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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
Monthly Round UP

January 2021 Round Up

Hi everyone! We made through the first month of 2021. I know this round up post is coming a little bit late, but I was really focusing on the tips for knitting your first sweater post and it was a beast!

That post ended up being so much longer than I originally planned, but I really hope that anyone who wants to knit their first sweater will find it useful.

January 2021 works in progress

I’m still working away on my For Fox Sake. I knit the sleeves this month, sometimes I like to do my sleeves first! I’m so ready to take on the rest of the body. Mindless stockinette is my go-to for knitting while reading and I have been doing a lot of that lately!

I’ve also been making progress on this baby blanket, I was trying to work on it for 30 minutes a day this month. I’ve been slacking recently, but I just need to do two more pattern repeats.

In February I’m setting a goal to knit a row a day and hopefully I’ll be finished by the end of the month.

January Finished Objects

I was so close to not having any Fos this month, but I finished my vampire vibes socks on January 31! I started these on Halloween and this has been my other go-to project lately for knitting and reading.

There were new cast ons in January!

Unless you count….

New design sneak peek

I have been working on a colourwork hat design for the past couple months! This is the Brigand hat. It uses worsted weight yarn and has a cozy double brim.

There are instructions for three sizes baby/toddler, child, and adult. By the time this is posted hopefully this pattern will be in testing. Keep an eye out for this pattern release sometime in February!!

New yarn!

I did some shopping this month!!! I don’t want to go too wild with buying yarn this year, however, I want to buy more yarn this year, specifically buying form indie dyers and local yarn stores.

Breaking Yarn

I won a gift card for Breaking Yarn from a knit-a-long hosted by Knitty Natty. Definitely go give Breaking Yarn a follow on Instagram. And the dyer just started a new podcast, so you should check that out too.

I picked up a skein of worsted and a sock set (showing significant restraint might I add because sooo many beautiful colours). As soon as I saw this yellow I knew I had to have it. It’s going to be a hat, I’m thinking something with cables.

Dragon Hoard Yarn

I am obsessed with the A Court of Thorns and Roses book series by Sarah J. Maas (more on that below) and Dragon Hoard yarn has a Sarah J. Maas inspired collection.

This is Valeris and it’s one of the mystery colourways from January. As you can see it’s beautiful, I will definitely be ordering more yarn from Dragon Hoard Yarn in the future (like maybe I already have some in a cart lol).

Shirley Brian Yarns

When I saw this this adorable knitasaurus bag from Shirley Brian Yarns I could not resist! I love a good dinosaur pun and while I was there I had to buy some yarn. This is Aperol Spritz on the slub base. I have been planning a faded sweater using slub yarn and this just fit right into my colour scheme I had to have it.

Reads of Steele

I have been reading a ton lately. At the end of December I read the whole A Court of Thorns and Roses series and it really brought back my love of reading. Here are all the books I’ve read this month (cheating a bit to include some I read at the end of December).

This is more books than I’ve read in the last two years! I used to love reading as a kid I devoured books, but lately reading didn’t hold much interest for me, which made me sad. I’m so happy to have my love of books back!

What’s my secret to knitting and reading? Ebooks! I read ebooks on my tablet propped up on a stand so it’s hands free, I just need to lift a hand every now and then to flip the page.

Knitflix

I was getting so bored and running out of things to watch, but I’ve re-discovered an old favourite and started some new shows with Matt.

  • Gilmore Girls – I started a re-watch of the series and it’s so nice to remember how much I love it. The early seasons are so fun! I’m halfway through season 3 now.
  • My Hero Academia – Matt and I were in need of a new show so he put this on the other night, he’s seen it before, and I was surprised by how much I got into it.
  • Marvel movies – we’ve been watching a lot of Marvel and other superhero movies lately. It’s a phase!
  • Wandavision – and of course with all the Marvel we’ve been watching we had to start this new Disney+ original

Thanks for reading the January round up! And as always you can follow my day-to-day knitting adventures on Instagram. I’d love to connect with you 🙂

Categories
Knits of Steele Designs

Cass Cowl Knitting Pattern

Introducing the….Cass Cowl knitting pattern!

Hello friends, today on the Knits of Steele knitting blog I want to tell you a bit more about my latest knitting design the Cass Cowl. This knitting pattern is squishy, it’s cozy, it has a big braided cable and twisted rib. This knit cowl design has everything I love and that’s why I named it after me!

This chunky knit cowl came to be way way back, I’m not even sure when. I think it was some time in 2019. I knew when I designed it that I eventually wanted to release the knitting pattern, but I lost my confidence a bit and even though I wrote the pattern up I never put it through testing or had it released.

But I set a goal in 2020 that I’m continuing this year to design more knitting patterns and release more of the knitting patterns that I already have written and ready to go. So starting of 2021’s schedule of releases here (finally) is the Cass Cowl knitting pattern!

