Understanding Yarn Dominance

    
Blossom Pincushion. The other side is the reverse color scheme, with the background dark and the flower light.

Mary Jane Mucklestone is a wonderful knitter and designer who has been greatly influenced by Scandinavian knitting, which is two-color stranded knitting. Mary Jane grew up in Seattle, where there's a large Scandinavian community, as well as a vibrant community of knitters. Seattle even hosts a Nordic Knitting Conference, and it's amazing.

Mary Jane's new book, 150 Scandinavian Motifs: The Knitter's Directory, is a collection of favorite motifs that you can incorporate into your knitting. You can also use a single motif to make a little treasure like the darling pincushion shown at right.

The book also provides a nice section on stranded knitting techniques, in which I learned about something that's been mystifying me for years: yarn dominance. This is a subtle but important issue if you're counting on colors looking like you want them to look, and I've never been totally clear on how to manage it.

Here's Mary Jane to demystify the concept for you:

In stranded knitting, one yarn will appear slightly more dominant than the other. Yarn dominance occurs because one yarn's strand travels slightly farther than the other, making it slightly tighter, causing it to recede, and be less dominant. The yarn traveling the shortest distance is the dominant yarn. Another way of putting it is that the yarn that comes from below will dominate, while the yarn from above makes a slightly smaller stitch.

Usually the pattern yarn is held to the left of the background yarn, making the pattern color dominant, but there are slight differences in individual technique.

The most important thing is to be consistent in holding your yarn. Assign one position to the pattern color and one to the background color; always keep them in the same position while knitting your piece.

On the top swatch, the gray stitches are larger; on the bottom swatch, the white stitches are larger.

When we look at the wrong side, on the top swatch the gray strands are beneath the cream strands and on the bottom swatch, the cream strands are beneath the gray strands.

Mary Jane spelled it out for me: the longer float pulls the stitches in, making them recede into the fabric, which makes perfect sense. The photos really drive the point home, too, and show how important it is to keep one yarn consistently above the other yarn.

This is just one of the things you'll learn from 150 Scandinavian Motifs. Get your copy today and start your Scandinavian knitting adventure!

Cheers,

P.S. Have you knitted a Scandinavian sweater? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

Categories

Knitting Daily Blog, Yarn Info & Tips
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

20 thoughts on “Understanding Yarn Dominance

  1. I learned of yarn dominance from Beth Brown-Reinsel some 15 years ago in a class she taught. So clearly, Mary Jane Mucklestone is not the first person to spell this out.

  2. I was using and teaching about yarn dominance over 10 years ago as where many other designers and teachers.
    Mary Jane is just the one who got given the book deal and a platform to showcase,she is not unique or the 1st though.

  3. Thanks for the article and explanation. I haven’t attempted a sweater, but I have done several pair of mittens and know the keep the yarn in the same order always, but I didn’t understand why… so thanks for explaining it.

  4. I was using and teaching about yarn dominance over 10 years ago as were many other designers and teachers.
    Mary Jane is just the one who got given the book deal and a platform to showcase,she is not unique or the 1st though.

  5. Over 50 years ago I made a 4-color Scandinavian motif sweater for myself. Then I went on to knit one for each of my 5 sisters. Some of these sweaters still exist. I was influenced by my Norwegian background and Luther College and Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum both in Decorah, IA.

  6. Over 50 years ago I made a 4-color Scandinavian motif sweater for myself. Then I went on to knit one for each of my 5 sisters. Some of these sweaters still exist. I was influenced by my Norwegian background and Luther College and Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum both in Decorah, IA.

  7. Last summer, I went to Iceland with some of my dad’s family. I went a little Lopi crazy, and my dad “commissioned” a sweater…so last fall for his birthday, I knit him a lopapeysa with horses on the yoke! It was really fun–I loved seeing the pattern appear as I knit!

  8. Oops! I didn’t mean to say that Mary Jane was the first person to explain yarn dominance, just that the way she explained it clicked for ME.

    Kathleen

  9. I agree with previous posters that knitters who use 2-color stranded knitting have known that the yarn carried to the left is more dominent than the one at the right, probably since stranded knitting first started being practiced.

    I disagree somewhat with Mary Jane’s explanation, though. Since the yarn at the left is carried “under” the yarn at the right, it uses *more* yarn and its stitches are a tad larger. I would argue that it is these larger stitches that cause the dominance of the “under/left” yarn, rather than the notion that since the “over/right” yarn has a shorter strand carried on the WS, the shorter WS strand somehow causes those stitches to recede.

    But who knows–potayto, potahto?

  10. I knitted a sweater many yearsago from a kit at a craft fair and learned a great way to do two handed knitting. Luckily I bought the dvd explaining the system, so even tho I forget from time to time the method, I can always look it up.

  11. I have knitted Norwegian sweaters almost as long as I have knitted (40+ years..), and at this point I have no idea how many. This “phenomenon” occurred to me several years ago, but nobody had ever told me about it. I like the “yarn coming from above or below” way of explaining it the best.

  12. Lucy Neatby has been teaching the yarn dominance thing for many years. I knit a pair of her Paradoxical Mittens more than 10 years ago, switching the dominant yarn on one mitten compared to the other to obtain the effect after speaking with her about it at a Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Its a great pattern to highlight the effects of yarn dominance.

  13. Really looking forward to getting my copy !!
    I’ve taken a Fair Isle socks class from Mary Jane and loved it !
    She is tentatively teaching at the next Nordic Knitting Conference in Seattle
    Oct. 3-5, 2014 Nordic Heritage Museum http://www.nordicmuseum.org

    I’ve started a child size Icelandic sweater. Was inspired by a trip to Iceland a few years back. The last sweater before that was a Norwegian style toddler size for my daughter who is now 26 ! Time flies !

  14. I’m really looking forward to getting my copy ! I took a Fair Isle sock class from Mary Jane and loved it ! She is tentatively teaching at the next Nordic Knitting Conference Oct. 3-5th 2014 at the Nordic Heritage Museum Seattle
    http://www.nordicmuseum

    I started a child size Icelandic sweater. Was inspired by a trip to Iceland. A beautiful country.

  15. Interesting!

    Once upon a time, in the 19th Century, there was a woman named Märta-Stina Abrahamsdotter. She lived in Anundsjö parissh, close to Örnsköldsvik in North of Sweden.

    She knitted in a different way. She used two strands. The one she used was to the right on the left index finger. Every other stitch she took the yarn over the other yarn, and the other she took it under. When she changed colour, she changed the positions of the strands on the index finger.

    She also used her own motifs.

    I blogged a little about her on Blog Action Day a few years ago:
    http://cessistickar.blogspot.se/2008/10/blog-action-day-fattigdom-poverty.html

  16. I took a class with MJ a few years ago when her Fair Isle book came out. Also a great resource! The way she put it clicked with me too… Whichever yarn is the farthest left will be dominant. I put both strands on my left hand, so I just go with “closer to the left elbow”. It does make a big difference, so if I’m using a dark color for the background, I will carry it on the right so it doesn’t hide the lighter motif. With a light background, I carry it on the left so the motif stitches don’t run together.

  17. I love stranded knitting and have knitted Scandinavian sweaters, stockings, mittens, hats and so on. Long time ago I read somewhere that the darker yarn should go on top and the lighter at the bottom. I always use this rule and very satisfied with the result.

  18. Is the pattern for the little pin cushion available as a way to give this a try? I’m a long way from even making a sweater let alone using these Intricate patterns. The cushion is lovely, though, and I would venture into this pattern if it were a really small project!

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