Changing Colours When Knitting Stripes 101

Knitting patterns that include different colour yarns make for beautiful projects. But does changing yarn colours make you nervous even with simple stripes? Don’t be nervous. Jump right in and choose the technique for changing colours that works best for you!

8 Simple Stripes Shawls

8 Simple Stripes Shawls

My 8 Simple Stripes shawl pattern uses two colours. There is the main colour and then a second colour for the stripes. This is a great pattern to learn about changing colours. With these stripes, the colour always changes at the edge of the knitting, the easiest place to change colours. Choosing the two colours is the fun part. But when you get to the first colour change what do you do with your yarns? To change colours, you simply drop the colour you were using and pick up the new colour at the beginning of the correct row. It’s just like starting a new ball of yarn.

8 Simple Stripes

8 Simple Stripes in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light

But what do you do with that dropped colour while you are working with the new colour? You have two choices. First, you could cut the yarn every time you change colours. Or, you could carry the yarn that you are not using up the side of your knitting so that it is right there for the next time it is needed. There are pros and cons to each choice and it really comes down to personal preference, or comfort level.

Cutting Dropped Colours When Knitting Stripes

Let’s look at cutting the colours first. With this technique you will cut the dropped colour every time you finish with it. You will pick up the new colour and work the new rows. Then you will drop and cut it and pick up the first colour again for that section. This is the technique I used with my first 8 Simple Stripes:

Sewing in Yarn Ends

Sewing in Yarn Ends

You can see from the above photo that this technique leaves a lot of ends to sew in. If you don’t like sewing in ends this might not be the technique for you! Plus, with so many ends to sew in, this area of the knitted piece might end up being a bit bulky from all those sewn-in ends. However, with this technique the edge of the knitting maintains an even tension because there are no extra yarns being carried up the edge that might pull it too tight. This is especially important in a project such as a shawl that will be blocked hard and the edges will need to stretch. Additionally, if you tend to get lost in your knitting and forgetful, it might just be easier to cut your ends rather than try to remember to carry that dropped yarn at the beginning of the appropriate rows.

Pros: The knitted edge maintains proper tension; don’t have to remember to carry the dropped yarn at beginning of every row.
Cons: Lots of ends to sew in; bulkiness from sewn-in ends.

Carrying Dropped Colours When Knitting Stripes

So let’s look at the second technique of carrying the yarn up the side of the knitting. I used this technique on my second 8 Simple Stripes.

8 Simple Stripes in Sweet Fiber Sweet Merino Lite

8 Simple Stripes in Sweet Fiber Sweet Merino Lite

In the photo below you can see that the teal colour is carried along the edge while I worked with the grey and the grey is carried along the edge while I worked with the teal. It is tucked inside the first stitch worked on each row.

Carrying Colours

Carrying Colours

The trick here is to maintain the proper tension of the carried yarn. I carried my yarn loosely because I knew I would be blocking this shawl quite hard. This takes practice to get a feel for the tension. I also had to remember at the beginning of every right side row to hold my carried yarn in front of my working yarn for the first stitch of the row. The big benefit to carrying the yarn, however, is that there are no ends to sew in later.

Pros: No ends to sew in; no bulkiness from sewn-in ends.
Cons: Must remember to carry the dropped yarn at the beginning of the row; must maintain proper tension.

How to Carry Dropped Colours When Knitting Stripes

Okay, so you’ve decided that you’re going to carry your dropped colours. How does that work exactly? I’ll show you!

When you are ready to change colours, at the beginning of the new row, drop the old colour. Pick up the the new colour and hold it behind the old colour, keeping the old colour loose, and begin knitting the next stripe. Continue to hold the old colour (loosely) in front of the new colour each time you start a new row at that edge of your knitting.

Of course, you may also choose to use a combination of these methods in a single project, carrying the colours in a section with many colour changes, and cutting a colour if it won’t be needed for a while. Choose whatever method or combination of the two that works for you!

2 thoughts on “Changing Colours When Knitting Stripes 101

Leave a Reply