Posts tagged Knit Camp
Week 4: Colourwork in Knitting

Colour, Colour, Glorious Colour!

Changing colour 

Kat has already introduced us to the process of changing colour with her tutorial early in Knit Camp.  I hope that you found this straightforward when knitting Joanne’s Knit Flat Hat.  With this technique you can easily create horizontal stripes in your work, and so you already have the basics of colourwork under your belt.

Let’s explore colourwork a little further though, as the possibilities are quite exciting beyond stripes.  This post is exactly what it says on the tin - a 'Taster', as this subject is huge, and it has been a struggle to decide what to cover.  Forgive me if I have privileged one topic over another, and I hope there is something for everyone here.

Chevron Stripes 

So, you can knit straight stripes across your work, but what about wavy stripes? These are called Chevron Stripes, and they are created by combining colourwork with shaping techniques.  Shaping is spaced evenly across the row, with a gap of a few sts or more between shaping, and alternating between decreasing and increasing.  The position of each decrease or increase is maintained vertically on every other row, and this creates the up and down shape of the stripes.  You can change colour whenever you want (as long as its at the beginning of a row), but I would suggest always changing colour on a right side row, because this way, you can carry the yarns up the side of your work for when they are next in use, and avoid having too many ends to sew in!

This is a fun technique to experiment with.  Chevron stripes can be knitted in st st or garter stitch or a combination.  Carry yarn up the side in the same way as shown for st st stripes.

Katy Blanket
Katy Blanket

This pic is of my Katy Blanket design, showing chevron stripes in stocking stitch

How about knitting with more than one colour in one row?

Knitting with a contrasting colour across a whole row is relatively easy.  However, knitting with more than one colour in one row will need a little more explanation.  The simplest way to do this, is to use what is called the ‘slip stitch technique’.  It gives the appearance of two colours in one row, without any of the effort!  Only one colour is actually employed in any one row, but more than one colour appears in the fabric.  The stitch worked in the previous row in a different colour is carried vertically by slipping it rather than working it.  There are many different stitch patterns that can be created using this technique by varying the number of stitches slipped or knitted, and by varying the wrong side row pattern too.

Here is a very simple pattern you might like to try.  When it says ‘sl pwide’ the pattern means ‘slip the stitch purlwise’ which you do by just inserting your right hand needle into the st as IF you were going to purl it, but then move it onto your right hand needle without purling it.

Bird's Eye pattern
Bird's Eye pattern

Bird’s Eye Pattern (muliple of 2 sts)

Row 1 (RS): *K1 in A, sl pwise; rep from * to last st, k1 in A.

Row 2: P in Yarn A.

Row 3: *sl pwise, k1 in Yarn B; rep from * to end.

Row 4: P in Yarn B

The really serious stuff

Ok, I am just putting of the inevitable - introducing you to the concept of stranded knitting.  Stranded knitting is a generic term which is applied to various different styles of colour knitting, all of which use the same basic technique for getting colours from one position to another in the same row.  The technique involves carrying the yarn across the work horizontally.  

So, let’s assume you are knitting in stocking stitch on a right side row (knit).  Imagine the pattern calls for you to knit one stitch in Yarn A, followed by 3 sts in Yarn B.  Knit the st in Yarn A, then pick up and use Yarn B for the next 3 sts.  So what next?  How do you get Yarn A to the next st, to repeat the pattern?  Drop Yarn B and pick up Yarn A, passing it behind the 3 sts knitted in Yarn B on the wrong side of fabric, making sure that the yarn is at the same tension as the 3 knitted sts.  So, whatever width is taken up by the 3 sts, sitting in a well behaved position on your needle, neither touching nor desperately trying to get away from each other - that needs to be the same width as the amount of yarn that is carried across.  Does that sound over complicated?  Well, its not meant to me.  Please don’t get your tape measure out - just relax!

