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Tips

How to Knit Stranded Colourwork

Have you wanted to try knitting colourwork, but think it’s too hard or you don’t have the right skills? Then this post is for you! Here are my tips for beginner knitters to get started with knitting colourwork patterns and let me assure you – you absolutely can do it!

There are so many beautiful colourwork knitting patterns out there, everything from sweaters to hats to socks! Starting a colourwork knitting pattern for the first time can be intimidating. But I assure you, knitting stranded colourwork is not as hard as it looks and if you can knit the basic knitting stitches you can knit stranded colourwork. 

These tips will help beginner level knitters mast the basics of stranded colourwork. 

Tips for Stranded Colourwork: Gauge and Swatching

What is gauge?

If you’re not familiar with the term gauge and what it means, here’s a quick rundown. 

Gauge is how many stitches and rows of knitting fit within certain measurements, usually measured over 4”.  The pattern for your colourwork project should include the gauge and the stitch pattern to measure your gauge over.

Gauge can change depending on many factors, some yarn doesn’t puff up, or bloom, as much as others, certain fibers can knit up tighter or looser. And naturally knitters can have a tighter or a looser gauge as well.

If your gauge is tighter than the designer’s gauge, that means that your stitches are smaller, so it takes you more stitches to knit 4”. If you try to knit the colourwork project at that gauge with the designers instructions, it will come out way too small!! 

The opposite is true if your gauge is too big, your project will come out too big as well as it takes you less stitches than the designer to knit 4”. 

Measuring gauge when knitting stranded colourwork

To measure your gauge you will need to knit a swatch using the yarn you are going to use. 

A swatch is a square of fabric knit in the stitch you need to measure your gauge. Most colorwork knitting patterns will tell you to swatch using the colourwork part of the pattern, the pattern may also include the gauge for other stitches that are used in the design.  

For your swatch, you should cast on more stitches than you need for 4” and knit more rows than needed so your square is larger than 4” by 4” as you’ll want to measure in the middle, not near the edges where your stitches can be tighter or looser. 

Make sure you block your swatch so you have an accurate measurement of gauge. 

Once your swatch is blocked and dry it’s time to measure your gauge. I always start with rows personally! 

Lay your measuring tape down at the top of a stitch and count the number of stitches that fit in 4”. That’s how many rows you knit to reach 4” in length. 

Then lay your measure tape across your swatch starting from the left side of a stitch and count the number of stitches across to 4”. That’s how many stitches it takes to reach 4” across.

How stranded colourwork can affect gauge

Just like regular knitting, your colourwork can be tighter or looser, and because you are knitting a different technique you may find your colourwork is tighter or looser than your regular knitting. It’s really common for knitters to knit more tightly when knitting colourwork. 

If you are new to knitting stranded colourwork you should swatch over the colourwork portion of the knitting pattern, even if the pattern hasn’t said to, as you’re not used to what your gauge is over stranded colourwork.

What to do if your gauge is too small

If you are getting more stitches or rows in 4” than the pattern states than your stitches are tighter. To remedy this go up a needle size (or two if you’re really small) and swatch again to get looser, bigger stitches. 

What to do if your gauge is too big

If you are getting less stitches or rows in 4” than the patterns states than your stitches are looser. To remedy this go down a needle size (or two if you’re really loose) and swatch again to get tighter, smaller stitches. 

Tips for Stranded Colourwork Knitting: Reading Colourwork Knitting Patterns

Colourwork knitting patterns can have written or charted instructions. Most colourwork knitting patterns will be charted and may or may not have written instructions. 

Here’s an example with a quick colourwork pattern I’ve just made up on the spot. We will be discussing colourwork knit in the round from now on, as stranded colourwork is most commonly knit in the round. 

Written instructions will give the pattern instructions for the colourwork pattern like this (normally the written instructions would use abbreviation, but I have written them in full so it’s easy to understand):

Round 1: * Knit 7 stitches with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 2: * knit 1 stitch with colour A, knit 5 stitches with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 3 & 4: * knit 1 stitch with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, knit 3 stitches with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, knit 1 stitch with colour B, knit 1 stitch with colour A, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 5: * knit 1 stitch with colour A, knit 5 stitches with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 6: * Knit 7 stitches with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

The chart for these same instructions looks like this:

As you can probably tell it’s a lot quicker to read – and to create – the chart. it also makes it easier to avoid mistakes! This is why most stranded colourwork knitting patterns provide charted instructions only. 

How to read a colourwork knitting pattern chart?

The first thing you should note when looking at the colourwork chart is the legend which will tell you which colour is which. The pattern will note how the different colours are labeled, some common ones are:

MC for Main colour and CC for contrast colour 

CA, CB, CC for Colour A, B, C etc.

C1, C2, C3 Colour 1, 2, 3 etc.

