Philosopher's Two-handed Method

I don't know if this has been posted or not, but...well...


Philosopher's Wool Two-handed Method

Two-colour work WITHOUT stranding over more than two stitches AND being able to work with one colour for MORE than five stitches!

It makes for a heavier fabric and a much warmer garment!

Central Yarn Shop in Portland is going to start LOVING me and my double-the-amount purchases.


Asplund's picture

Thanks for the link! I've read about this method but haven't seen it done or tried it. Now off to practise!

Kerry's picture

I've tried it but don't use it as the tension in one hand seeems more than the other. I think I need a lot of practice.

AntBee's picture

Thank you for the heads-up on this technique! I haven't tried my hand at Fair Isle knitting or any colourwork knitting for that matter, I've been too afraid to try it. Perhaps in the new year, I'll give it a go.

albert's picture

This is a fun technique to do but it does produce a characteristic fabric which is a bit different from stranded knitting in that it has a bit of texture to it. The peeking through of the color from the back can happen here and there as well. The sweater I'm knitting now is being done with a slightly modified version of this method whereby I am weaving in on the back every third stitch as opposed to every other stitch as the P.W. folks do it. I'm finding that this produces a fabric closer to normal stranding while eliminating the tension concerns that I encounter with stranding.

Rob, how is the selection of yarns at Central Yarn- I've never been there.

rjcb3's picture

Well, I'm biased because I love all of the women in the shop, but...

I like the selection all in all. They carry Bartlett, which is all good for me. They carry a lot of New England (especially Vermont) wools, and they also carry Brown Sheep -- LOTS of it. I think they might have a wholesale agreement or something.

...pretty decent selection of sock yarn, but the good majority is good worsted weight sweater materials.

There's a whole section of just buttons! Boxes and boxes of buttons.

They also carry a couple of large rolls of Aida cloth and they also have a good selection of pre-printed needlepoint projects...and they also have a few baskets here and there with odds and ends discounted.

They usually have a sale on something some time and it changes. When they do their basket sales, everything on sale is in baskets strewn all over the shop! It's magnificent!

There's a great big couch and a huge work table -- some folks sit around and knit. All of their samples are knit by the people there...I know some shops (like the one up on Rt 1 in Freeport that's in the shape of a lighthouse) order pre-knit swatches for some of their yarns. These women will actually knit real items -- mostly sweaters -- and hang them in the shop and use them for demonstration. They sell the patterns to go along with them...and also have a few other vintage pattern books.

It's right on Congress Street a bit diagonally across the street from Starbucks.

New York Built's picture

Made several sweaters and projects with this technique...but it's only half the story. In Mary Thomas' Knitting Book, the author, back in 1938, wrote out, with great diagrams, how to do this technique in knit and purl, so that if you need to manipulate the work for any reason, you can. She also shows how to do it in flat knitting (should you be so inclined). I used this technique for the first sweater I posted on this site in my blog here.

Knowing how to purl can free you from the deadly drop shoulder syndrome...I love using BGW's Simultaneous Set-in Sleeve variation from Knitting From The Top, or you can short row in the sleeve, still in pattern and using Thomas' purl weaving stitch technique for stranded sweaters. Or steek it, and go your merry way.

By the way, it's a great thing to know to weave in ends as you knit. Haven't had to sew in an end in years.


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

rjcb3's picture

Oh, a breath of fresh air for the English language! You placed the apostrophe in the correct position -- AFTER the "s!"

I think I'm going to have to discover that book.

For some reason, I've always been fascinated by purling -- as much as I don't care for it and would be loathed to carry two colours doing it. I suppose I shouldn't say I don't care much for "purling" as much as I don't care for "purling back" after knitting all the way out on a flat piece.

I certainly don't care for steeking. 'not afraid of it, have done it and done it well without any stray strands popping loose; if the pattern is absolutely perfect, I'll certainly do it again -- sort of the same as an adult later on in life who has never driven so much as a mile finally getting a license for the love and need of driving one particular vehicle.

You've piqued my interest.


New York Built's picture

Thanks to Dover, it's available as a reprint. This is a true classic, with antique illustrations that reveal a far less gentle, far more ethnocentric bias of the post-Great War can hear Lloyd George sputtering in the background, if ya get my drift.

I am so pleased that the P.W. Bourgeois family have sustained this great technique of stranded knitting.

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

Thank you for this great link Robert. I have saved it for future use. It is a well done video in my opinion.

bobshome's picture

I like this method and have always used it. The color does peek through and the tension is different so you have to completely use different parts of the brain for right hand and left hand. Different functions and different tensions. It was interesting watching this video because that is how I started but developed my own version over the years. It's nice to go back and try the origin again.
Huge snow storm here in Montreal today, so I get to practice all the knitting techniques I want - Car doesn't want to leave the garage :-)

Tallguy's picture

This is the method I use as well. The reason you are getting the floating colour peeking through is that it has been allowed to be too loose when you are carrying it. When you insert the right needle UNDER the floating yarn, you must hold that yarn firmly so it does not have any flexibility in it. If it is allowed to bend, it will be pulled FORWARD by the tight knitting yarn. So you need to hold the float firmly, and allow the knit yarn to be looser. It works every time.

albert's picture

I have also realized this, though it was counterintuitive for me. My first thought was to make the float looser.

rjcb3's picture

That's what I found, too.

It's sort of a change in mentality when you're working with two colours: you learn when stranding to keep the floating yarn nice and moderately loose -- not too loose, but not taut and NEVER tight/snug (what did the Zimmermann woman call it...ah yes, a bane and a misfortune.)

When weaving the colours from behind, it's necessary to keep the floating colour just a bit more taut than what would have been learned when first doing two-colour knitting.

It's all learned and practiced.


Joe-in Wyoming's picture

All I can say is that I muddle along, hoping for the best. If it doesn't work out...froggie time! -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

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