Technique: Knitting Stripes

When Knitting Patterns have you Knit Stripes

One of the easiest ways to add excitement to a knitted project is to make it in multi-colored stripes.

And horizontal stripes are the easiest way to get multiple colors into your project.

This article will explain how to read the knitting pattern for a striped project, how to deal with the yarn ends, and how to minimize the number of yarn ends.

The photos in this article are of a small striped sampler. It is worked in Stocking Stitch (alternating Knitting one row and Purling one row) to make a knitted fabric that is smooth on one side and bumpy on the other side.

The Knitting Pattern for the Sampler

This is a sampler, so specific materials are not important. Select two different colors of yarn of a similar weight, and needles that are compatible with that weight of yarn.

The two colors will be referred to as CA and CB (Color A and Color B).

There are several ways that the pattern could be written – here are a couple:

With CA, cast on 20 sts.

Row 1: K.
Row 2: P.
Row 3: With CB, K.
Row 4. P.
Row 5: With CA, K.
Row 6: P.
Row 7: With CB, K.
Row 8: P.
Row 9: With CA, K.
Row 10: P.
Row 11: K.
Row 12: P.
Row 13: With CB, K.
Row 14: P.
Row 15: K.
Row 16: P.
Row 17: With CA, K.
….and so on.

With CA, cast on 20 sts.

Working in Stocking Stitch, and starting with a Knit row:
Work 2 rows with CA.
Work 2 rows with CB.
Work 2 rows with CA.
Work 2 rows with CB.
Work 4 rows with CA.
Work 4 rows with CB.
Work 12 rows with CA.
….and so on.

How to Change Yarns

The first part of the pattern is easy: cast on and work 2 rows. Now it is time to change yarns.

Get the yarn ready. Have the tail end of the new yarn dangling down. Sometimes, it is easy if you hold the tail end of the new yarn with the ball end of the old yarn to provide a bit of tension for the new yarn. (Remember, make sure to have a useful length of tail end – 6 inches or 15 cm is a good length – because you will have to weave this end in later.)

Knitting Stripes: get the new yarn ready

Knitting Stripes: get the new yarn ready

DO NOT cut the old yarn. That would force you to weave in way too many yarns. Just leave the old yarn dangling for a while.

Knit the first stitch with the new color. Ignore the old color. Note that the first stitch with the new color and the last stitch of the old color will probably get loose and big – just tighten them a bit every so often while you are working on the project. After a few rows, you might be inspired to weave in the tail ends, but I usually don’t do that until the end.

Knitting Stripes: knit the first stitch in the new color

Knitting Stripes: knit the first stitch in the new color

This photo shows a few stitches made with the new color:

Knitting Stripes: first row in new color partially completed

Knitting Stripes: first row in new color partially completed

Usually (but not always) stripes are worked in an even number of rows per stripe. That way, when you finish a stripe, the yarn from the previous stripe is conveniently situated right there.

This photo shows the white stripe completed. Notice the loose stitches at the ends of the rows.

Knitting Stripes: Ready to change to new yarn again

Knitting Stripes: Ready to change to new yarn again

Now, get the yarn for the next stripe ready. You left the first color of yarn dangling – just drop the second yarn and bring the first yarn into position for knitting it. Do not pull too tightly, though, or you’ll make the edge too short.

Knitting Stripes: get first yarn color into position

Knitting Stripes: get first yarn color into position

Now knit a row and purl a row, according to the pattern above. Since in this part, each color is only two rows long, it will be time for another color change. You left the second yarn dangling, waiting for this moment. These two photos show the preparation for working the second color the second time (or, in other words, the fourth stripe).

Knitting Stripes: beginning of a new stripe

Knitting Stripes: beginning of a new stripe

Knitting Stripes: get the second yarn ready

Knitting Stripes: get the second yarn ready

This photo shows the fourth strip completed.

Knitting Stripes: fourth stripe completed

Knitting Stripes: fourth stripe completed

So, switch the yarns again.

But this time, it’s going to be different. This stripe is four rows long, not two.

If we just ignore the previous yarn and leave it dangling, there will have to be a long strand coming up the side when we start to knit with it. That long strand can catch on something. So we make it into a short strand by twisting the two yarns every second row.

Knitting Stripes: twist yarns in mid-stripe

Knitting Stripes: twist yarns in mid-stripe

This closeup shows the old yarn (white) looped over the new yarn (blue) and dangling.

Knitting Stripes: previous color is dangling

Knitting Stripes: previous color is dangling

And this closeup shows that there is a tiny white bump at the beginning of the row.

Knitting Stripes: previous yarn forms bump at beginning of row

Knitting Stripes: previous yarn forms bump at beginning of row

This photo shows that this first 4-row stripe is complete, and both yarns are convenient for the next row.

Knitting Stripes: first 4-row stripe is complete

Knitting Stripes: first 4-row stripe is complete

And this photo shows that the second 4-row stripe is complete. And again, both yarns are convenient, because the one that was not being used was carried up the side.

Knitting Stripes: Second 4-row stripe is complete

Knitting Stripes: Second 4-row stripe is complete

Now, the sampler changes. It is going to have a long stripe – 12 rows long. It is worked just like before. Every second row, the two yarns are twisted, so that the unused yarn lies snugly against the knitted fabric.

In this photo, notice that the white yarn appears to be woven along the edge.

Knitting Stripes: Unused yarn travels along edge

Knitting Stripes: Unused yarn travels along edge

Knitting Stripes: Unused yarn travels along edge

Knitting Stripes: Unused yarn travels along edge

Notice that even after this long stripe, both yarns are convenient and ready to be used.

Knitting Stripes: Both yarns are ready

Knitting Stripes: Both yarns are ready

Finally, these photos show the right side (RS) and wrong side (WS) of the sampler thus far:

Knitted Stripes: right side

Knitted Stripes: right side


Knitted Stripes: wrong side

Knitted Stripes: wrong side

A few more items to note.

At this point, even though several stripes have been worked, there are still only 4 ends that have to be woven in at finishing time: the beginning and end of the blue, and the beginning and end of the white.

Also, the photo of the wrong side of the fabric shows that using Stocking Stitch to create stripes means that on the wrong side, the colors will appear to inter-leave where the two different colors are together.

And finally, the more stripes that you knit, and the longer these stripes are, the greater the likelihood that the two balls of yarn will get tangled. Usually, every few rows I just rotate the knitted fabric in the direction of untwisting the yarn.

Variations

There are countless variations of horizontal stripes.

The most obvious is to use more than two colors.

But there can also be a fancy stitch pattern instead of Stocking Stitch. Many times, a lacy pattern will cause a wavy effect, which can be very attractive.

Projects that use this technique

For Bronze members of this website, there is an easy Striped Scarf.

Conclusion

It is easy to knit in stripes – try it.

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