Thursday, 30 March 2017

Double Knitting Tips For Beginners

Double Knit Star Wars Scarf by noticedragon
For the longest time I have been struggling to get into double knitting just because it looked so complicated to me. The fact that you are knitting two pieces of fabric together and at the same time, having to deal with at least two colors and having those two yarns to manage at the same time was daunting to say the least.

I decided a week back that I would finally take the plunge and knit a fantastic Star Wars Scarf by noticedragon on Ravelry (see picture). The pattern looks great and I had plenty of DK (double knit) yarn in black and white in my yarn stash. Plus, if I start it now and it takes me a while to get it done then I have at least six months before the weather starts getting colder again (I managed to get this scarf done in two months and it's now keeping me warm in the rainy May weather we have in the UK). 

How Do I Cast On When Double Knitting?

So having dived head first into the double knitting technique the first question I had after looking at the pattern was "how on earth do I cast on with two yarns at the same time?". Well, after doing a little research it's relatively easy. The simplest way I discovered was to cast on with your normal method but alternating the strands of yarn that you are using each time. You may have guessed that this will take double the amount of time so be sure to use stitch markers if you are going to be casting on a lot of stitches as it is easy to lose your count.

How Many Stitch Should I Cast On?

My next question was "how many stitches do I need?". It's all well and good reading your pattern and counting out how many stitches you need but that will only give you the count for one side so you need to double the amount. Initially it may look as if your project is going to be huge but after the first couple of rows everything aligns and goes back to the expected size so do not fear!

Doubling the stitches will work out how many you need for the pattern however if your pattern doesn't allow for an edge the you may want to add in an extra four stitches (two pairs) per edge to allow for those slip stitches to make a nice edge. In total you'll be adding on an additional eight stitches during the cast on stage.

Reading The Double Knit Pattern

As a knitter you will probably used to reading patterns so I wont go into how to read a pattern here. However, when you are setting up your project and you have cast on twice the number of stitches required you probably wont be sure what to do next. What a lot of patterns fail to mention is that for every knit stitch in your pattern you will need to do a purl stitch in the opposite color. By doing the purl straight after the knit stitch you will would have done the knit stitch on the opposite side of your work. Once you have done a couple of rows in the manner it will become clear on both sides that the patterns are forming.

Yarn Forward Or Back?

As I mentioned above you will be doing a knit and purl stitch for each stitch on your pattern but it's important to have your yarn in the right position otherwise you'll have the floats (yarn carrying over) on the wrong side. When doing the knit stitch you will want to have both of your working yarns in the back with. For creating your purl stitches you'll have both of your yarns in the front of your work and then move them to the back to set up for the knit stitch again

Two Stranded Tension

Yarn Tension

Getting the tension right can be difficult if you're not used to working with two strands of yarn or doing a style of knitting you're not really proficient in. Some of the issues that you may experience with multiple yarns is a lengthening or shortening of individual stitches which can then cause holes and puckering in your fabric. There are ways of neatening up these stitches once they have been knit but they are time consuming and tricky to do so you may be better off ripping out the problem area and starting again. Thankfully a little practice or adjustments to your yarn or needles can make your stitches nice and even so you get a consistent tension.

When I'm doing regular knitting I prefer to "throw" the yarn with my right-hand in the English style, however I couldn't get my tension right by having the two strands in my right-hand and I was getting longer stitches in the "front" yarn and my usual tension in the "back yarn". As I'm also a crocheter I decided to switch my yarns to my left-hand and  "pick up" the stitches in the Continental style.As you can see I now have a nice even tension in both stitches and my fabric is nice and smooth.

I would personally recommend trying both yarns in one hand or the other first and making a couple of swatches to see which one fits best. However, if you're still struggling with managing the two yarns in the same hand then you can switch to doing both Continental and English by having a strand in each hand.

Yarn Management

Yarn Management

Knitting with double the amount of yarn and having to cross over the working yarn occasionally can get really messy really quickly. The best way I have found is to cake up your yarn into a center-pull ball. My rolling your yarn into a ball this way you'll find that your yarn stays in one place and not all over the floor and getting tangled up together. 

One yarn management technique I have used is to simply separate your yarn balls as much as possible. When I'm sitting at home knitting I will have one ball to each side of me with both working strands meeting in the middle where it connects to the fabric. If I am travelling when knitting then I will have one ball on my lap and the other in my bag, that way they cannot get crossed during transit.

How Do I Bind Off When Doing Double Knitting?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to binding off and it is completely down to your own personal preferences.
  1. Pick one of your colors and bind off in the usual way
  2. By using both of your colors bind off "in pattern"; by doing your first knit stitch, then purl stitch in the other color and then bind off, repeat as required.
For more detailed instruction for binding off please read How To Bind Off With Double Knitting.

If you are completely new to knitting then please check out my article Learn How To Knit.

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