Carry Yarn B across back of sts knitted in Yarn A
Carry Yarn B across back of sts knitted in Yarn A
Carry Yarn A underneath Yarn B
Carry Yarn A underneath Yarn B

If you would like to really explore this subject in depth, I can highly recommend Ann Kingstone’s book on Stranded Knitting called Stranded Knits:

Many designers, like Ann, primarily use circular needles, and all their colourwork is knitted in the round, which has significant advantatages when knitting with different colours.  However, if you don’t fancy circular knitting or would like to have a go at stranded knitting but don’t feel confident to do circular knitting at the same time, then stranded knitting is perfectly possible on straight needles, particularly if you choose a pattern that doesn’t have too many colours and doesn’t have more than two colours on any one row.  I confess to being a die-hard straight needle knitter, and I knit moreorless everything on straight needles.  All my patterns which call for a bit of stranded knitting are knitted on straight needles.

If you are going to try stranded knitting, apply a bit of technique to your stranding.  Your main colour is your Dominant Yarn, and you would be best advised to carry this across the work at a lower level than the other colour.  If you are working with three colours (more unusual in one row), then there will be three levels.  Carrying the yarn across at the same level is will give your layer of strands an even appearance and moreover, you will not get your different strands of yarn tangled up and twisted as you work.

As previously mentioned, there are lots of different styles of knitting that use the techniques above (and more!).  There is usually a fascinating cultural and historical story and practical purpose behind each of these schools of knitting.   Here are some links for you to explore different styles of colour knitting:

Fair Isle Knitting: Originating from the Island of Fair Isle off the West Coast of Scotland.

Scandinavian Knitting: I couldn't find much on this, but here is a link to some lovely designs in Scandinavian style.

Icelandic Knitting: I was looking for some information about Icelandic Knitting and got distracted by this fantasy of a Knitting Tour of Iceland!

Andean and Peruvian Knitting: I love this National Geographic photo of a Peruvian man knitting a multi-coloured 'Chullo' - a tradional Andean Hat.  There is not much information on the internet about this incredibly interesting tradition of knitting, but I have found out that the men do the knitting and the women do the weaving. This might be a useful fact to bring up sometime...

Intarsia

When a pattern calls for blocks of colour worked over more than 4-5 sts, stranded knitting is not an appropriate technique.  Instead, different sections of colour need to be worked from separate balls of yarn, often wound onto bobbins for ease.  The yarns are twisted together at the point of colour change, to stop holes appearing and keep the evenness of the fabric on the right side.  Intarisa techniques are used to create motifs and collage, or even for patchwork effects.  These might be all over patterns, or they might be a single motif on a plain stocking stitch background.  Intarsia knitting is always worked from a chart, such as the one below.  You might like to try knitting this with some of your left over yarn from Knit Camp.

An intarsia chart for you to try
An intarsia chart for you to try

More tips for colour knitting

A few final thoughts and hints.....

  • Knitting with two colours per row is far easier than knitting with three or more colours.  This doesn’t mean your project has to be restricted to two colours, as other colours can be used in other rows, and the interest created this way.  A good design will be well written with the user in mind.  Scan through the pattern before buying  to see if you are going to have to use more than two colours in any one row.
  • Choose a wool yarn wherever possible, as wool fibres tend to cling together, minimising any holes or evenness in your tension.
  • Join the yarn in loosely, by just starting to knit with the new colour (leaving a 5cm end to sew in later), without tying a knot.  Knots should never be tied in knitting, even when sewing up.  They have a habit of popping through from the wrong side to the right side, and as well as being unsightly, they create extra bulk and unevenness in your fabric.
  • If working with small amounts of lots of different colours, it can be helpful to measure out a length of yarn from your ball, wind it round a bobbin and work from this instead of the ball.  The bobbin is lighter than the ball, and easier to manoeuvre.
  • If you are really keen, and are a continental knitter, you can also get a knitting thimble or Strickfingerhut, which is a guide for holding yarn on your left finger.
  • Knitters who have adopted the English style of knitting, will probably find that they will ‘throw’ the yarn, using their RH, dropping the yarn not used as they pick up the new colour. Alternatively, they may find a method of holding both colours between their RH fingers.  Continental knitters, will hold both colours between their left hand fingers.  Knitters who are accomplished in both techniques, may find that they can hold one colour in one hand and one in the other.   Experiment to find what works for you, as there is no ‘right’ way.

More information and patterns for colourwork

Let's Knit have lots of free patterns using various different techniques for using colour.

Search on ravelry for patterns.  Type in 'colourwork' for starters, then you can refine your search to the items you want to look for.

The UK Hand Knitting Association is a great resource for free patterns, as well as being packd with information for knitters about workshops, tutorials, events and more.  Its well worth familiarising yourself with this site and adding to your favourites.

