A big reason I was so excited to start the Merry Knitalong earlier this month is that stranded colorwork is one of my favourite knitting techniques. In fact, I am kind of a stranding addict. I knit a lot, but nothing compares to what happens when I sit down with a stranding project. I am virtually glued to my seat for the duration of the project. I simply enjoy it so much that I literally don’t want to set it down. In fact, I usually finish these projects in record time.
Other than being able to read and follow the pattern and chart, the most important component in stranded colorwork is managing how you hold your yarn. Having taught many students this technique, I know for a fact that this is different for everyone. Our hands are all shaped a little differently and are comfortable in different positions — something I have spent a lot of time studying and observing with students. When I teach this technique, I spend the vast majority of my time troubleshooting yarn holding one-on-one with students. Comfort & fluidity come with time, but I love being able to watch a knitter and make suggestions as to holds they can try & ways to make their tension equal in both hands. I am always so happy that I can really fast-forward the trial and error process quite a bit as well as eliminate a lot of frustration in the learning process.
While I obviously can’t show you all my recommendations or make personal ones for you — you can take my class at Firefly Fibers for that — I thought I would share the yarn holds I use. Now you should know that when I started teaching I was strictly a English style knitter — holding the working yarn in my right hand. I have a ‘barely there’ hold — I either simply grasp the yarn in the palm of my right hand or I wrap it once around my pinky finger & then grasp it in my hand. It depends on the day and what kind of tension I need.
One wrap on my littlest finger. That’s all!
This is what it looks like when I am knitting — you can barely see it, but it’s there!
My Continental style, or left hand, hold took a bit more practice because it was new to me. I actually picked it up simply so that I could teach beginners either style — English or Continental. The fact that I could then use it in stranding was just a big bonus. After some trial and error, this is the yarn hold I prefer. Of course, it was the one hold that I noticed in a book & thought, “That is ridiculous. It’ll never work.”
It totally works for me. Go figure!
This is what this hold looks like when I have needles in my hand.
As I said earlier, this is what works for me. What works for you may look quite different — in fact, it probably will!
Obviously, once you find a way that you can control the yarn in both hands you have to work toward uniformity in tension with them. This usually takes some time & troubleshooting to get it just how you want it. If you have the time & really want to gain fluidity in the technique, you can actually work a couple non-stranding projects solely using the opposite hand you usually hold your working yarn in. Fair warning that it will probably drive you crazy because it means going much slower than you are used to, but I promise it will help. At this point, I actually switch back & forth between English & Continental style knitting in my single color knitting. It helps to maintain my comfort and fluidity as well as improve my speed.
If you are trying to perfect your stranding techniques, obviously I recommend a class. A good teacher can really help you gain both skill & comfort quickly while eliminating a fair bit of the frustration in the learning process. If you are in the area, I will be teaching an Introduction to Two-Color Knitting class at Firefly Fibers in Beaver Dam, WI on March 2 from 10:30 – 12:30. I’d love for you to join me!
Expect to see some progress photos of my Merry Knitalong project for this month in the next few days. I picked up my stuffing & will be finishing up — only one week to go before February’s ball is announced!