Knitting Colors Successfully

Color knitting is a challenge, but it's so much fun and it looks so amazing that it's worth it. Don't you agree? I'm working on a cowl right now that is has a bee hive look. I'm using charcoal, chalk, and yellow for the colors. I just love it.

It's a Fair Isle knitting pattern, and I had to take out a few rounds because the fabric was puckering. I don't know why, but I seem to have a death grip on my yarn when I first start and project that involved knitting colors. I'm working with fingering-weight yarn, and I think I'm holding it tight because it's so thin. I've done lots of colorwork with thicker yarns, and my tension is fine. I really need to get this problem under control, and I found these tips (from an episode of Knitting Daily TV) to be helpful:

Avoid Pulling and Puckering: Make your stranded colorwork as even as possible—avoid pulling and puckering by knitting your circular project inside out. When you're carrying two yarns at the same time, the non-working yarn is being stranded and floats. When the floats get pulled too tight, the knitting puckers. So first off, really stretch your work as you knit. Another tip is to turn your work inside out and knit with the wrong-side facing—the yarn has a longer way to travel.

I haven't tried the inside-out technique, but if I can't get get my tension to loosen up a bit, I think I'll give it a whirl. So far, being mindful of stretching the stitches when I switch colors is working for me.

Since we're on the topic of color knitting, I have some more tips for you:

Figure 2: A homemade intarsia bobbin

Figure 1: managing yarn in intarsia knitting
Figure 3: Floating yarns on the
surface of the fabric
, front view
Figure 4: Floating yarns on the
surface of the fabric
, back view

Make Intarsia Knitting Easier: Intarsia knitting is notorious for strands of yarns getting tangled up. A simple way to avoid the tangles is to use short lengths of yarns, no more than one yard, and just let them tangle. Because you're working with short lengths, you can easily untangle them as you go (Figure 1).

You can also make bobbins to hold your yarn lengths. Make them out of poster board (Figure 2). This shape allows you to unravel as you need.

Minimize Color Pooling with Handpainted Yarns: Handpainted, multi-colored yarns have a tendency to pool (areas where the same color stack upon itself row-to-row). You can minimize this pooling by first winding two balls from the same hank of yarn. Then, when working flat, alternate the balls of yarn at the end of every other row. When working in the round, switch the yarn every row. These techniques will reduce the chance of color stacking up.

This next one isn't really a tip, but a whole new technique. I took a class on this technique, from Nancy Bush, and it's called Roositud knitting. It's kind of like embroidering while you knit. Roositud is an Estonian inlay technique in which groups of stitches are wrapped with a contrasting color yarn, following a charted pattern. The groups of stitches are wrapped from right to left in a series of two-round sequences.

What's talked about below and shown at left is a simplified version of the Roositud technique, called woven knitting. I especially love the sample that uses ribbon!

Float Yarns on the Knitted Surface: Woven knitting is a technique that creates floats on the front of the fabric (Figures 3 [front] and 4 [back]). It's not to be confused with slip stitching, because unlike slip stitching, the strand of yarn is woven back and forth through the knitting, never knitted.

Figure 5: Using ribbon to create
woven knitting

Woven knitting really shows off novelty yarns and ribbon yarns, too—be careful to keep ribbon flat as you're working (Figure 4).

Tip: If you don't want to drop your yarn each time, hold the yarns as if you're doing stranded colorwork. Since the floating yarn isn't worked, you'll need to watch your tension so it's not too tight or loose.

Want to know something? All of these tips are from Knitting Daily TV, which is available on! There's a real bounty of information on Craft Daily, and its videos are available for streaming wherever you are, whenever you want.

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P.S. Do you have any colorwork tips to share with us? Leave a comment; we'd love to hear them!

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