The example I’m going to show is just two colours, but stranded colourwork patterns can have 2 or more colours. 

In this legend the colours are marked Colour A and Colour B

You need to keep in mind which colours you are using for each, so you may be using black for Colour A and red for Colour B so where the chart is purple you will use black and where it is pink you will use red. 

The chart is read from the bottom right, it’s the opposite of how you’d read something normally, but it is also the direction in which you knit from right to left and starting at the bottom of a piece. 

The numbers along the bottom label the stitches and the numbers on the side are the rows/rounds. It is also common for charts to show more than one repeat, in this pattern a repeat is 8 stitches, but three repeats are shown to give a better idea of the pattern.

So you will start with round 1 but knitting 7 stitches in colour A, then 1 stitch in colour B and repeat that all the way around. 

Then you’ll move up to round 2 and knit 1 stitch in colour B, 5 stitches in colour A, 1 stitch in B, 1 stitch in A and repeat those 8 stitches all the way around. 

Then you’ll move up to round 3 and continue until you have knit the whole chart. 

Stranded Colourwork Knitting: What are floats? 

So now you know how to read the chart, but how do you actually knit with two colours? It’s a lot simpler than it seems. You will be creating strands, called floats, along the back of your knitting.

Floats are the strands of yarn that will be on the inside of your project. You create a float when you knit the next stitch in a different colour and bring that yarn strand across a section of stitches. 

Using stitches 2 to 6 in round 3 of our sample chart here’s an example: 

Stitch 2 is knit in colour B followed but three stitches in colour A. When we switch back to knit the 6th stitch in colour B a float is created behind the 3 stitches knit in colour A.

Catching floats

If you have to bring your yarn across a lot of stitches it is common to use a technique called catching, or trapping floats. This makes it so you can avoid having such a long loose float. This helps with the overall tension so a long float doesn’t pull too tight or be left too loose. 

You won’t need to catch your floats every time, only when you have a lot of stitches to cross. It’s recommended to catch floats when the float is going across 7 or more stitches, or longer than an inch. 

So in rounds 1 and 6 of our example, you’d probably want to catch your floats. You’ll catch your floats by trapping the non-working yarn behind your working yarn when you knit a stitch. 

Using round 6 as an example:

Knit 3 stitches with colour A (the working yarn). Then before working the fourth stitch, take the non-working yarn (colour B) and put it over the working yarn before knitting your next stitch. 

Now when you knit the next stitch with colour A the non-working yarn (colour B) is trapped by your working yarn, creating a shorter float. 

Managing the tension of your floats

When knitting stranded colourwork it’s important to manage the tension of your floats. If your floats are too tight then your knitting will be pulled in by the floats and pucker, it won’t lie flat. If your floats are too loose your stitches will be loose as well and won’t lie evenly in your knitting. 

To avoid tight floats stretch out your stitches along the right hand needle when you are creating your float so the float is going across the stitches at their full width and not bunched up. 

In the picture above I’m stretching out the three stitches in colour A so that when I knit the next stitch with colour B the float is not too tight. 

To avoid loose floats make sure the float is lying taunt, but not tight, against the back of your work and the stitches on either end are even and not loose. 

How to hold your yarn when knitting stranded colourwork

How you hold your yarn to knit colourwork will depend if you’re an english or continental style knitter. I knit english style and I will hold my yarn in one of two ways depending on how I’m feeling that day (LOL) and depending on how often I have to switch colours. 

One hand

If I don’t have to switch colours too often, I will just drop the working yarn and pick up the next colour with my right hand and keep going. So this means I just keep knitting normally in english style pausing every now and then to drop the working yarn and pick up the next colour. I only use my right hand to hold the working yarn. 

Two hands

If I have to switch colours frequently I will hold a strand of yarn in each hand and knit a combination of english and continental style. 

How you hold the yarn will depend on what you’re comfortable with! Experiment with different techniques as you learn. You can also use tools like a Norwegian knitting thimble to help manage your yarn strands. 

Don’t cross the streams!

Except for when you are catching floats, avoid crossing your yarns strands if you can as it will cause them to tangle and it will eventually be difficult for you to pull from your yarn. 

To avoid crossing the strands always take your second colour from underneath the first so you’re not crossing it over the yarn coming from the ball (except of course when catching floats and you want to cross the non-working yarn over the working yarn). 

There you have it! Those are the basics of knitting stranded colourwork, not so bad right? Now you’re ready to go out and tackle your first stranded colourwork knitting pattern. If you need a suggestion I’ve recently released a beginner friendly colourwork hat pattern called Brigand – you can find it on Ravelry! It’s worsted weight and is has instructions for three sizes: baby/toddler, child, and adult. 

