All about Stranded Color Work

Stranded Colorwork uses two colors of yarn per row. So, you’re always handling two strands of yarn (hence the name). As you knit with one strand, the other ‘floats’ in back, making your garment twice as thick as knitting with a single strand of yarn.

Benefits

The number one benefit of using two strands of yarn at a time is that it lets you create a variety of visual designs in your knitting. This is the most beautiful example of stranded color work I’ve ever seen is the Nepalese Haley Jacket by Rishi.

Stranded Colorwork also creates fabrics that are warmer and more durable than single-color knitting. That's because of the double layer of knitting with one being carried in the back while the other is working. 

Types of Stranded Colorwork

Fair Isle

Fair Isle knitting was made famous by the same named islands in Scotland. You can spot Fair Isle because of its use of symmetrical geometric motifs, two-ply Shetland yarn, and muted, sophisticated colors.

Mosaic

This slip stitch technique has been around for years. It was coined ‘Mosaic’ in the 1960s by Barbara Walker. Probably named after the geometric or ‘mosaic’ tile pattern it resembles.

Scandinavian

Originating in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland) this technique is very different from Fair Isle, though the knitting techniques are similar. Scandinavian color work is distinctive in its large, often asymmetrical motifs, three-ply yarn construction, and bright, clear colors

Click the picture to learn more about this FREE Guidebook

Click the picture to learn more about this FREE Guidebook

Holding your Yarn

The first thing to understand about stranding is the orientation of one strand to another. Decide which strand will be ‘A’ and which will be ‘B.’ Since you’ll only be knitting with one strand at a time, the other must follow along and wait it’s turn. The challenge comes in keeping your float and stitch tension even.

Techniques

Armenian Knitting

The Armenian Knitting Technique for Stranded Knitting works with two or more yarn strands. It limits floats by tacking your work every 3 stitches.

This technique creates a more secure tack of the non-working yarn. The wrong side of the knitting looks cleaner. But you don't just tack the non-working yarn on rows where you use that color. You continue tacking the yarn throughout the body of the work, even the parts that are exclusively knitted with the main color.

Keep in mind that your yarns will become twisted and you'll have to untangle them every few rows. 

Portuguese Knitting

Portuguese Knitting is also called Turkish Knitting, Incas Knitting, Andean Knitting and Around the Neck Knitting, originated among Arabic knitters and spread north from Africa and the Middle East to the Mediterranean, the Balkans (Bulgaria and Greece in particular), the Iberian Peninsula and subsequently to South America through Spanish and Portuguese colonization.

Portuguese knitting requires a slightly different set up than English and Continental knitting. Rather than running from the ball directly to your work, the active yarn instead is strung either over the back of the knitter’s neck or through a pin on the front of the of the knitter’s shirt. This long tension allows the knit stitch to be executed with one movement of the left thumb.

If you're interested in learning more about Portuguese Knitting, Craftsy has a great class that teaches the technique. Craftsy also has several classes that will help you master the craft of Stranded Colorwork.

Using Stranded Color Work in your pattern design is a great way to help your audience increase their skill level and experiment with working with color.  

Sticks & String,
Lori