch I am weaving into, so that the yarn does not just go "next to" other stitches, it literally goes through them. (This will help keep the yarn from slipping out of place.)
9. After weaving in and out and through for a couple of inches, I carefully snip the yarn tail close to the wrong side of the fabric.
10. I repeat the above for the other ends in this area–however, I try to weave in other directions, in other rows, so that not all the ends are packed into a single small area.
11. Final step: I give the fabric a gentle tug in all directions in the area where the yarn was woven in, to ensure that there is still plenty of elasticity and drape in that section

This all might seem like a lot of work, but I've seen a lot of badly woven-in ends that were visible flaws in otherwise gorgeous garments. So listen to an audiobook, turn on the TV, and take some time to weave in those ends properly, and you'll save yourself from feeling like you have to make excuses later: "Oh, don't look at that part, that part didn't work out so well." Be proud of every last stitch!

Want to learn more about finishing your sweaters? The Knitter's Companion has an entire chapter on seaming, including some of the best diagrams I have ever seen. Those diagrams have saved many a seam in my sweaters (thank you, Vicki!)

Have any other tips for how to weave in ends with slippery yarns? Leave a comment!
— Sandi

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

 What's on Sandi's needles? Shoulders of the Drawstring Raglan. What's on Sandi's spinning wheel? Awesome handpainted alpaca fiber that badly wants to become a shawl when it grows up. What's in Sandi's sink? A brand new Corriedale fleece, being scoured and rinsed!

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40 thoughts on “A Slick Way to Weave In Slippery Ends

  1. That sounds a lot like what I improvised for weaving in the ends on my Clapotis — I had used a cotton/rayon yarn from Classic Elite (Imagine), and for that pattern I tried *not* to change skeins at the edges of the shawl, and all was well.

  2. I’m with Korinthe – if I will be seaming a piece, I always change yarns on the edges. If I’m trying to create a clean edge for a non-seamed item, I change yarns NOT at the edge but in an area that will be convenient to hide the woven ends. Yay.

  3. I also follow this procedure that Sandi has outlined. I was taught this way and just always did so. The reminder about the yarn tension is good, because that can really distort your fabric. Noone has ever been able to tell me that they can find where my yarn ends are woven in and that is good! Especially when I have been knitting for someone by request, this is important.

  4. I made scarves with very slippery ribbon yarn. After weaving in the ends, I had to take needle and thread of the same color and sew the very ends in place because they kept popping out. I’ve even put 1 inch of the new ball of ribbon yarn overlapping with the end of the old ball, hand stitched them together back to back and kept on knitting. The extra “bump” created looked better than weaving in the ends later for this very slippery yarn.

  5. I just finished a striped shrug. As with your project, I felt the stripes were too wide to carry the colors along the back of the work. Although the yarn wasn’t especially slippery (50% alpaca, 50% silk), I wove all the ends in just as you did. The one thing I would add is to leave 1/4 to 1/2 inch of a tiny tail after you weave an end in. If you snip the yarn right down to the garment, when it is streteched, some of those woven ends will pop out, and somtimes it’ll be on the right side of the garment. If you leave a 1/2 inch on the wrong side, it’ll tend to stay there.

  6. Yes, that’s pretty much how I weave in ends. It’s a pain, but so necessary. I can’t remember all the times I’ve had a knitted garment being judged at a fair “counted down” for the way the ends were woven – learned my lesson early in 4-H years!

  7. Thanks for all the tips! I have a question thought- how much time do you all spend knitting? I don’t think I am particularly slow but the fearless knitters here always seem to be finishg projects at a prodigous rate!

  8. Leslie, that’s a loaded question!! I don’t know about the others, but I spend as much time as I can knitting when I’m not at work, but that means a whole lot of other fun things (like cleaning) don’t get done! And I don’t have kids at home anymore, so that leaves me more time than I used to have to knit. Priorities, I guess…

  9. For slippery yarns that easily split into more than one ply, separating and weaving in each one seem to come out less, even very shiny cotton blends. I like to weave a couple of inches one way, turn, and a couple back. Sometimes you need all the tips you can get, but most yarns stay where you weave them.

  10. I don’t understand! What do you mean “up and down through each purl bump” — do you mean “up and down” through the same purl bump, and if so, how the heck do you do that?

