Holding yarn for stranded knitting

Also known as: Holding yarn for Fair Isle knitting, Holding yarn for colour knitting


Knitting with more than one colour at a time needs a different knitting technique than using a single yarn.

How to do it

You can see a pictorial tutorial on how to hold yarn for stranded knitting in the T-torial Holding yarn for stranded knitting (T201906).

There are three main approaches to this:

  • Use one yarn at a time, picking up the yarn to be used, knit using that yarn in your usual method, and then put it down before using the next yarn;
  • Hold all the colours in one hand at the same time and pick the one you need with the working needle;
  • Hold one (or more) yarn in your right hand and one (or more) in your left hand. Knit the yarn in your right hand using the English method, and knit the yarn in your left hand using the Continental method.

If you are consistent in holding the yarns to the same side, you will find that (with practice) you do not twist the yarns while knitting (and so do not need to disentangle them). You will also obtain a fabric that looks more uniform (see the comments on colour dominance below).

Colour dominance

Colour dominance refers to the effect of how you hold the yarn on the final fabric. Yarn that comes up from underneath the other yarn tends to be more visible. In practice, the yarn held to the left is the more visible (see page 265 of the book Principles of Knitting in the links below).

This effect is usually subtle, but can be noticeable if you knit with one yarn on the left and the other on the right and later switch to holding the yarns the other way round.

If you always hold one yarn (the motif colour) on your left and the other (the background colour) on your right, you will make sure that the motif is the dominant feature.

Avoiding colour dominance totally means that each time you change colour you have to change the relative positions of the yarns so that the yarn you are working with comes from below the other yarn. Although this eliminates colour dominance, it means that the yarns have to be untangled often.

Helpful links