Stranded Knitting Advice Sought

After I finish with my 2009 Christmas gifts (which will hopefully be in Sept), I want to work on some stranded work for myself --- Fair Isle –ish. In the past, I have noticed a few things.

1. Perhaps this is because I tend to knit too loosely but it sometimes seems that the yarn color below will peek thru…or…the yarn that is not the main color in the row but the contrasting color, sometimes it seems to disappear. Kinda hard to explain but perhaps someone will understand. What I was doing in the past was knitting the contrasting color even more loosely and it seemed to help. I guess my question is…is it best to knit more tightly when doing stranding?

2. I was reading in the Brooklyntweed blog about his new patterns. He mentions that when knitting a solid color section, and then moving into a section that has more than 1 strand of yarn, he recommends going up 2 or three needle sizes (to keep gauge). Do you do this? I am thinking (from memory but Lord knows if that is right) that knitting with more than 1 color strand does cause it pucker inward more. Just wondering if you have thoughts about this.

If none of this makes sense…then lean toward the monitor and place your forehead gently onto the screen. I will be sending my thoughts and images via telepathy.


I used to do a lot of fair isle knitting and I never needed to change needle sizes. My own way of doing the stranding was to make sure that I didn't pull the 2nd colour too tightly behind the colour just knitted. I even tended to make sure the stitches were spread a little before carrying the 2nd colour behind them. It's like everything else, swatch and practise and you will perfect. If this doesn't make sense then see final paragraph of your post.

New York Built's picture

I tried your telepathy technique, and all I could receive was vague chanted polyphany, baseball scores being read by Red Barber, very specific instructions for a horse to be curried and small hardware parts lists frantically being screamed to an employee in Home Depot by a woman. Where are you?!!!!

"Think...then write...then rewrite...THEN publish."
- Mark's bathroom mirror sticky note to himself.

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

ronhuber's picture

I would grab a good book on Fair Isle Knitting and follow the advice that they give. Everyone has different ways of doing it but if you start out one way you can develop your own technique as you go along. Often Fair Isle and plain knitting do not go together well because Fair Isle, of course, is double. I certainly wouldn't do it unless the Fair Isle portion was on the yoke of the sweater. I have seen sweaters done in bands of plain and Fair Isle and they lose their shape and look terrible after a couple days of wearing. That is why it is a good idea to do corrugated ribbing on a Fair Isle sweater or a double stockinette stitch band as they are both double. Garter stitch bands or single ribbing might look nice for a day but are really floppy and should be avoided on Fair Isle sweaters. Do swatches of the pattern on dp's and that way you will be working in the round and can get a fairly good idea of what your gauge will be. Don't pull your stranded yarn too tightly. Use wool meant for Fair Isle such as Jamieson and Smith Shetland wool. Fair Isle responds to a good blocking and stretching (google tradition Fair Isle sweater strethcers) - another reason to avoid bands of Fair Isle and plain knitting.

Asplund's picture

Just a theory: I don't think knitting tighter with two colours will help - rather, I believe that might make it worse, since the fabric becomes less flexible and one strand might drown completely if knitted more tightly. Even tension is the trick in my opinon, or your suggestion knitting one strand slightly more loosely.

I don't change needle sizes if I move from one colour to stranded knitting - but I do knit more loosely. I learnt this the hard way: an early horror sweater I made that only a giant pear with arms like Popeye could have found comfortable!

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Another tip I just remembered is to basically turn your knitting inside out and carry the yarns on the outside of the project. You have the main part laying on your lap and your points are further away at the back of the work so the pattern is a bit trickier to keep track of. Franklin Habit mentions it in one of his blogposts and - if memory serves - some of the Andean knitters use this technique. If nothing else, it gives you a chance to learn the feel for proper tension/ease in the knitting. Then you could try the usual right side out method. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Thank you for your comments and ideas. Yes, I guess practice practice practice.