Stripe it Rich!

As I travel the United States teaching workshops and doing book signings, knitters often approach me and confess, usually in a whispered tone, that they’re timid about multicolored projects. “Isn’t it hard to change colors?” “I’d rather not deal with a million yarn tails to weave in.” The easiest and most straightforward way to introduce color into your knitting is with stripes. To knit stripes, just start a contrast color at the beginning of a row. To attach the new yarn, temporarily tie it onto the old yarn, leaving a 6–8″ tail (Figure 1).

knit stripes

Figure 1

Loop the new yarn around the right needle and use it to work the first stitch of the row (Figure 2), then continue across the row with the new working yarn. (The illustration shows the beginning of a knit row, but this method also works for purl rows.)

knit stripes

Figure 2

When your knit stripes are finished, simply untie any knots and weave in the tails. There are several ways of dealing with yarn tails:

Weave in as you go, Continental style

Work the first stitch of a stripe normally. Work the second stitch by inserting the right needle into the stitch as usual, then, prior to working the stitch, bring the yarn tail over the working yarn and around the tip of the right needle counterclockwise. Finally, wrap the working yarn around the needle as usual, unwrap the tail back to its original position, and complete the stitch by pulling the working yarn through the stitch and onto the right needle. Continue in this fashion, alternating the first and second stitches for approximately 2″.

Weave in as you go, English style

Bring the yarn tail under the working yarn as you work the first stitch of a row. For the second stitch, bring the old yarn tail over the working yarn as you knit or purl the stitch. Continue in this way, bringing the tail alternately under and over the working yarn on the wrong side of the fabric for approximately 2″.

Weave in at the end

Use a blunt, wide-eyed yarn needle to make short running stitches on the wrong side of the fabric in a diagonal line for about 1″ or so, piercing the yarn strands that comprise the stitches of your fabric and preventing them from showing on the right side. Next, work back again to where you began, stitching right next to your previous running stitches. Finally, work a stitch or two, actually piercing the stitches you just created. For less bulk, work each tail individually and in opposite diagonal directions.

To minimize the number of ends to weave in, try to work an even number of rows in each knit stripe; this causes all stripes to begin and end on the same edge of the fabric. Then, rather than cutting the yarn after every stripe, just carry it loosely up the side edge until it is needed again (Figure 3).

knit stripes

Figure 3

If you are working several knit stripes, the two yarns will twist madly around each other unless you alternately pick one up from in front of the other, and then for the next stripe, grab the yarn from behind the other, untangling them as you go. (Trust me, this advice is worth the price of admission!) I suggest limiting the length of these “floats” to 1″ or so; if a stripe is wider than that, either cut the float or catch it by twisting it once with the working yarn. Otherwise, the floats become unwieldy and might snag as you knit.

knit stripes

The Blocker Tank is a great project for practicing your knit stripes.

Practice these striping techniques while knitting my Blocker Tank from knitscene Summer 2017. If you weave in the yarn tails as you go, you’ll have a great top ready to wear in no time!


Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

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