Week 1: Casting On

This morning, we have Libby Summers here to show you 2 different methods of casting on. Starting out, you may find one is easier than the other, so give them both a try. Casting On

What is casting on? Casting on is a technique which creates a set of loops, knotted at the base and placed on your knitting needles, to provide a foundation row for you to work on to created your knitted fabric.

How many different methods of casting on are there? There are many different methods for casting on, the choice of which is usually determined by either the decorative effect desired or the practical need required. However, a beginner need only start with one or two methods. The Knit Camp tutorials cover two methods, one which is easy to master and creates a decorative and elastic base, the other which is more difficult, but creates a firm and discrete edge which can be used for most patterns. If you are interested in learning more methods, than I can recommend the book ‘Cast On Bind Off’ by Leslie Ann Bestor.

Can I skip this step and get straight on to the knitting? No! Without your foundation row you can knit nothing!

What if I make a mistake? Making a mistake while casting on is less drastic than making a mistake in your knitting, as there is not much time or effort lost in starting again. The most likely result of any mistake is that one or more stitches will unravel, or will need unravelling. Just tug the yarn gently (the end attached to your ball), and the stitch should come undone. If you have managed to tie a knot that doesn’t respond to gentle tugging, then it is best to start the whole cast on edge again and the knot will need to be unravelled by hand. A common error is to make the stitches too tight or too loose. Take a look at the photo of the finished cast on row, and try and copy the ‘look’. If the air pocket between your stitch and the needle is too big, your cast on edge will be baggy, if it is too small, you will have difficulty knitting your first row, and the cast on edge will be tight. It is important that every stitch has a more or less identical tension in relation to the needle. A common problem for beginners is uneven stitches. I would suggest that, boring though it might seem, you practice the techniques until you have a good even cast on edge to work with. You will be frustrated by trying to progress with a set of wonky uneven cast on stitches.

Thumb Method This is one of the easiest methods of casting on, and is be done with just one needle. The new stitches are created with your right hand, by twisting the yarn between your fingers to create a new loop. This method of casting on creates a loose and slightly decorative edge, which is appropriate for garter stitch patterns, or knit and purl patterns. The thumb method is easier to master, but take care when knitting your first row not to knit too loosely, as the cast on edge can look ‘loopy’ if not done evenly.

Cross yarn over
Cross yarn over

1. Make a slip knot. Start by crossing your yarn over as shown, with the short end on the left.

Making a slip knot
Making a slip knot

2. Push the long end of yarn through the loop created, so it just peeks out the other side, as shown.

DSC_0032
DSC_0032

3. Holding the top of the loop created with you LH, and both long and short end between the fingertips of your RH, pull the yarn gently to create a knot at the base of the loop.

DSC_0112
DSC_0112

4. You can now adjust the size of the loop by pulling one end only.

DSC_0034
DSC_0034

5. Put your slip knot on one of your needles, and pull both lengths of yarn gently but firmly so that the loop adjusts to the size of the needle. This becomes a ‘stitch’, and this needle will be held in your left hand (LH).

DSC_0036
DSC_0036

6. To create your next stitch, first cross over the long length of yarn attached to the ball, holding the loop created between the fingers and thumb of your RH. Hold the first stitch at the base of the stitch between the fingers and thumb of your LH.

DSC_0037
DSC_0037

7. With your RH, twist the yarn once, to strengthen the base of the loop, holding the top of the loop with your RH thumb to ensure the twist stays in place.

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DSC_0038

8. Slip the loop onto your needle, ensuring that the yarn remains twisted as you do so. Continue to hold the first stitch at the base of the stitch between the fingers and thumb of your LH.

DSC_0039
DSC_0039

9. As you place the stitch on the needle, keep the tension in the yarn by continuing to hold it between the fingers and thumb of your RH.

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DSC_0040

10. With your RH, pull the yarn attached to the ball to bring the second stitch close to the first and adjust the tension to create an even stitch.

DSC_0104
DSC_0104

Repeat steps 6 - 10 for each stitch until you have the desired number of stitches on your needle. Now you are ready to knit. You don't need to turn your work over - you are ready to go!

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DSC_0106

The picture above shows how the cast on edge appears after two rows of knitting.