What's the best way to join two colors in a scarf?

laura_in_cintiSeptember 14, 2007


I'm a beginner knitter and I'm working on a two color scarf. It has 12 row stripes of two colors (navy and creme acrylic). I'm having trouble getting my rows to look straight where I've switched to the second color.

I've checked KnittingHelp.com and looked at those techniques and tried those that seemed applicable with no success. I always end up with a chunk of the main color where I would expect to see the second color, or vice versa.

What would be the best way to make the switch to the second color? Should I carry the yarn up?

Thanks so much for your help!

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I don't really knit (at least not well; I crochet) but I think the technique would be similar - to change colors, always work the last two loops on your hook off with the new color. I also leave about a 2" tail of the old color, hold in the back and then weave these ends in as I work so I don't have to go back when I'm finished to weave in loose ends

Hope this helps

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 10:38AM
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I don't believe it..... I just stopped in to ask "What's your favorite method of joining a new color?" :-)

I'm teaching myself to knit. I've learned from KnittingHelp.com as well as other sites. I'm making either a dishcloth or a scarf using 100% mercerized cotton in stockinette stitch using two colors (cream and red). The purpose of this particular project is just to learn how to join a new color, so the final product will depend on how quickly I get bored with this once I learn it. :)

Here's what I am doing based on what I have read so far:

I finish the last row of knitting in the old color. Then, I take the new yarn and hold it on the needles in either the front or back (depending on if the new row is knit or purl) by pressing it to the needle with my thumb or finger, whichever works best. Then I knit or purl the first stitch with the new yarn, and leave the old yarn alone. When I get to the end of the first row or so of the new color, I cut off the old yarn leaving about a 6" tail, then tie the tails of the new and the old into a loose knot to secure them. Later, I will weave them into the finished product. To do that, I've read that it is best to weave the ends along each stitch so that it appears to almost disappear into a row of stitches, either along the edge or in an actual row. Leave a tail long enough to secure enough of the yarn so it won't come undone in the years to come.

Another way of adding the new thread, which I think I like a bit better because it feels better to me, is to tie the new yarn around the working strand of the old yarn before you start knitting with it, leaving a 6-inch (or so) end hanging from the new yarn, then slide the knot up the strand of the old yarn until you reach the edge of the item you're knitting. That holds it in place better while you take your first stitch. Later, you untie the knot and weave in the ends.

I bought the book Teach Yourself Visually Knitting which I like a lot, but there's one lesson that leaves me guessing and I'm hoping someone here can explain it. The lesson is "Making Horizontal Stripes". It says to begin a new color by dropping the old yarn and knitting or purling across the row in the new yarn, depending on the row you're working on. THEN (and here's what I don't understand), it says to carry the yarns up the side by twisting the first yarn around the second yarn at the edge of every other row. The photo illustrates it, but when I do this it ends up weaving the first yarn into the end of a row of the second yarn color, showing both colors, and I don't want to do that. Is this an alternate way of weaving the ends in? If so, then it allows both colors to show at the end of the row, which I don't like. Can anyone explain this better?

I hope this helps.... ask me for clarification or correct me if I am wrong.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 11:10AM
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Here's a link I just found about knitting stripes, which is what both of us are doing:

Here is a link that might be useful: Knitting stripes

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 12:01PM
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When I want to change yarns, I simply knit 2 stitches, with both the new and the old....then, later, weave the ends into the correct color. That's how I start with a new ball, too....anytime I go from one to another, regardless of the reason, I knit the 2 yarns as one, for 2 stitches.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 2:55PM
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Thanks so much Jenn! The link you posted gives a good answer. I'm not so good yet at weaving in the tails but at least now I know for sure which method to use to make the switch when working with stripes.

I also have the same problem as you do with carrying the yarn up as I knit - i.e. seeing both colors. Are we misreading the instructions? Or is that just the end result when you carry up?

Thanks to everyone who replied. I really appreciate it!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 3:22PM
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When you carry the old yarn up the edge of the scarf by twisting it with the working yarn, you do see both colors. The only way I know to carry along the edge and then cover the colors up is to crochet an edge over the carried yarn with the color you want to show.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 4:52PM
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sheilajoyce: That's a good way to cover that edge. However, since I have seen or read two different lessons now that suggest working the two different yarns up the edge, and don't explain what to do with the opposite color at the end of each stripe, it seems there should be more to it and they don't go any further to explain this. I'm going to hunt for an explanation, there has to be one somewhere!

Sandra: Are the two stitches that are knitted together two-toned, or do you un-weave the old yarn from them before weaving it into the garment?

ANOTHER QUESTION: Is it best to weave the ends up the side of a scarf, or weave them into the rows? I practiced weaving them into the rows of a piece I knitted in stockinette stitch. When I finished weaving the ends I cut off the remainder. But the tail of some of the ends sticks out and doesn't stay tucked into the stitch. That leads me to think the ends should be woven into the side of the garment where the end of the tail won't show, or into the side that is later sewn into a seam. What is the trick to this?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 11:41PM
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When I want to join 2 yarns, (whether because the pattern calls for a color change, or I've used up one skein and need to add a new one)I just take the end of one and the beginning of the other, and knit them together for 1 stitch, as if they were one strand instead of 2. Leave the tails long enough to allow you to work them into like colored portions later. Just be sure, when you come to the join next row, that you knit them together as one stitch... otherwise your knitting will be one stitch bigger each time you change yarns. Here is a swatch to show you how it looks, which is fine to my eye! I'm curious, though, how you normally join yarns if you don't do it in this way?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 8:41AM
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I don't think there's any one best way -- for me, it depends on the yarn, the pattern, etc. Whenever I can I use a felted join, something I discovered not that long ago -- of course it only works with wool and wool blends, but for joining yarns it works great. If I'm changing colors I often just start knitting with the new yarn, letting the tail hang free, and weave the end into the same color later on. That way it's a clean change. Another join I've used and really like is the Russian join -- it can be slightly bulky where the yarns join but it works well with yarns that aren't too chunky, no ends to weave in, and it allows you to move from one color to another with no overlap. If I'm joining yarns of the same color I'll often just knit a couple of stitches with both yarns, then drop the old one and weave the end in later.

