Friday, 29 October 2010

Alternating skeins

Warning! This post might be quite boring for non-knitters. In fact, it might also be boring for knitters who are not interested in this specific technique. It also features a lot of rather imperfect iPhone photos. So sorry about all that... but hopefully it might be vaguely helpful to someone.

I am alternating skeins on my Elphaba Pullover, to avoid pooling of the lovely hand-dyed yarn. That sounds so self-explanatory, 'alternating skeins'; it turns out it's not, and it took me a while to find a method I was happy with. I started off alternating every other round on the body, twisting my old yarn with my new at each switch. 

This was ok...ish. The eagle-eyed observer, or the massive knitwear perfectionist (ahem), might be able to spot the slight pucker it caused on the right side, despite my efforts to keep the 'floats' loose:

When I started on the sleeves, though, my results from this method went from 'ok-ish' to 'completely bloody awful': massive holes, sloppy enlarged stitches, unhappy tight stitches - it was a mess:

I was ready to give up, rip back the sleeve and restart it using just one skein, when, as so often happens, Ravelry saved the day. I got a couple of really useful suggestions to my disconsolate forum post on the subject. Firstly, someone (the designer of this pullover, in fact!) recommended I move the place where I was switching yarns from my magic loop join to the middle of a needle - this made things much better already. But then I followed this grumperina link on knitting one-row spirals, and have become such a zealous convert to her method, that I've taken some photos of it in action, in the hope of recruiting more knitting souls to the cause! I'm currently doing the lace cuff to the sleeve, so I can assure you that any holes here are entirely intentional.

Here we are just before the switch - the 'new' yarn is on the left and the 'old' one on the right:

 Knit the next stitch still using the 'old' yarn.

Drop the 'old' yarn and pick up the 'new' (according to grumperina they should never tangle together, though I have not always managed this) to knit the next stitch.

At this stage, the stitch connecting to the 'new' yarn in the row below (underneath the second stitch on the right hand needle - the hole beneath the first stitch is a lace hole, not a bad hole) may be slightly enlarged.

Gently tug on the 'new' yarn until that stitch looks the same as those around it, being careful not to tighten too much.

And that's it - just knit the rest of the round with the 'new' yarn, repeating the steps above when you encounter the second strand of yarn.

And the results?

It's still not 100% invisible, but I think this is mainly down to the colour shifts. Most importantly, it feels great - as flexible and forgiving as stocking stitch should, without being constricted by 'floats' - and it's much less arduous to do than that intarsia-style twisting I was doing on the body. In fact, it's so much better that I'm almost thinking of re-doing the body to match... This method can also be used with different-coloured yarns to create barber-pole type stripes - spiral-tastic!

This is my first attempt at a quasi-tutorial, so please do comment if there's anything not clear. Happy alternating!


  1. Thank you so much for this tip. I was dreading alternating skeins because of the look and feel after twisting the strands... This makes a huge difference in my finished product.

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