  11. Good suggestions on slippery yarns.

    I have a stupid question for you. Since I am a new knitter (even though I’m 72 years old) some things just stump me.
    Question: When counting the rows at the beginning on an item does the cast ons count as row one?

    Kindergarten grandma

  12. I also use the “yarn-splitting” weaving technique for slippery ends, but I use a Weaver’s Knot as a join. You can control where it goes very precisely, and it will NOT come out. In fact, I tried to get one out just to see how hard it would be, and it was impossible! Here is a link to how to tie one:

  13. Being a crocheter and knitter, weaving ends is almost second nature to me. But the best advice I have gotten came from a blue-ribbon crocheter who was quite old when I was younger….

    She said to weave the ends in much the same fashion as Sandi has described, but then she took some matching sewing thread and put a few small stitches to hold the ends in place. This really works well and even ends on afghans that get washed frequently in the machine don’t come out. I haven’t seen it affect the stretch or hang of the fabric in my projects, but it might if you are using a very fine yarn.


  14. Yea For you grandma!! I count the cast on row as the first row if I’ve used a cast on that produces a purl row one one side. The patterns often count that as the right side, but I don’t – I count it as a wrong side row because it has the purl bumps. That may mean that you are actually starting to knit on row 2 of the pattern. Hope that makes sense.

  15. A similar technique to use when you are weaving slippery ends in as you knit is to split the yarn being woven with the knitting needle instead of just laying it over or under the working yarn. This works with ribbon, too – just poke the knitting needle through the center of the ribbon.

  16. Grandma that is great you are enjoying your hobby! The pattern should say if it is a first row or not and whether to use it as a wrong side or right side when continuing. If not the sky is the limit. You can decide yourself how you want it to be. Took me a while to realize that a pattern is a guide and that you can improvise if you like and it is ok.
    Sandi, I just finished reading your article in the back of the mag Interweave knits called “Un raveled”. It was really enjoyable and how appropriate after your blogging recently on your sweaters that were now too large. To reuse the yarn many suggested to frog and reuse.
    Also, when I start a new colour for intarsia I add the new yarn at the end when possible and I keep the knot in. I really am nont a risk taker and so afraid that after all my work it will unravel some way and come undone. Luck of the Irish you know., hehehe
    Carole in PA

  17. After doing weaving in my ends, I give a slight tug to the woven-in area to be sure the fabric still has some give, and then weave back the direction I came from a few stitches before snipping it off. This seems to help lock in the end.

  18. I use the double knit-in join from Knittinghelp.com (http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/knitting-tips) for changing-color joins. For same-color joins, I just overlap the yarns and knit double-stranded for 5 stitches, and if I’m doing lacework, I try to engineer it so that I always start a new ball on the purl side. I hate weaving in ends as part of the finishing, al I use any technique will let me weave them in as I go!

  19. I weave in the ends depending on the situation. I try to do this as I go along if I can. Any way I do it, when I finsh weaving in an end I put a knot at the end of the piece of yarn and leave it hanging. I leave my ends on the piece until after it has been washed and blocked, if needed. Then I go back and cut all the ends off to about a quarter of an inch above the fabric. I was having some trouble with the very ends popping out and someone suggested I do it this way. It seems to hold the ends in place a little better.

  20. I’ve been wondering how to deal with this while using Lion Brand’s Microspun. It’s really slick and slippery. I used the weaving in the purl bumps method but the very end keeps popping out after unweaving itself.

    I don’t recall if i went “THRoUGH” stitches or not.

  21. Too funny- when I was faced with my first BIG batch of end hiding (on a Nina Shawl), I put it off and put it off because of all the “bad press” I’d read in the blogosphere. When I finally got myself to do it, I really enjoyed it! So much, in fact, that it actually inspired me start my blog, which I called Endz.
    I probably could have used this advice, though, because the shawl was knit of mercerized cotton- verrrry slippery! But Mom has her shawl now, and hopefully it’s doing fine!

  22. One little tip – stretch your fabric to even out the stitches and insure flexibility BEFORE snipping off the ends of the woven-in yarn. That way, they’re less likely to pop out when the fabric is stretched during wearing.

  23. I like to use the Philosopher’s method of weaving in ends. They start the weave in the stitches prior to the first stitch you use it for. So in the last 3 to 5 stitches before you end the row,They have you work the new colour or ball of yarn and then the old ball gets worked into the next 3 to 5 stitches in the new colour or ball. That ensures that the two colours are tied in and that the tension stays even. This has worked well for me in any fiber I’ve used and I’ve used most of them.

  24. If at all possible I avoid ends by splicing – and there are several ways to do that. But if I have to have ends (and I’ve not found a way, yet, to get rid of the tail at the very start and end!) then, if I’m feeling very, very good I split the plies and weave each ply in a different direction by tunneling it through the main yarn. This means going everywhere that ‘line of stitches’ went, even through yarn overs if necessary.

    If working with a two ply yarn I will even split the single plies and give them their own new gentle twist (by twirling the needle) to strengthen it before I start weaving it in.

    I don’t trim each of those very skinny little tails until after the article is washed. This way I avoid getting any ‘pokies’ finding their way through the front. I have even used this method when working with size 100 crochet cotton and later on I’m unable to find the tails at all even though I know where I put them! 😉

  25. Very interesting post and very interesting comments.

    So far I have been using Sandi’s method for most projects. But with some garments that would have ended in “thousands” of ends waiting to be woven in I have used techniques that are close to what CristinaR and MarqueL have described.

    I saw my mother doing that very often.

  26. My husband aunt showed me to deal with yarn ends like this:
    when you have to change yarns, whether at the end of a coloured stripe or in the middle of a row because your yard runs out, take the strand from the new yarn and overlap the old yard with it for about six inches or so, knit with this “double” overlap and then just keep going, no knots, no tails!

  27. LeslieA,
    I just wanted to let you know that I’m the slowest knitter in
    the USA! I’m a mom of 5 (ages from 19 down to 6)and I work
    part time at home.
    I take my knitting everywhere with me so I can sneak a few
    stitches here and there….
    I knit when someone else is driving, at Sunday School,
    waiting to drop off my kindergartener or standing beside the
    oven because the cookies only have 3 more minutes and I’ll
    burn them if I walk away…..I don’t have “spare” time to knit;
    I have to steal it out of my day. It takes me more than a year
    to knit a sweater! And “quick” mittens can take a week and a
    half! You and I are not only “Fearless Knitters” we are also
    “Relaxed Knitters”! 🙂

  28. I knit lots of lace shawls and blankets, which must look good on both sides. I’ve learned to place a yarn join on a row or round just after one with decreases. Make the join by knitting a couple of stitches together with old and new, leaving ends dangling. Because the decrease in the row below already makes a bit of a bump, the join doesn’t show. After washing and blocking with the ends still hanging, I work them in by splitting a couple of sts near the decrease, using a tiny dab of fabric glue on the final bit where the ‘insides’ of the thread and fabric will touch. First, make this last stitch to see where the touchpoint is, then pull the end back and place the dab. Pull it through and pinch it to the fabric. After the glue is dry, you can clip the end close and it will stay put. This is a workable method for all types of yarn, but is especially useful when working with very fine yarns on reversible items where the ends are more likely to show. Choose a glue that remains soft. Some of them are very stiff and are not suitable for knitted items.

  29. This is about the knot at the end of the row, not the weaving-in. I make a slip knot with a 7″ tail on the new yarn to be added at the edge and slip the “old” yarn through it and tighten the slip knot around it then knit. When I’m ready to do the weaving, I just pull the old yarn out of the slip knot, pull to release the slip knot and then tie them the way I want to to take up any slack and then start weaving.

  30. If I had as many slippery tails to tuck as that, Sandi, and they were all along a selvage, I would take them to my sewing machine, loosen up the tension and set it up for a long, wide zig-zag stitch, stretching the selvage gently as I neatly overcast all those squiggly ends together.
    I understand that this wouldn’t work for an exposed selvage such as that for a shawl. Though if one were crocheting a border on the shawl, tucking the ends into the single crochet edging would work in the same manner.

  31. I learned this trick when I unravelled a thrift store sweater to recycle the yarn. Weave the tail through a couple stitches, then tack the tail in place with some matching thread, and snip off the rest of the tail. It meets all of Sandi’s criteria — woven-in ends don’t show, they don’t come undone, the fabric’s stretchiness remains, and the stitch pattern remains clean. AND, no yarn splitting needed. 🙂

    Another option, if the tails are on a seamed edge, weave the tails into the seam itself, not the body of the garment.

  32. Someone told me once to weave in the ends in a “V” shape, i.e. first down, then up, in order to minimize the risk of the end pulling loose. I’ve found that works well for me if the yarn is slippery.

    For non-slippery yarns, I love this method of knitting/weaving in as you go: http://sockpr0n.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-weave-in-ends-while-knitting.html Be careful to only weave in ends on the right side; if you do so on the wrong side, it’ll show on the right side.

  33. I do hate to weave in yarns & try to weave them in as I knit (trailing the end “new” skein for about 3 inches over & under the “old” skein & then reversing the process so that I am knitting with the new skein & weaving in the old skein- similiar to doing a fair isle).

    When you are changing colors for a stripe- there isn’t much choice though – except to weave in after. I usually use the yarn needle, but other times I use a small crochet hook & use that to pull the yarn through the bumps. This works especially well if you haven’t left mcuh to weave in & therefore want to weave in the whole tail & the yarn needle gives you trouble when you get down to the last inch or 2 of tail.

  34. I have developed a technique I call ‘trapping’ and have never read directions for it but don’t believe I’m the only person who does it. When changing colours I ‘trap’ the end of the old yarn under the stitches on the wrong side by moving the end up, k or p the stitch, move the end down, k or p the stitch for 4 or 5 stitches making sure the end is ‘trapped’ between the new stitch and the fabric of the sweater. In a lace pattern it would be best to do this on a plain purl row to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the eyelet holes. On the way back, I trap the end of the new yarn in the same way also on the wrong side. ‘Trapping’ the 2 ends in different directions ensures less bumpiness or thickness to the fabric. When using the same colour I use the technique described above, knitting with both strands but only for 2 or 3 stitches and ‘trapping’ the ends as well. I would never finish a sweater if I did not do the ends this way. I once made a flowered intarsia sweater where there were at one point 28 colour changes in a row. Whew! ‘Trapping’ was a lot quicker/easier than weaving them in would have been.

  35. I have developed a technique I call ‘trapping’ and have never read directions for it but don’t believe I’m the only person who does it. When changing colours I ‘trap’ the end of the old yarn under the stitches on the wrong side by moving the end up, k or p the stitch, move the end down, k or p the stitch for 4 or 5 stitches making sure the end is ‘trapped’ between the new stitch and the fabric of the sweater. In a lace pattern it would be best to do this on a plain purl row to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the eyelet holes. On the way back, I trap the end of the new yarn in the same way also on the wrong side. ‘Trapping’ the 2 ends in different directions ensures less bumpiness or thickness to the fabric. When using the same colour I use the technique described above, knitting with both strands but only for 2 or 3 stitches and ‘trapping’ the ends as well. I would never finish a sweater if I did not do the ends this way. I once made a flowered intarsia sweater where there were at one point 28 colour changes in a row. Whew! ‘Trapping’ was a lot quicker/easier than weaving them in would have been.

  36. When changing colors at the e nd of a row, I weave them in much as you describe. However, for joining new skeins onto a WIP, I do as Barbara Walker did: I tie knots. I knit with the old strand until there are a few inches left, and then knit a few stitches with the new skein. Before the last and first stitches slip onto the cable (I usually use circs), I tie a tight fisherman’s knot and trim the ends. Tying a knot this way keeps the knot from ever showing on the right side of the fabric, and it never comes undone.

  37. Reading all these methods has given me a huge lift! Thank you, every one. This new subscriber had never even considered splitting the yarn before Sandi’s lesson on weaving in slick yarns; what a good idea that is. Ditto the weaving, sewing and gluing advices; I’m now eager to try weaving, splitting, sewing, and gluing those pesky ends according to what the yarn seems to need.

    A question: Is it considered OK to volunteer brand names? I have never used a fabric glue that wasn’t stiff when it dried. Can anyone tell me which brands are flexible?

    Thank you all.


  38. Thank you for all the ideas. I’ve been kind of discouraged about my ends and knots and it sounds like I haven’t been leaving enough tails on the knots in the first place. Uh-oh………