New Year, New Techniques: Learn to Knit Colorwork

One of the great joys of being a knitter is that there’s always more to learn. After you tie off the final stitch of your first project—be it a scarf, a hat, or something else—you can be sure of having myriad new techniques to try. The same is true for your hundredth and thousandth project; there’s always more to learn.

To kick off the new year, we’re highlighting the major techniques that knitters want to tackle in the new year, starting with knitted colorwork!

Start Knitting Colorwork

For many people (myself included), knitted colorwork is the first thing that catches their eye and draws them into the craft. Fabulous Fair Isle knit sweaters and Bohus yoke sweaters were some of the pieces that first attracted me to knitting. However, it’s also a technique that many knitters wait to try, for fear it’s too complicated.

But colorwork, like any other knitting skill, can be eased into!

Clockwise from bottom left: Photos of Quiet Nights Cowl, Slippery Slope Socks, Pipette Hat, and Silver City Shawl by Harper Point Photography. Photo of Moby Hat by Molly Stevenson.

There are many different kinds of colorwork to try your hand at, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface with my own knitting. Our Knitted Colorwork Patterns collection of patterns offers a wonderful introduction to colorwork knitting. It includes slip-stitch colorwork, stranded colorwork, and some gorgeous colorwork and cable combinations.

Julia’s Adventures in Colorwork

For my part, I made the (foolish) decision in December to knit two colorwork patterns for my two sisters as gifts for the holidays. Pro-tip: don’t start your holiday projects in December. Just don’t.

Ibex Valley Mittens | Interweave Knits Winter 2018

Alas, I can’t take my own advice, although one of the two patterns has been on the needles for a while. I’ve talked about knitting Cheryl Toy’s Ibex Valley Mittens a couple of times before as I’ve worked through them. My first attempt resulted in complete frogging: I was pulling the floats too tightly on the wrong side, making the fabric pucker. These mittens are already quite small, so I knew I needed to keep the floats looser.

I’ve just got the thumb on the liner to do!

On my second attempt, I was much more successful. If you’re working on your own stranded project this year, I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your floats loose. I also enacted a policy of tacking any float longer than four stitches to the wrong side, which resulted in a much tidier inside. No one will ever see that but me, however, since the liner is joined on the inside with a Latvian Braid.

Oslo Hat | Interweave Knits Holiday 2017

My other winter project presented a new colorwork challenge for me. The Oslo Hat by Lisa Jacobs uses a combination of two different types of colorwork. The traditional Scandinavian stripes that decorate the earflaps are created using the slip-stitch method of colorwork, a technique I’d never tried before.

Oslo Hat | Photo by Harper Point Photography

Truth be told, it took me a few tries, especially since the bottom of each earflap also includes increases, which required me to pick up the bar between stitches. What kept tripping me up was my impulse to knit or purl that picked-up stitch. It was only after a few attempts that I realized I needed to slip it as any other stitch!

Going to be doing A LOT of knitting this week if I expect to have a hat by Friday.

Along with slip-stitch colorwork, this hat also uses stranded colorwork on its brim and crown, meaning it’s a wonderful way to explore two different techniques in one project.

As I write this in late December, I’m nearly done with the mittens and just finished both earflaps. I have, as is tradition, bitten off WAY more than I can chew, but it has been an informative experience.

As I said at the beginning, there’s always more to learn in knitting—or any craft, for that matter. So, join me in challenging yourself this year. What new techniques will you take on in 2021?

Happy Knitting,

Header image: Ibex Valley Mittens by Cheryl Toy from Interweave Knits Winter 2018. Photo by Harper Point Photography

Add Some Colorwork to the Queue