Color Style: The Slip-Stitch Technique

Deborah Newton's Honeycomb Turtleneck

When I was a relatively new knitter, meaning I made a lot of simple scarves and had one stockinette sweater under my belt, I took a workshop from super-creative designer Leigh Radford. She was promoting creativity in knitting and she had us knitting with all kinds of different materials, including wire and leather!

The last thing we did in the workshop was knit a slip-stitch colorwork swatch. I had never heard of this technique and I was amazed at the impact the slip-stitch method made. It created texture as well as a beautiful pattern.

Working the slip-stitch colorwork technique seems more achievable to some of us than working Fair Isle or intarsia; there's only one color worked per row. There's no carrying yarn behind the work or working with bobbins. Don't get me wrong—Fair Isle and intarsia are wonderful, too, I just think the easy-to-knit slip-stitch method packs quite a punch for not much effort.

For example, check out Deborah Newton's Honeycomb Turtleneck, at left, from the book Color Style. Talk about making an impact! All of the colorwork on the yoke and cuffs is done with the slip-stitch technique! It's such an amazing design.

Here's an excerpt from Color Style, that details the the slip-stitch technique.

Slip Stitch Colorwork

A simple way to knit stripes that don't look like stripes is to work slip-stitch patterns. In this type of color knitting, two contrasting colors-a "dark" color and a "light" color-are alternated every two rows. Following a charted pattern, one of the colors—for example, the dark color—is used to knit certain stitches (e.g., the dark stitches on the chart) and other stitches (e.g., the light stitches) are slipped (transferred from the left needle to the right needle without being knitted). On the next row, the same stitches that were worked on the previous row are worked again (either knitted or purled), and the stitches that were slipped are slipped again. On the next two rows, the other yarn color—for example, the light color—is used, and different stitches (some of which may be the same as the previous two rows) are worked, while others are slipped. Stitches of both colors will appear on your needles even though each row is worked with only one of the colors.

To begin a slip-stitch pattern, you need to have a foundation row. Typically, this row is worked in one of the colors used for the pattern. The foundation row can be the cast-on row if the stitches aren't already on the needles. The slip-stitch pattern begins with a right-side row and with a different color from the one you used for the foundation row. For example, if you used the light color in the foundation row, you'll use the dark color for the first row of the charted pattern. Follow the first row of the chart, knitting the stitches that are to appear in the working color and slipping the stitches in the original color from the previous row.

Always slip the stitches purlwise, and, unless otherwise instructed, always hold the yarn on the wrong side of the work when you slip stitches (Figure 1, below). When you get to the end of the row, turn the work around and, for a stockinette-stitch fabric, purl the stitches that were knitted on the previous row and slip the others (Figure 2, below). The slipped stitches will have been carried for two rows. Change colors on the next row (right side facing), and, following the second row of the chart, knit the stitches of that color and slip the others (Figure 3, below). Work the return row by purling the worked stitches and slipping the remainder. Because the stitches on the return rows are always worked as they were on the right-side row, slip-stitch charts typically only show the right-side (forward) rows. A column of dark and light squares to the right of slip-stitch charts indicates which color (light or dark) should be used for each two-row sequence.

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3

Slip-stitch patterns are appropriate for all types of projects, but because the slipped stitches tend to spread horizontally when blocked, be sure to measure your gauge carefully on a washed and blocked swatch before planning the number of stitches to cast on. Most slip-stitch patterns involve no more than five consecutive slipped stitches to prevent long floats that can cause the fabric to pucker. The slipped stitches tend to appear a little larger than the knitted or purled stitches, which can give slip-stitch patterns a subtle but pleasing appearance.

—from Color Style

Holi Mitts by Jaya Srikrishnan

See how easy this technique is? I want to try this on a small scale, like with the Holi Mitts by Jaya Srikrishnan, pictured at right, also from Color Style. The Holi Festival occurs every spring in India (in English, it's the Festival of Colors), and the highlight is when participants toss dyes and water at each other, resulting in brightly tinted clothing and skin. That sounds like a wonderful way to welcome the spring!

Get Color Style today and bring some brightness into your life! It's on sale in our fabulous Hurt Book and Overstock sale, too!


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