I named this pattern after myself as a joke at first. It was a placeholder name until I could think of something better, but it just stuck and so it has remained the Cass Cowl. It feels like the right name for this knit design.

And the reason that it is a fitting name for this knitting pattern is that this knit cowl has so many of the design features that I love. Starting of with twisted rib. I’m not sure why I love twisted rib so much, but I do! It just adds a little something extra to a hat brim or sock cuff, or in this case the edges of a knit cowl, over traditional ribbing.

I designed this cowl knitting pattern when I was going through a cable phase. The big braided cable is offset to the side and starts right from the beginning of the cowl and goes right to end integrated into the twisted rib. For obvious reasons, this giant braided cable is my favourite part of this knit design.

And it’s all knit out of super cozy and squishy super bulky yarn!

I used Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick for this cowl, it takes just over 2 balls to complete. I used the colour Spice Market for this pattern, I’m in love with the rose gold, pink and yellow tones in this yarn! Unfortuantely, I think this colourway has been discontinued 😦

But no need to worry because this cowl looks great in any colour! It suits variegated and solid yarns just fine.

This knit cowl is honestly so squishy and cozy. It’s one of the warmest knit accessories I own and I always pull it out on super cold days. It’s large enough to come up and cover half of your face to ensure warmth, but also that you can still see! But it’s not so bulky that it’s uncomfortable and you can easily push it down to sit under or around your chin.

It keeps the wind out when it’s tucked into the collar of your coat and when paired with a hat it keeps your head and neck totally warm and covered from wind and snow.

Basically, the Cass Cowl is a Winter necessity!!

Cass Cowl Knitting Pattern Details

Yarn

  • 120 – 130 yds (110 – 120m) super bulky (6) weight yarn. 
  • Sample used 120 yds (110m) of  Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick in Spice Market.

Needles

  • US size 15 (10mm) circular needles 16-24” or size needed to obtain gauge

Notions

  • Yarn Needle
  • Cable needle
  • BOR Marker
  • Scissors

Gauge

  • 9 sts and 12 rows = 4” in stockinette st. 

Finished Measurements

  • 12.5” x 13.5” (32cm x 34cm) folded flat

You can purchase the Cass Cowl on Ravelry. Make sure you check out my release post on Instagram for a special discount code that’s valid through January 13th (Eastern Time).

I can’t wait to see your projects, make sure you tag me in any photos so I can check them out!

You can find my other designs and knitting patterns on Ravelry, and follow me on Instagram to stay up to date on new designs, sales and discounts, and knitting pattern releases!

Categories
Musings

2020 Knitting Goals Round Up

As most knitters can tell you, it’s really easy to get carried away with projects, to get side tracked with new yarn and new cast ons. It’s possible to do a lot of knitting and feel like you accomplished nothing! So for 2020 I set some knitting goals to keep me on track.

At the beginning of 2020, I wrote out my knitting goals for the year. It was actually one of my first posts on this knitting blog! Of course when I wrote this blog I had no idea the turn that 2020 would take… But despite being thrown for a loop by a global pandemic and seemingly endless months of lockdown – I made some good progress on my knitting goals!

Knitting goal 1: Colours

The colours that I wanted to knit with this year were one of my goals. This was because in 2019 I felt like a lot of my projects were really dark neutrals – there was A LOT of navy blue in 2019.

I wanted to use more bright colours because I really love bright pinks and teals and greens, but have never really brought them into my wardrobe.

I think I did pretty well with this goal. Here are some of my colourful projects from 2020.

Overlander Shawl

This was my Christmas Eve Cast on in 2019, but I didn’t finish it until mid-February. I absolutely love the colours I used a mini set from Holy Press Fibres for the contrast colours. The main colour is Mushroom on Artfil Belle which is a fingering sock yarn, and one of my favourites. I love the contrast of the bright colours and this gorgeous tonal great.

Sonya Tee

To say I am proud of this project would be an understatement! It was my most complicated stranded colourwork project (at the time I knit it – that title has possibly been claimed by my For Fox Sake).

I knit this in beautiful Sweet Georgia Yarns. I was hesitant about this colour combination, but I’m so glad I took the leap. and paired Magician and Peachy together.

This pattern was on my Ravelry queue for ages, I had a really hard time choosing colours. I knew I wanted to use Magician as the main colour, and I bought that yarn first while I made up my mind about the second colour.

I actually used a colour wheel to pick this contrast colour. I highly recommend using a colour wheel if you’re like me and bad at coming up with combinations. I think I almost used a creamy white instead of this peach!!

Pink Elefante

I am OBSESSED with this cute little elephant. I knit this one up for my best friend’s daughter (elephants are kind of our thing) and I am most certainly going to make one for myself!

Skywalker Socks

When I bought the yarn for my Sonya Tee I also picked up the beautiful sock yarn from Sweet Georgia with these socks by Tracie Millar in mind!

This variegated colour suits these socks so well.

Okay just ooooone more!

City Limits Sweater

I used a Hawthorne fade set from Knit Picks for this sweater and it took me a few tries to figure out the colours and the pace of the fade. I’m not 100% happy with the fit of this sweater, it’s too tight and too big in all the wrong places, and I ran out of yarn so the sleeves are an awkward length. But I love the colours!

And I used this light neutral colour for my Simone Pullover, which is totally out of my comfort zone and I loved how it turned out!

These last two sweaters are my biggest fails towards goal number 3…stashbusting…two new sweater quantities definitely weren’t in the plans for 2020…OH WELL!

You can read all the details for these projects on my Ravelry projects page.

Knitting goal 2: Scrappy projects

I have my Coziest Memories blanket to use up my fingering weight scraps. But one of my goals for 2020 was to knit some scrappy knitting projects that weren’t for fingering weight.

My success towards this goal has been so-so…

I knit the My Little Secret Crop by Jessie Maed Designs at the beginning of lockdown in March, actually I knit two of them. This was a really good project for scraps, but as I used fingering weight held together it didn’t quite meet my requirement of scrappy knitting projects that weren’t fingering weight.

My first My Little Secret Crop was also my first time fading and I loved how it turned out.

For my second My Little Secret Crop I used Nomadic Yarns self striping yarn held with some speckled Hawthorne fingering and it Love the way it turned out. This was a serious game of yarn chicken, by the end I had just a bit of the striping yarn left over.

I knit the Falling For You cowl by Leslie Alcock. It’s worsted weight and you just need a bit of each colour. It’s designed to be 4 colour blocks and that’s how I knit it, but for my next one I want to do smaller stripes of many colours and that will be perfect for using up worsted weight scraps.

This year, I sought out to solve my own problem when it came to having lots of super bulky scraps. I didn’t have enough of one colour to knit a whole hat so I designed this scrappy knit hat just a few days ago.

I have so many bits of super bulky yarn so I will definitely be making more of these knit hats in all sorts of colour combinations! You can find the free knitting pattern here.

Knitting goal 3: Stash busting

I had some great success with this goal. I knit 37 projects in 2020 and nearly all of them were using up yarn I already had in stash including several sweater quantities.

One of these is my Campside Cardi.

And this really cozy cardigan using Caron Latte Cakes, this yarn had been hanging around my house since 2018!

I have quite a bit of this fuzzy yarn leftover so I need to come up with something to make, I’m thinking a cozy cowl would be perfect!

And here’s how I failed:

Given I knit so many projects with yarn I had in my stash, I’m not sure I’d call it a failure, but I certainly bought more yarn this year than I wanted to…well than I planned to, because I certainly wanted to buy all of this yarn (and more)!

New yarn!

Outside of the yarn for my Simone Pullover and my City Limits, most of my new yarn came from the Great Toronto Yarn Hop – you can read about my haul from that event here.

Sweater quantity for the For Fox Sake sweater. Although in my defense…this was a pattern from my Ravely queue, so it’s a de-stash of my queue LOL.

And some sock yarn! The bubblegum pink is going to be a pair of Shag Carpet Shorites, I’ll hold the yarn double. I don’t have plans for the self striping skein yet…definitely socks though!

And I mean…how could I resist Eeyore inspired yarn from Campfiber yarns!

Yarn I didn’t use.

I also had some yarn that I really wanted to use this year as part of this goal and didn’t.

This pretty slub yarn from Hello Stella that I’m going to pair with some yarn from Legacy Fiber Artz to make a faded, slubby, Flax light.

An orange cat curled up on a comforter with a pink skein of yarn in front of it
This pretty skein from Hello Stella is one of my last yarn purchases of 2019

there’s some of the other pretty yarn I didn’t get to this year…somehow in all the knitting I did there is actually yarn I didn’t use! It’s almost unbelievable. However, I saw a moth the other day so most of it is packed up safe in vacuum bags and not fit to be photographed!

Knitting goal 4: Designing

The final goal I set was to design, and actually release, more of my knitting patterns. I have a tendency to design something and then lose the nerve to actually put it out into the world.

In 2020 I released six knitting patterns, many of them are free knitting patterns on this blog!

One of these six patterns is the Twister Mitts

Two hands wearing blue speckled knit fingerless mitts hold a mug of coffee

I’m pretty proud of my progress this year, but I did design two pairs of socks that never saw the light of day so I still have some work to do in this area.

You can check out all of my designs on Ravelry and browse the free knitting patterns on this blog.