Thursday, March 12, 2009

Two Strand Colourwork: A Tutorial

Ok, I will be the first to admit that the quality of the video leaves a lot to be desired. I shot a better one, but it didn't save on the memory stick. And given a choice between a bad video that was actually recorded and a better video that was not recorded, I'll take the recorded one every time. But you get the idea, I hope. If not, I will show some stills that will hopefully clear things up. And after following this tutorial and with a little practice, you may be doing some two stranded work just as proficiently.

I took the video while working on my alpaca hat and promised some more details about how I work it. Let me say up front that this is not the only way to work with two colours, and very likely not even the best way. But it's how I do it. You may notice in the video that I'm a thrower. I've tried to learn picking because I really think it's faster, more efficient and all that. But I started too late (on the picking), or too early (on the throwing), or however you want to look at it.

So in two strand work, I throw both. Some knitters can pick one and throw the other which sounds great and cool, but like I said, I throw both.

First for the set up. You want your contrast colour (CC=blue in this case) to run over your forefinger, and your main colour (MC=reddish in this case) to run between your thumb and finger. Like so:
In this example, we're going to be doing 3 sts MC followed by 1 st CC. This pattern was repeated across the row, but I'm just going to detail one repeat.

The first stitch is done with MC, so I want to ignore the CC, and loop my forefinger under the MC to pick it up. (From the position in the last picture you "sweep" your forefinger down and scoop up the MC strand):

Then wrap around the needle and knit the next stitch like usual:

Now to knit the next stitch which is also MC, grasp the MC strand between your thumb and finger and wrap it behind and under the CC strand

Then wrap the needle and knit the next stitch like usual:

And now to knit the third MC stitch, scoop up the MC strand with your forefinger again and bring it under, behind and then over the CC:

Then knit the stitch like usual:
Incidentally, we are now back to the original position (CC over the forefinger, MC between thumb and finger). But next is a CC stitch. To knit it, simply lift the CC strand with the forefinger to wrap around the needle. (Do not move it between the thumb and finger; just "lift and push" it with the finger.)

and knit:

And repeat. And repeat.

You must remember to not knit too tightly. Try to relax and don't let your stitches bunch up too much. If they're spread out, it will help to lengthen the non-working strands which will give you better tension.

This method differs from regular Fair Isle, and the two can be used in different applications. In Fair Isle, the non-working yarn is left loose and leaves a loop on the back. This greatly reduces the chance of the non-working colour showing through to the front. But there's a limit to how many stitches you can strand behind. (EZ says not to go more than 5. Her daughter, Meg, prefers to use 1" as her standard.)

In the method demonstrated, the non-working strand is trapped by the working yarn.
Back of work (wrong side)

I think it is easier to have an even tension with this method, and it lessens the likelihood of pulling a loop which may cause a pull in the sweater or, worse yet, break the yarn. (Think especially in sleeves where this is a real hazard, what with rings and long fingernails.) If  you maintain the pattern given of working the yarn first under, then over, the non-working strand, your different strands will not twist and tangle. If your pattern contains an odd number of stitches in each colour, it will always even out. If there are an even number of stitches, you can simply "untwist" them by changing your wrap direction once in the next colour block.

I hope you find this helpful. As with many techniques it's gets easier and more natural with practice and experience.

-Colouring Christina

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