Stitching Status: Colorwork

After knitting so much last year, I’ve had a feeling that a slow down would hit me at some point. I love knitting and do it almost every day but sometimes I lose my mojo. I can already feel myself slipping as I’ve slowed and put my Kangarullover pullover to the side for a bit (it’s a lot of garter stitch and getting a bit awkward to manage) and the other night I was so mentally exhausted and frustrated that I didn’t knit at all. Usually it calms me down but on Friday night I just wanted to sleep. So I’m trying new things to reengage my brain.
And I’m giving stranded knitting/colorwork a go! A while ago when Interweave had one of their 40% off sales (which is going on today – use code 48HOUR to get 40% off) I bought Alterknit Stitch Dictionary eBook: 200 Modern Knitting Motifs to finally force myself to give colorwork a try. I went through and bookmarked some of the patterns I liked when I first bought it and finally opened it back up last weekend to give it a go. My first try wasn’t too bad.
My tension isn’t great and I’ve yet to figure out how to hold two balls of yarn that’s comfortable to me but that’s part of learning. But really, it wasn’t that bad. And I realized why I’ve been avoiding it for so long.

So Faux Cowl
So Faux Cowl via Ravelry

I learned to knit in 2011 and the spring of 2013 when Knitscene Accessories came out I was obsessed with knitting the So Faux Cowl. I hadn’t worked with fingering weight yarn, hadn’t done much with charts and had zero clue about stranded knitting. To say this project on tiny needles broke me is an understatement. I’m pretty sure that’s why colorwork has been so intimidating to me for so long. I got overly ambitious early on but now I know a lot more and although this would be a challenge, I don’t think it would break me.
Prism hat
Just swatching from that book brought we way more confidence and this weekend I knit my friend’s toddler a super simple colorwork hat! It was so neat and the floats on the inside were just beautiful. I’m so proud of what I was able to accomplish with just a small project and now I’m ready to tackle more stuff to get my skills better. I may not knit that cowl (I’ve got the yarn somewhere deep in my stash but I definitely see more colorwork in my future. So for those of you who do this often, any tips?


33 Replies to “Stitching Status: Colorwork”

  1. What a beautiful colourwork hat! (I love all those hues of blue!). And the cowl is a *gorgeous* pattern – I have never seen colour work leopard print! I’m also trying to develop my colour work skills this year (still a beginner, still struggling with tension). I’ve found it has helped me to stick to projects in the round for now and focus on my knit tension and yarn-hold (I like a strand in each hand). I also notice I knit much slower than usual to make adjustments along the way. Your swatch looks so beautiful. Happy knitting!

    1. My hands just don’t want to hold two balls of yarn but I figure the more I practice the better it will get.

  2. Way to go DWJ!!! Soooo proud of you for overcoming that stigma you placed on colorwork . . . Tips? Hmmm . . . I know! Keep doing colorwork projects and you will get even better! 🙂

    1. There will be a lot of little kids with small colorwork sweaters in the future just so I can get practice!

  3. My big tip – knit one colour English style and one colour continental, so you can hold the 2 yarns in different hands

    1. I am trying that, that’s what I’ve seen a lot but man my brain is like THIS IS WRONG! LOL I think it’ll take some time to get used to it.

    2. I agree with this! I also make sure to hold the main color in my right hand (my dominant hand) and the other colors in my left. It helps me keep the tension of the background color consistent. Otherwise I pull too tight and the piece ends up looking rippled.

      1. I’m thinking about getting a guide to help me keep the colors organized. I got a lot of good tips on this post!

  4. I have been knitting for 50 years and finally dove into colorwork last fall! I loved doing it! Made a dozen ponytail hats and simply made them up as I went along! I lloked at old crossritch books for inspiration. It is a lot of fun! Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Sorry for the typos! just finally got the 3 year GD to go to sleep….I am a little fried!

  5. This is the video that clinched it for me-I knit Continental, but couldn’t get the hang of two colours on my left hand (well, I could do it with a knitting thimble, but it was still awkward):

    The other thing that works well for me is to knit “inside out” to keep the floats on the outside and keep things from getting too tight. I think Ysolda has a video on that one.

    With your love of colour, I hadn’t even noticed you were avoiding colourwork-this is going to open up so many more possibilities for you!

    1. I’m hoping this expands my color world and it’s been something I’ve really wanted to get into but just didn’t have the confidence. Now I feel like I can do it!

    2. I was also going to recommend the Philosophers Wool tutorial. I took a class from them ages ago. I still use this technique. I also do not choose projects that involve working flat, I go for knit in the round projects so I do not need to purl colorwork across the back. Magic Loop. I refuse to do color work on DPN’s. : ) I have tension issues and yarn management issues with DPNs. Enjoy! It can be addictive!

      1. Hey that’s a really cool product! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I attended a colorwork session at a knitting store, 60mi from home, way up here in the far north last year. I was all thumbs. It was frustrating but I really, really tried:) I love that you are honest about your process…gives me hope and a willingness to give it another try. Your swatch and hat are beauties!

    1. Give it another try! I knew I would eventually but I honestly wasn’t ready when I tried. I just jumped into the deep end without learning how to float! LOL

  7. Colorwork is on my “to learn” list but haven’t tackled it yet. I loved this post and reading your venture into this skill level. One of the reasons I enjoy your posts is how you share your thought processes and what worked well, or didn’t, and why. Thanks for this chapter. You are a bit above my skill level but you write with transparency and you sound so Real. It’s encouraging.

  8. I love colourwork and I do it fairly well (never mind the missing blog posts …LOLOL). When I learned, I had trouble with using two hands as well — my tension was all over the place. But I invested in these two doodads from Knitpicks — the wire stranding guide, also known as a knitting thimble and the plastic stranding guide. I like the wire one better because it fits more comfortably, but if I have a small project with more than two colours, the plastic one it is! These changed my colourwork life. I’m adding links below for you:

    The wire guide:

    The plastic guide:

    1. Yay!! I figured if I’m going to make that fantastic pattern you gifted me I needed to get my colorwork game going.

      1. Maaaaan, you’re going to kill that!!! I know it. The pattern is also on my to-do list for the year, but I’m actually thinking of dyeing the sweater quantity for it myself and you know how slow I am! LOLOL!

      2. We all have our own pace and I’m totally ordering that wire guide!!

      3. True … you’re so gracious to keep reiterating that. Tell me how you like the guide!

  9. When I first tried 2 color knitting it felt like learning all over again. I was so slow and my stitches were wonky, but I kept at it. Blocking is a miracle in colorwork, btw. I knit with both hands with 2 colors. Last year it was my goal to knit a stranded, steeked cardigan and I did it! It was so fun and exciting and I love my finished sweater. Like anything else, practice makes you better (I don’t believe in perfect). One tip that’s really helped me is making sure to spread out the stitches before changing colors. And don’t knit more than an inch in any one color. I only knit colorwork in the round because I don’t understand how to purl English style. But that’s okay because steeking is amazing and will make you feel like a super hero.
    Have fun, that’s the most important thing!

    1. Steeking scares the crap out of me! LOL But that’s one of my goals to get to that point because it looks pretty cool. And now you make me want to feel like a superhero 🙂

  10. So glad you mentioned your Steven West sweater here, as I somehow completely missed that post — and LOVE it. What a great opportunity, and excellent observations about designing and yarn choices. Thanks!
    About color work: I, too, carry thread in both hands when I’m using two colors at once, also making sure to have the main color in the dominant hand. One tip I haven’t seen here yet is to use a slightly larger needle when you’re stranding yarns, as your tension will inevitably be a little tighter than usual. There’s a famous sweater tragedy in my family where my aunt made my mom a gorgeous sweater that was so tight across the bust that even she (known for being — well, not greatly endowed) couldn’t fit into it. She even had it professionally blocked, to no avail. So… a word to the wise!

    1. HAHAHA yeah this might be a tip I need. I added a band of colorwork in the middle of a dog sweater and it was a bit tighter. Don’t want to do that across my chest either!

  11. Remember to “stretch” your already knitted parts a little as you do colorwork. Knit a section of stitches and gently slide the knitted piece along your needles. This will help with the problem of too tight colorwork as in the Sweater Tragedy above! Here is a good tutorial from Arne and Carlos that shows the little slide/stretch about 1:07 in the video: And also steeking from them:

    Have fun and don’t worry you will get addicted!

  12. Yay for getting more comfortable with colorwork. My tip is to make sure the fabric is flat on the needles, especially on the right side so your float doesn’t end up tight.

  13. This would be a great topic to follow up on/expand upon in a video post!!! 😃

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