Need Tips for Stranded Colorwork Please

Okay, I finished by pink and black section. I did the first few and last few rows in garter stitch as well as the sides. Next I continued in pink in stockinette for a few rows. Then, I started with the black. I am not sure if I did it correctly.

I am confused about the tension. It pulls in the middle where I use the black but it seems loose where the black meets the pink garter stitch ends.

This is the back. Not sure what it is supposed to look like.


​Why does it seem tight overall but loose in other areas? What am I doing wrong?

Thanks in advance for any help!




@K2-Tog Your tension with the stranded part is tighter than your tension in the other segments of the piece. It’s very common for tension during stranded work to be different from tension during other knitting.

You can increase the size of your needle to try and make the tensions match but it might be a good idea to practice trying to make the tension more even using the same needles all the time.

When carrying the unused color behind the work, you need to make sure you’re leaving more yarn in the back than you think is necessary. I like to remind myself that the strand in the back should look like a little smile and not like a dash.

Oh, I see. My strands in the back aren’t smiling. Instead they are kind of saying meh with their dashes. I think I pulled the colors tighter because I was getting larger pink stitches at the ends that turned into gaps.

Is there a certain way that I’m supposed to wrap (twist or carry) the black when I go back to all pink at the the edges so I don’t get this little gap?

In my (limited experience) you don’t see a lot of FairIsle / colorwork patterns knitted flat. In general you would just be working in the round and color changes would happen on a side seam or in a steak , which would be cut and those edges wouldn’t show. Just keep practicing, though, it looks like you are getting the hang of it, and remember to push you stitches down your right needle as you go to keep the floats loose. And try not to switch hands, I.e. always keep background in right hand, etc if you have a distinctive pattern/ background design. And as Ellen said, you will have different gauges with different stitches, especially garter which tends to be looser. Happy stitching!

As @PurlgirlButtons said, a lot of stranded colorwork is worked in the round. That’s because the yarn tends to wind up in the wrong place when you knit across one side and then purl back.

THIS is too much information but I can’t help myself:
If you want to knit something in the round that will be a flat product in the end, you can knit it in the round doing the color work the usual/easy way then cut it by creating a “steek.” To do it, you put in some waste stitches at the spot you’re going to cut (adding say, 3-5 extra stitches that carry all your colors through the row - creating a column of waste stitches stacked up on top of each other). You can stabilize the waist stitches using a sewing machine (that’s easiest, but there are other choices), then cut through the middle of the steek
making the piece flat.

The best way to ovoid making the stitches too tight is to spread the them out on the right-hand needle as you go.
Stranded knitting in the round is a lot easier. but working it flat is definitely doable (that’s how I learned)

The gaps at the sides can be remedied by twisting the yarns the same way you would when knitting intarsia.
This link shows it well.

Looking at your swatch close up, it looks like you are twisting your stitches (I twisted mine when i was starting out) that would be why the plane stockinette portions are bumpy.
This is a good explanation of what I’m talking about.

If I have to span very many stitches my favorite technique is ladderback jacquard.

Thanks all, this is great. I am going to try again this week and keep referring to all of this information while I do it.

@Sommerfugl - I appreciate you taking the time to get me those links!

Hi! I tried it again. I think that the tension is a bit loose and I did forget to spread out the stitches on the right-hand needle as I went along. However, it seems better than the first.

What do you think?


Excellent! What a worthy and wonderful adventure you’ve embarked upon!

I definitely didn’t push the stitches down the right needle because I had no clue on that. I’ll do that when I try again. :+1:

About carrying the yarn… Let’s say I wanted to solid pink in the middle then go back to using the black checks (so there’s be 2 parts in checkerboard with a line down the middle). Would I cut the black yarn, go back to pink only then add back the black? Or would I somehow carry the black?

It depends how many stitches wide the pink line in the middle would be. I would just carry the black, unless the line in the middle is very wide. in which case I would use two balls of black, one for each side of the middle pink section.

I agree with @Sommerfugl - if you want a large section of solid pink flanked by black edges, using 2 balls of black would be my choice (google “intarsia”).

I do a fair amount of colorwork. Sometimes I carry a color much farther than what I would recommend to others because… well, I’m just ridiculous sometimes, lol.

If the float in the back is too long it can distort the stitch shape (on the front). Also, if it is a wearable item, fingers gets caught in long floats. You can mitigate the impact by catching the float here and there as you knit the other color(s) but only so much.

Ok, I made a hat with two colors and not the two colors changing yarn at the end of a row! I really made a hat from a chart and am very excited! Headed over to the FO’s thread with my hubby’s new hat! It’s not the greatest but I did it. You guys helped so much! :woman_cartwheeling: