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Dear Kay,

Peaks and valleys. Sunshine and shadow. On the road trip that is a colorwork project, one of the moments that pegs the meter on emotion is the moment you face a drift of loose ends. Today, I share five ways to get on with this. One way even involves another craft project.

Method Number 1: Weaving


Old school. Maybe you’ve already begun a project, and you’ve been doing the simple act of dropping one color and adding another when the time came. I know: I was so carefree too, once. Knitting this way is definitely the fastest way to go, but in the long term, you pay a bitter, sour price:
The Ditch of Poor Planning: a raggedy line, with holes and warbly bits and whatnot on the front, a wilderness of ends on the back. Weave in the ends using a tapestry needle, paying attention to where the holes and warbly bits are, crossing an end over a hole before weaving it in on the far side of the hole to mimic what happens when you strand a yarn. This method requires a fair amount of futzing and generally faking it up.

The ditch is gone, but it’s a lot of work to get to this point.


Consider the alternative methods below.

Method Number 2: Spit Splicing

Spit-splicing is kind of hardcore. It totally eliminates ends, but it involves slurping on your yarn. As you arrive at the moment when a new color is required, take the end of one color of yarn and the beginning of the next color, and slurp on them to get them wet. Line up the ends so they overlap each other, in opposite directions, for about an inch. Rub them together hard and fast between the palms of your hands. Heat and friction bond the ends together, and all of a sudden you are knitting with a new color of yarn.

This method means a fiddly minute every time you swap out a yarn, but it gives such a smooth transition and lack of ends that it is clearly a good way to go. If you don’t mind slurping on your yarn. (Below, the dark line is the stitch that marks the end of a round. There are splices all around that line, but the pattern is so nutty that you can’t see where the various colors swap out.)

Method Number 3: Knots

So simple: take two ends, tie a double knot, trim to a half inch or so. Done. There are some who believe knitting should never involve making knots, but I am not one of them. This totally works, and you never have to thread a tapestry needle.


This moves right along. Knot, knot, snip. You can shop Zappo’s while doing this. You can order a refrigerator.


Method 4: Braiding

I have not personally attempted this, but I discovered Kerin’s craft project-within-a-craft-project, and it looks like fun. Create a braid of ends down the seam, tie a knot at the end, and trim it to an inch or so. Here’s her tidy video.

Method 5: Nothing

A friend who is a great knitter goes commando. Maybe she trims the ends down to an inch or two, but mostly she just leaves the ends as God intended them to be: free to wave in the breeze, unfettered and liberated. We should all be so unbound!

Would love to hear your tips and tricks.



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  • Russian splice. Loop the end of color 1, loop the end of color 2 through the loop of color 1, knit on, come back later to trim the little ends. No spit required.

  • I also love the Russian splice, which I just happened across this year. It’s good for superwash yarns that won’t spit splice (which I usually favor) and it’s a very sturdy join for garments that get tugged and stretched.

    For color work I also do a weaving-in-as-you-knit technique I learned years ago from a book by Ann and Eugene Bourgeois, Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified (Philosopher’s Wool). It involves stitching in and “locking down” yarn for 6-8 stitches at the back of the work before starting and after ending a color. Takes some practice, but well worth it in the end.

  • Do you know EVERYTHING? I shopped Zappo’s last week (boots) AND bought a new refrigerator (finally the freezer on the bottom where it’s MEANT to be). BTW, I slurp my yarn–like we’re swearing to keep a secret. c.

  • Spit with wool. I do the fiddley bit with reducing the plies before I join. With non-wool, fine yarn, I hold the two together and knit about an inch.

    Am working on a Moderne with silky wool and did the two together. Decided I might have to bury some ends after all. It’s not really sticky stuff. The number is increased due to some hanks having 2-3 knots.

    What is the black/white/green/red-rust project?

  • I use a weave-in-progress method. About eight stitches before the new color (or ball), I twist the new color around/behind the first color for each of the next eight stitches in the first color. When I’m ready to switch to the new color, I then twist the first color around/behind each of the next eight new color stitches. The beauty is that when I’m done with the knitting, all the weaving is done except for a little snipping of ends. As for that commando method? I’m having anxiety just thinking about it!

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  • I use Purell in lieu of spit for solid colors. Not so icky. For stranded, I use the weaving in as you go method described by Amy above. at 7:29.

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  • I used to be a “no knots in the knitting” person, but I’ve become a fast convert to the Magic Knot!

  • Thank you for validating the knitty knot methd. It works! Same philosphy as my house-super clean and presentable but don’t dare open the drawers or closets.

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  • GAAAH! That braiding method is so elegant that I may finally try some color work.

    By the way, that amazing swirly sweater of many, many colors is just spectacular!

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  • Zappos sells fridges? Who knew!

    Anyway, no knots! I do the thinking weaving in. It does take time, but it looks good, and there are no knots. I might try the spit method, and maybe braiding, but never knots.

  • Spit.

  • Obligatory link to Techknitter’s classic round-up of 10 ways to deal with ends when joining new yarn:

    For fair isle, I have generally favored the Russian Join, because I could never get spit splicing to “work”. My eyes were recently opened in a class with Janine Bajus (the Feral Knitter), when she said that it’s okay if your spit spliced area doesn’t have the integrity of an actual strand of yarn. It only needs to *barely* hold together long enough for the overlapped ends to be knitted into the fabric — after that, the knitting itself provides plenty of security. Maybe this was obvious to everybody else, but it solved my perfectionist spit splicing frustration in a snap!

    • Don’t bother with spit. Just knit 2 strands together for an inch or so. Not visible with most yarns.

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  • I am thrilled your blog is active again.
    Thank you!

  • Comment–Oh.
    Anyway, have not done anything so grand as fairisle. I do really like to attach a new ball of yarn by knitting a strand from each ball (old/new) together in one stitch (have to remember in the next row to treat them as one stitch, too). The thing is that it was always tough to weave in those ends. I would sort of criss cross them or something. Nice to know I can just let them hang on the inside of the garment. Guess I gotta stop making scarves. ….

  • Woah. Woah. woah. Your friend just… leaves the ends free? No weaving in, no knots? Nothing??? HOW? HOW is there not gaping holes in her work??????? I am befuddled!!!

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  • Love the blog!

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  • I don’t do such fancy colorwork. Yet. For a two color project I carry them up the side. Spit splice for wool, Russian join for thicker yarns, magic knot for thin, except for lace, then Russian join. I hate weaving in ends. Never looks good to me.

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  • One more good reason to steel….just leave most of your color changes hanging there in the steel, to be trimmed away. I do use a kids hair clip….the kind that pops open then closes on itself to keep the loose ends in place….just snap it open, add new yarn ends and snap closed. I move it up as I go, as once you have knit a few rows up you are fine, but it helps keep my tension even.

    I also weave in as I go, trapping the yarn the same way I trap the background yarn on the occasional long float.

    Barbara M. In Nh

    • Damn auto correct…..of course, that is “steek”, not steel.

      Barbara M. In NH

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  • I love spit splicing (even for solids), but I trim each end by half the plies. If I’ve had coffee too close to joining time, plain water will work just fine.

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  • I weave in the ends into the next 8-10 stitches I knit, alternating the yarn up then down catching it in the back of every stitch. No ends to weave in

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