Categories
Knits of Steele Designs

Brigand Pattern Release: New Hat Knitting Pattern

Hello everyone! Today is a very exciting day because I’ve just released a new knitting pattern! I teased this knit colourwork hat back in my January 2021 round up post and it is finally out.

This cute colourwork knit hat uses two colours of worsted weight yarn and comes in three sizes, baby/toddler, child and adult. I think it would look great on anyone and there are so many fun colour combinations that you can experiment with.

The colourwork is simple and engaging, the colourwork portions are charted in the knitting pattern. This pattern is great for beginner level knitters who are looking for a first stranded colourwork pattern and learning how to read charts.

I’ll be putting out a blog post next week with some tips for getting started with stranded colourwork for anyone who wants to try, but feels a bit hesitant about the skills involved.

Spoiler for that post: it is easier than it looks and you can totally do it!!!

I went out with my dad for a cute photo shoot in the park before all the snow melts and we got some great photos! He even modeled Brigand for me.

You can find the Brigand hat knitting pattern in my Ravelry store and if you purchase before end of day on Februay 28th (eastern time) you can save 30% with the code BRIGANDRELEASE2021.

Categories
Knitflix and Chill

What’s on my Valentine’s Day Knitflix List

Hello knitters! Love is in the air and Valentine’s day is approaching. I know that it is super corny, but I really enjoy this holiday because I love pink! AND I like cheesy romance movies, particularly of the ’90s variety.

So this week while I’m sitting on the couch with my knitting here are the movies on my Valentine’s Day knitflix list.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

This movie is on the top of my list because I haven’t seen it! I didn’t jump on the bandwagon when this movie was trending, so now here it is on my list and little bit late for all the hype.

Dirty Dancing

A classic! I saw Dirty Dancing for the first time on TV one weekend when I was a teenager and have loved it ever since. This movie is a must-watch for me every year.

P.S. I Love You

Get the tissues!! This is a great movie, but boy oh boy what a tear jerker. I just love the story, it’s different from your typical romance film, and the soundtrack is excellent.

Romeo + Juliet

You can’t get more classic than Shakespeare right? I have been wanting to watch this movie again and Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion.

To be clear I’m talking about the 1996 one with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. But the more traditional one from the ’60s is good too!

10 Things I Hate About You

If you want a ’90s teen romantic comedy movie than look no further! This is another of my favourite movies, but I’m not sure I’ll be giving it a watch this week because I just watched it a couple weeks ago…

Fun fact: this story is based on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew. The first time I watched this movie was for English class in school. So I guess two points for Shakespeare on this knitflix list!

If you need a knitting project to get you in the Valentine’s Day spirit, check out my For the Love of Stripes knit hat design on Ravelry. This free hat knitting pattern is inspired by Valentine’s Day!

Categories
Free Patterns

Scrappy Colourblock Hat

Hi everyone, I’m here today with a free knitting pattern for a super bulky weight hat. This scrappy colourblock hat is a great pattern for all of your leftover bits of Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick or other super bulky weight leftovers.

This is also an easy level free knitting pattern and it is a beginner friendly hat pattern. This is a really great free knitting pattern for your first hat if you are just learning to knit.

You only need to know how to knit and purl, knit two together and slip slip knit, and knit in the round. I know that seems like a lot if you’re just getting started and learning to knit, but it’s easy I promise!

If you’re learning to knit and don’t know how to do those things you can pick them up really easily! Here are some helpful tutorials:

Knitting in the round

1×1 ribbing

Knit two together

This free hat pattern also makes for a great last minute gift because it works up super quickly and it only requires a bit of each colour so you can make it with bits of leftover yarn from your stash.

I wanted to call this hat the Oh Sh!t last minute gift hat! If you’re anything like me you leave your Christmas gift knitting until last minute. I do this every year and whip up some last minutes hats, mittens or ear warmers using super bulky yarn. These projects come together so fast and make great handmade Christmas gifts.

So this year I started to tally up who still needed a gift. We are not doing any Christmas gatherings this year, but we do have some family dropping by to do a socially distanced gift exchange. I wanted to knit up a couple quick handmade gifts, but when I looked in my yarn stash…there was not a full skein of super bulky in sight!

This year with the lockdown it’s hard to just run out to the craft store and grab some super bulky yarn, and even if you can run to a store yarn has been in short supply. And this hat works up SO QUICK I knit the adult, child, and baby size all in one day.

I always have a TON of leftover bits of super bulky weight yarn like Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick. But never enough for a full hat, a half skein of one colour, a quarter of another, bits and bobs leftover from hats and mittens.

This hat is knit in the round from the brim up. 16” circular needles are used until the decrease rounds when it is necessary to switch to DPNs or magic loop to maintain tension.

This knit hat comes in three sizes: baby/toddler, child, and adult. This knitting pattern is written for the smallest size with the numbers for the larger sizes in brackets. 

