I want to say a big thank you to everyone who responded to our story last month with all your colourwork questions! There were so many questions that it was impossible to fit them all into one article! Below are the top four most common questions that came up again and again.
But – if your question isn’t answered here, we still have you covered! As you may have seen, Anna’s first book, Colourwork in the Round, was released in English translation at the end of last year. This book covers absolutely everything you would ever want to know about stranded colourwork! It’s full of tips and tricks, detailed tutorials, step-by-step photos, and 5 exclusive patterns! It’s perfect for those starting out on their colourwork journey as well as anyone looking to perfect their technique. Get your signed copy here!
Where should I start as a beginner?
Once you’ve mastered some of the knitting basics, such as knit and purl stitches, increases and decreases, knitting in the round and some simple garments, colourwork is a great technique to work on next! If you’re a total beginner knitter, we recommend reading our free ebook, Keep Calm and Get Knitting, first and trying out those simple techniques to get you started. Once you’ve established these foundations, you’ll be confident to take the next step and delve into colourwork.
If you’ve never alternated between colours before, you might be most comfortable starting with stripes to get used to managing two balls of yarn at once. We have lots of patterns that use this technique, including the Brest Tee/Jumper, the Clovelly Jumper/Dress, the Dahlia Tank and the Plumeria Tank.
Stranded colourwork in the round would also be a wonderful place to start! This technique alternates between two (or more) colours all the way across the row to create a pretty, geometric pattern. For a first project, you may want to try knitting an accessory in two colours, such as our Marieke Hat, available on our site or Ravelry, or our Blisco Hat, available in Colourwork in the Round.
How do I swatch correctly?
Stranded colourwork is typically knitted in the round and it’s important to know that your tension in the round may be totally different from your tension when knitting flat. Equally, many people find that they have a tighter tension when knitting stranded colourwork than they do when knitting stockinette in a single colour. It’s so important to have a clear and accurate idea of your tension before starting your project, even if you may be tempted to skip the swatch and dive straight in. Believe me – it’ll be worth it when your final product fits like a glove!
There are two techniques for knitting a stranded colourwork swatch in the round. Both are equally as effective as each other, it’s just a question of personal preference.
Firstly, you could knit a small tube of the colourwork motif, as you would if you were knitting a sock or a sleeve. Make sure that the circumference of your tube is at least 20 cm, or ideally slightly more. This means that when you flatten it, you can measure the number of stitches per 10 cm horizontally and make sure this corresponds to the pattern. The exact number of stitches you cast on should be a multiple of the number of stitches across the colourwork chart, so that the tube is made of complete repeats of the colourwork motif.
The second technique creates a swatch that looks like it was knitted back and forth, however you only ever knit in a single direction. Each time you finish a row, leave a long strand of yarn round the back of the work and start the next row back where you started the first. Once you have knitted the full swatch, you can cut the strands down the middle at the back, which will leave you with a flat swatch with yarn sticking out of the sides.
If you’d like a refresher on swatching more generally, check out the “how to swatch” section of our free beginner’s ebook! Or if you’d like step-by-step instructions and photos of these two colourwork swatching techniques, they’re covered in detail in Colourwork in the Round (pages 49-56).
How do I switch between colours when knitting stripes?
If you’re knitting in the round, switching between colours for stripes is simple. Start your new colour at the beginning of the round and simply begin knitting in the new colour, leaving its end long enough to sew in later. If you’re planning to knit 6 rows or fewer in this new colour, you don’t need to cut the yarn of the original colour. Instead, at the end of your row, wrap the yarn from your original colour around the yarn of your new colour once, so that the old colour isn’t left behind and travels up the rows vertically. This will allow you to switch back to this colour later.
If you’re knitting a flat piece, you’ll want to make sure you always start your new colour on a right side row and always have an even number of rows in each stripe. This ensures that the switch between the two colours is clean.
How do I pick colours that work well together?
Of course, there is a lot of subjectivity when it comes to colours that work well together, but the number one most important thing to check first of all is that your potential selection has enough contrast. If the contrast isn’t sufficient, the colourwork motif won’t be very visible. One trick you can use is to take a photo of the colours together and make the photo black and white. This will show clearly if the colours contrast well. If in doubt, pick a neutral, such as our Colombe (cream) or Dune (nude) and a deeper, more saturated colour to pair with it, as in the sample of our Marieke (DK Edition) below (knitted in Colombe and Emeraude).
I hope you found these answers helpful and that you’ll come away feeling inspired by the incredible versatility of colourwork! Where are you at with your colourwork journey? What technique or pattern would you like to try next? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @along.avec.anna if you knit any of our projects!