Color Knitting: How to Lock Your Floats

Inspiration comes in all forms, from the country to the city and beyond. There are many designers who are inspired by nature, including myself, but there are also beautiful color knitting patterns that take their inspiration from the beautiful architecture of the city.

Kyle Kunnecke, the author of Urban Knit Collection, grew up with his construction superintendent father taking him to job sites and teaching him about architecture. He lived all over the country, enjoying the unique aspects of cities from the southwest to the southeast. Today he lives and designs in beautiful, eclectic San Francisco, with its gorgeous Victorian homes, modern skyscrapers, and stirring public art.

Kyle’s designs are just amazing. They are the sort of thing I love—complex color knitting, cables, and lace. But he specializes in colorwork. Many of Kyle’s projects caught my eye, but I have to admit slight obsession with one of them: the D’Amour Wrap.

The D’Amour Wrap knit shawl is an example of gorgeous color knitting.

The D’Amour Wrap

Is that not GORGEOUS? Everything about it speaks to me. The colors, the pattern, the shape, all of it. It’s a masterpiece of design, evoking the mid-century vibe that I love so much.

Here’s what Kyle has to say about this design, “The D’Amour Wrap is perfect for the knitter interested in a stranding adventure. The entire wrap is mapped out in a series of detailed charts to navigate the journey. At first glance, the charts appear symmetrical, but upon further exploration you’ll see that each side has its own variations, making it unique. Using the technique of locked floats makes both the front and back beautiful. Once the stranded portion is complete, an applied I-cord edge finishes the wrap. Don’t let the large charts stop you from tackling this gorgeous piece! There’s a difference between difficult and time-consuming. Filled with geometric and stylistic designs, this wrap promises to be a showstopper.”

Kyle mentions the difference between difficult and time-consuming, which I think is really important to understand. Each pattern is made up of sections and certain combinations of knit and purl stitches. Just like cooking a complex recipe like Boeuf Bourguignon, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, knitting a complex pattern takes time and careful following of directions. You can do it, step by step! It may seem difficult, but as you make progress through the pattern it gets easier, and you’ll see that it just takes time to accomplish the steps on your way to a gorgeous finished product.

Each pattern in the book is labeled with the skills you need to accomplish the piece. If you don’t know some of the skills, don’t dismiss the project as something you can’t knit, just look at it as a challenge to learn new techniques!

Locking Floats in Color Knitting

Locking floats in color knitting will help this knit shawl look great on the right side and the wrong side.

Here you can see how locking the floats makes this shawl look great on the back side, too!

This is one of the color knitting skills you’ll need to learn to knit the D’Amour Wrap. Here’s Kyle to teach you how to lock your floats.

When working with more than one color of yarn at a time, long strands of yarn are carried between each of the color changes called “floats.” Over the years, a series of rules have evolved creating a sort of standard that knitters are encouraged to follow. Traditional Fair Isle (or stranded knitting) color knitting specifies no more than two colors per row and sequences of no more than six stitches of one color. This method leaves floats, which are lengths of yarn carried across the back of the work that can be easily snagged.

Beyond this, other rules direct the maximum number of different yarn colors to be used in each row, as well as opinions on finishing, steeking, and weaving in of yarn tails. These suggestions and guidelines have made such an impression on the technique because they lead us to a better finished project, one that is long lasting and survives with minimal wear as a result of the way it was made.

I encourage you to learn this different way of working in more than one color, which I call “locking floats.” It takes just a little more time, but makes the back of the fabric appear woven and creates an even tension. It’s not a new technique; the iconic Bowknot Sweater designed in 1927 by Elsa Schiaparelli used a version of this method.

Learn to lock your floats when color knitting.

How to lock floats in color knitting

Here’s how it’s done: Knit 1 with the main color (MC) (figure 1). If the next stitch is to be worked with the MC, the contrasting color (CC or floating yarn) needs to be locked. Insert the tip of the needle into the next stitch as if to knit, place the CC yarn over the needle (figure 2), and then knit 1 with MC (figure 3), pulling only the MC yarn through the stitch (figure 4). If a third stitch in a row is the same color, work as in figure 1 (note: this was erroneously labeled “figure 5” in the newsletter). Continue locking every other stitch until the yarn in use is changed to the other color.

This weaves, or locks, the unused CC behind the stitch, without using it for the actual stitch. If the next stitch is to be worked in the MC, the floating yarn is carried across the back as normal. The fourth stitch is locked, and so on.

The technique is the same on the wrong (or purl side) of the fabric. With practice, you’ll gain speed, and you’ll have a beautiful float-free interior.

The challenge to this technique? Letting go. Because of the way the yarns are manipulated, it’s necessary to let go of the yarns often while working. Working this technique is not difficult (remember, all of this just takes time and practice!). I’m confident you can do it. Those who knit English style have a small advantage when working this method because they already hold the yarn in their right hands.

“Springy” yarn yields better results when stranding because the color of the locked float is less likely to be visible from the front. Sometimes, though, you’ll find a hint of the  locked-float yarn peeking through the front of the work. I don’t think of this as a defect in the work, but rather evidence of the technique. By swatching, you will see how the yarn and colors work together. Often, if the unused color peeks through the fabric, it can be coaxed to the back with the tip of a knitting needle.

—Kyle Kunnecke, from Urban Knit Collection

I encourage you to take on one (or more!) of the projects in the Urban Knit Collection, and to knit with confidence and purpose, learning as you go; you’ll love these projects and this approach!



P.S. What’s been your biggest knitting challenge? Leave a comment below and share it with me!



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