Required skills: knitting in the round, knit, purl, knit two together, slip slip knit

Yarn

  • Super bulky – Sample used Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick
  • Colour A: 9 (11, 12) yds
  • Colour B: 9 (11, 12) yds
  • Colour C: 9 (11, 12) yds
  • Colour D: 9 (11, 12) yds
  • Total: 36-48 yds

Needles

  • US 13 (9 mm) 16” Circular needles and DPNs or size to obtain gauge

Notions

  • Yarn needle for weaving in ends
  • BOR marker
  • 3 stitch markers (different from BOR)

Gauge

  • 10 sts and 14 rows = 4” by 4” in stockinette stitch

Sizing

  • Baby/Toddler (Child, Adult)
  • Fits head circumference 17-18” (19-20”, 21-23”)

Abbreviations

BOR: beginning of round

CO: cast on

dpn(s): double-pointed needles

k: knit

k2tog:  knit 2 together

p: purl

pm: place marker

Rnd(s): Round(s)

ssk: slip slip knit; slip next 2 stitches one at a time as if to knit, return to left needle and knit 2 together through back loops

sm: slip marker

st(s): stitch; stitches

Pattern Instructions

With Colour A CO 36 (40, 44)  sts.

Join to work in the round and place BOR marker

Brim

Work 3 (4, 4) rnds of 1×1 ribbing (k1, p1 around)

Knit 1 (1, 2) rnds

Hat Body

Switch to Colour B

Knit 4 (5, 6) rnds 

Switch to Colour C

Knit 4 (5, 6) rnds 

Decreases

Switch to Colour D

Set up row: *K9 (10, 11), pm, repeat from * to end of rnd

Rnd 1: *Ssk, k to 2 sts. before next marker, k2tog, repeat from * to end of rnd

Rnd 2: knit to end of rnd

Repeat rnds 1 and 2 until 12 (8, 12) sts. remain, switching to DPNs when circumference becomes too small for 16” circular needles.

Finishing

Cut yarn leaving at least an 8 inch tail, using a yarn needle weave yarn tail through remaining sts. and pull tight. Weave in ends.

Make sure you share your projects on social media and don’t forget to tag me!

I really hope you enjoy this free hat knitting pattern for the scrappy colourblock hat! You can see my other knitting patterns in my Ravelry store and follow me on Instagram to keep up with all of my knitting adventures.

Categories
Free Patterns Knits of Steele Designs

Free Hat Knitting Pattern: Hazelnut Latte

I’m so excited to share this new free knitting pattern with you for this pretty worsted weight knit hat. This free hat knitting pattern is great for beginner level knitters.

I started this knit hat in late 2019 or early 2020, I’m not really sure because I ended up putting it down at some point and leaving it dormant for a while! But it’s finally finished and now it’s available as a free knitting pattern for you.

My inspiration for this easy knit hat was something really squishy and cozy to wear in the early spring and late fall. The perfect knit hat for that chilly transition weather. A simple style with just enough detail to keep it interesting. 

And the name….well I bet you can guess what I was drinking when I thought up this design 😉

This is a fairly easy knit hat that would be suitable for beginner level knitters who have knit a couple of hats already. This free knitting pattern is a unisex design and would look great in any colour, I think it would suit variegated yarn very well!

I used Red Heart Chic Sheep by Marly Bird for this knit hat in the colour Linen which is such a soft and cozy shade of white. This yarn is so soft and squishy. It’s the perfect yarn for a cozy and simple knit hat. You may recognize it from the free knitting pattern Hacked Hat that I put out on this blog earlier in 2020. 

I settled on reverse stockinette for this free knit hat pattern. Knit inside out to avoid all that purling, with knit stitch details along the decreases to create the illusion of a seam. 

One of the most challenging things to figure out for this free hat pattern design were the decreases. I’m used to decreasing on the right side using a knit-two-together and slip-slip-knit to create paired decreases, but this design is knit wrong side out so it required decreasing in reverse. 

So I ended up using purl-two-together and -slip-slip-purl. The slip-slip-purl was a new technique for me and it took a little while to get used to. You can find a tutorial on Very Pink!

I almost gave up and just left it at a purl-two-together on each side, it didn’t look quite right but it would be “good enough”. I’m so glad I took the time to figure it out. It took a little trial and error but I finally got it! And it was totally worth all the extra effort. 

I put this knit hat in hibernation again for a while after figuring out the decreases, but the cool weather sparked my desire to finish this cozy hat and to write it up as a free hat knitting pattern. It’s available as a free Ravelry download!

Hazelnut Latte has been a staple in my wardrobe this fall and I love it so much. I hope you feel the same! You can download the free knitting patter for Hazelnut Latte on Ravelry: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/hazelnut-latte

Use this link to Save it on Pinterest for later!