How to knit stripes and how to knit with more than one yarn color

Answers to some commonly asked questions:

Do I break the yarn off every time I switch colors?

No, you don’t. When you are finished with color A, leave it idle. Start with new color and knit according to your pattern. When you are ready to resume with color A, pull it up loosely at side of knitting and work according to pattern. The float—that’s what the yarn you are pulling up at side of knitting is called—should not be too tight nor too loose. You should be able to stretch knitting without float becoming too taut.

I have more than 20 rows between colors—is it wise to pull up new color over that many rows?

That depends on the garment you are knitting. If it is a sweater and the edge will become part of the seam, the float can be longer. If it is on a scarf, long floats are unsightly and on children’s clothing, little fingers can get caught in long floats.

My next color is at the other end of the needle—what do I do?

You’ll have to use a circular needle if you are knitting back and forth and the pattern calls for a single row in a color. With a circular needle you can knit from the left and the right end of your knitting So if your next color is at the other end, don’t turn knitting around the way you normally do for the next row, simply slide stitches to the other end again to knit the same row over again, but now with new yarn color waiting at that end. One word of caution: make sure you keep pattern intact. If pattern calls for stockinette stitch (knitting on right side and purling on wrong side) and new yarn color is at left, and you just finished a purl row, your next row will be another purl row, because when you slide stitches to the right, you are still facing the purl or wrong side and your next row will be a purl row.

How do I switch colors when knitting in the round?

You pull up new color loosely on inside of knitting and go behind yarn color you just finished with to start next stitch with new color. In other words: yarns are crossed, to avoid hole where you start with new color.

My pattern calls for knitting with two (or more) colors in the same row, alternating colors every few stitches— how do I do that?

At beginning of row, twist yarns around each other once. Start row by knitting number of stitches in color A according to pattern, then switch to color B by pulling it along behind stitches you just knit in color A. Idle color yarn is pulled along on wrong side to where it is used again. In other words: floats are horizontal on wrong side of knitting. Make sure floats are as stretchable as your knitting. They should not become tight, if you stretch your knitting width-wise, nor should they be dangling loosely.

I’m knitting with bulky yarn. Can I switch yarn colors with bulky yarn? Doesn’t it get too thick where I cross over yarns or pull it up at side of knitting? And what about working with 2 colors of bulky in same row?

Yes, bulky yarns require a different approach: if are knitting stripes that are more than 3 rows or rounds apart, break off yarn leaving just enough yarn to tie a knot (using square knot, see illustration in > Knitting with lace yarn) with new color. And when starting a new skein of yarn, it’s usually less noticeable to tie a knot than to darn in ends. If you are using two colors per row, make sure that the added thickness (by pulling second color along horizontally, you are doubling the thickness of your knitting) is what you want. On a hat or a pair of mittens, the thick layer will mean extra warmth, on a sweater, however, it adds bulk that you might not find desirable.

I’m knitting with lace yarn. Do I do anything differently?

If you knit a shawl or scarf using large needles (to create a loose fabric), it is better to tie knots when starting new colors or switching colors. Darning in ends, unless you do it along the edge, looks unsightly on loosely knit shawls. Can I mix white yarn with black or other dark colors? Won’t dark colors run?

With Morehouse Merino there is some slight discoloration of the water if you wash dark colors, but not enough to affect the white color yarn. So, go ahead, knit white stripes on a navy colored hat.

Do colors fade?

Not under normal circumstances. But if you leave the yarn basket sitting near a sunny window for a very long time, the yarn might fade where exposed to strong sunlight.