Jenn, I usually weave ends close to the edge, although not always... depends on the bulk of the yarn, etc. I try to weave them in where ever they'll be least noticeable.

I carry yarn up the sides by holding it behind and to the left of the working yarn when I start the new color row, then looping it over the top of the new color before I start knitting. If I have to carry it more than two rows, I do catch it every two rows to "tack" it to whatever I'm knitting by kind of looping it over the working row yarn as above. If you're using colors that contrast a lot it will be more noticeable. If I were doing big wide strips I'd be tempted to stop and start the yarn over and over again just so I didn't have to carry it up far, but then there are a bunch of ends to weave in.

Here's a photo that shows the edge of a scarf I'm making now; I alternate colors every 2 rows... you best can see the carried-up yarn where the colors contrast the most, maybe in the lower right portion where it's green alternating with purple. Because it's carried behind the working yarn, it gets kind of woven in and looks like it belongs. There are very neat ways to tack the yarn if you have to carry it more than a few rows but I don't know of any that will completely hide the carried yarn (not saying there aren't any, I just don't know of them!).

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 12:55PM
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Correction -- sorry -- I was thinking through how I carried my yarn up instead of just doing it so of course I made it more complicated. Here's what I do:

As I finish color A, I simply hold it in the back and towards the left of the knitting, then pick up color B and begin knitting. This brings the new color up over A. When I finish the two rows of B, I do the same and pick up A.

That results in each color essentially being woven into the edge, resulting in a neat selvage, and the carried-up yarn doesn't stand out as a straight line of yarn being carried up. It will still show both colors but at least in the two-row case it works very nicely.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 4:01PM
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Carol Ann, that makes perfect sense -- thanks! And that scarf your knitting is exquisitely gorgeous!!! It appears to have knit stitches on both sides, is that correct? Would you mind sharing what yarn you are using?

So, if I knit wide stripes, then I carry up the yarn a couple of rows, then let it go and weave it into the same-color rows later?

But if I knit thin stripes, then I can just let go of yarn A, knit a couple rows of yarn B while carrying up yarn A, then when I get to the end of the second row of yarn B I let go and resume knitting with yarn A? I don't need to cut them since there is only two rows between each change? Am I right?

You said there are some very neat ways of tacking the yarn if it needs to be carried more than a few rows. Can you provide any names of those so I can Google them or point me in the direction of a source?

Sandra: Thanks for your explanation and swatch. Another way is to just let go of yarn A, and start knitting with yarn B without securing them together, then you can go back and loosely tie them until you weave the ends in later. Or tie a loose knot around yarn A with yarn B and slip the knot up to where yarn A meets the item you're knitting, then begin knitting with yarn B.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 11:36PM
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Jenn -- the yarn is Noro Silk Garden -- a self-striping yarn. It's a tiny bit rough to work with but I love the colors and the way it plays out in various things, and the finished product is pretty soft. Doing the two-row color switch makes for some gorgeous colorways in the scarf. Go to flickr.com and search for "Noro scarves" -- you'll see some that are just gorgeous! It's a simple 1x1 rib (k1, p1) and it's a fun knit. I'm using two different colors, 2 skeins each.

I haven't done really wide rows but if I did I wouldn't bother carrying the yarn up -- I'd cut it at the end of each color strip section (with a long tail, of course) and weave the end in later. But that's my preference and may not be the best way.

But yes, on the two-row stripes, I just carry the color up as stated in my last post. It's very simple and you really can't tell where the yarn is carried up.

I don't have any names for neat ways of tacking; I've experimented a bit when I've done dishcloths to figure out the best way to carry up the yarn with the least visibility. I honestly can't even remember exactly what I did although it was a variation of the 2-stripe thing, just twisting the carried yarn with the working yarn every 2 rows so I didn't have long strands between rows. I tried googling it... here's a couple of links:

changing colors 1 (may have to scroll down a tiny bit)

changing colors 2 (scroll down a little)

The general suggestion seems to be to cut the yarn if you're going with stripes much wider than 1/2". I guess this is where talking to a knitting shop person would be helpful! Or try the books at your library... I love to browse through them from time to time and I always learn some new tidbit.

I'm just a beginner myself so I'm still learning, too, but hopefully this is of some help!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 2:21PM
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Carol, that scarf is just beautiful! Thank you for all the tips and help. The links are VERY helpful.

On the self-striping yarn, it appears that each color ends at the end of a row. How do you know how many to cast on so that the rows end at the end of a color?

(I know -- I am full of questions!)

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 11:45AM
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Ask away! I'm just glad I can actually answer some questions for a change, instead of always having a bunch I'm asking! :)

The color keeps going -- for example, if you look at the photo again, you'll see that the green is actually over 2 or 3 rows and then goes into a blue-ish color... and it kind of blends slowly into the next color, so the changes are gradual and not abrupt. I don't worry about casting on any particular number of stitches and just let the yarn do its thing! It's a fun yarn to work with and the color changes are great to see develop.

(PS -- I'm going to be away from my computer until Wed. so if you have more questions, it'll be a few days before I answer).

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 12:40PM
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Carol Ann I am making a striped hot pad to be felted. How do I spit splice on the edge? Do I knit to the end and tink back? How do I know when the edge is near? Thanks, Anne

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 6:26PM
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