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Dear Kay,

Getting there! My queue of MDK March Mayhem projects is down to 62, now that I am well on my way with the Papa pullover by Junko Okamoto.

You know Papa: it’s that pullover with the winsome flowers that look to have been doodled all over it.

Junko Okamoto thoughtfully provides us with a chart, 50 rows high and 90 stitches wide, for working the flowers in stranded knitting—you know, working two colors alternately in a round.

The chart must be worked four times to cover the front and back of Papa. There is absolutely no repetition or rhythm to the chart. Every stitch is an adventure.

The only way through it is through it.

It’s a stern test.

Couldn’t a person stitch the flowers rather than strand them?

As you may recall, I’ve been in something of a duplicate stitch mood recently.

Let’s break down the pros and cons of duplicate stitch versus stranding for this project.



• If you love to knit stranded colorwork, this is a good workout of your skills.

• The stitches for the flowers are integral to the fabric—they don’t sit atop the background. This is a design choice: do you want dimensional flowers or a fabric with flowers built in? Duplicate stitch creates a dimensional effect.

• You get to make the flowers pretty early in the creation of this sweater. The flowers are what this sweater is all about. A person wants to get to the flowers as soon as possible.


• The strands on the back might show through if you use a very light main color and very dark color for the flowers.

• The colorwork makes the fabric double thick for the flower section, due to the strands carried on the back side. It’s a single thickness elsewhere in the pullover.

• Single-stitch colorwork can be hard to make consistent, when the floats are long. (Up to 39 stitches here, which means a lot of weaving of the floats on the back side.)

• It’s virtually impossible to correct the flower stitches if you discover you’ve made a mistake. The stranding makes each row pretty much permanent. (Fudging is possible, of course. Fudging is always possible!)

• Should you go down a needle size for the stockinette part? The pattern suggests this in case your colorwork comes in a tighter gauge than one-color work. This is basically a shot in the dark unless you’ve swatched in the round. (Confession: I have never done that and never will.) Who knows if your stitches will look better or worse?

• You can’t really tell how your stranding will turn out until you’ve finished the entire sweater and blocked it. My stranded knitting looks tons better after I’ve given it a good soak and blocking. But with such irregular floats and single stitches, Papa is a pretty challenging piece of colorwork. Puckering, pooching, too tight, too loose—all are possible problems here.

Duplicate Stitch


• Duplicate stitch is very much like counted cross stitch embroidery. The background of stitches is the grid. It goes pretty quickly when you load up a tapestry needle and just get to it.

• The stitches have a bit of dimensionality to them, making the flowers stand out. A design choice, whether the flowers should be flat in the fabric as with stranded knitting, or raised a bit with duplicate stitch.

• It’s easy to take out irregular parts or to fix mistakes if you discover you’ve made a mistake. Duplicate stitch is done on the surface of the finished knitted background, so you can snip out a problem area and redo it without affecting other stitches around it.


• Duplicate stitch is no fun if you don’t like stitching!

• Duplicate stitch follows the shape of the flowers. The chart can be hard to follow when you’re stitching these irregular flower shapes—you can overlook a flower by mistake if you’re, say, binge watching Scandal and Olivia Pope is really chewing somebody out. There’s a lot of eyeballing and checking back at the chart to make sure you didn’t blow a column of stitches. Not sure if this is more anxiety provoking than having to check the chart when stranding the colorwork, which lets you at least mark the row you’re on with a bunch of sticky notes.

• You don’t get to make the flowers until you’ve knit the whole sweater.


Maybe that’s not true. Maybe you can make the flowers before you finish the body. Maybe you can knit the 50 rounds for the background on which the flowers are to be stitched, then knit a number of rounds after that. Then put all live stitches on waste yarn and get to the duplicate stitching right away.

I think this is a pretty decent idea. Even though duplicate stitch is worked on the front side of the fabric, it will be easier to handle if there aren’t sleeves and a long torso flapping around.

I think I just answered my own question. I’m definitely going with duplicate stitch. Unless, of course, I get out a fat Sharpie, doodle the doodles, and call it a day.



PS We carry this yarn in the MDK Shop, Lana Plantae Rambouillet DK, in Cochineal and Sumac. The hot pink is stunning. A natural dye derived from teeny red bugs? Pretty cool.


  • There is a viable third option. I made Papa, truly enjoyed the knitting and love the result I even recalculated the whole thing because my yarn (Noro silk garden solo) was an Aran, only 3 pattern repeats for me then!
    I did stranded knitted but with the most clever technique I came across within the last years (literally changed my knitt8ng life!), ladderback jacquard. No long floats, no colour blips showing through! Sockmatician has an awesome tutorial on youtube
    And yes, sometimes I got a little lost in the counting, but that’s the same challenge, if you strand or stitch. It’s no a problem though, nobody will see if a little flower is one stitch higher or lower, more to the left or right or a bit wonky, smaller, bigger, after all it’s a doodle, irregularity is part of the game….

    • Gabi, how did you anchor the extra stitch on the last row of the charted section? For each 90 stitch pattern repeat, I can only see 5 points where you can knit 2 tog with the same colour. Did you just knit 2tog anyway? Thanks! I’m counting stitches and calculating logistics as we speak!

    • whoa! Thank you for the tutorial video! 🙂

    • I have bought the yarn and planned to do the LBJ too! I watched the video but couldn’t work out what to do with the extra stitch. Does it just get worked together with one of the same colour when that appears in the pattern? What if this doesn’t happen by the end of the stranded portion?
      Techknitter also has a LBJ method on her site that is worked a bit different (STUART) Has anyone tried that?

    • Another great reference for the ladderback jacquard technique, especially for those who want a practice pattern to guide them through it step by step:

      It’s one of the coolest knitting things I’ve learned about in years, and really opens up a ton of exciting options for Out There stranding. And, as a bonus, since learning about the technique I can finally make sense of what I’m seeing on the wrong side of some of my off-the-rack machine knit stranded sweaters

    • Nathan is amazing! What a great video and wild technique.

    • PS: yes, I changed needle size and it was the right choice!

  • I would go with stranded knit on the delicate flowers. I am good at it and I am not very good at all the eyeballing and guess work the duplicate stitching requires. It is a lovely design.

  • You’ve never made a circular swatch :-O!! What do you do instead then? Because I really do hate circular swatching…

    • Oh but circular swatching is sooo easy and fun the @nellziroli way!!

  • I’m contemplating knitting this lovely jumper and for me intarsia, with maybe a little bit of stranding, would be the way to go.

  • Now I am not very experienced at colourwork, but why not intarsia? This is the sort of thing I’d have thought intarsia was designed for (except the knitting in the round stuff, of course!)

  • Love the idea of duplicate stitch before finishing the sweater- should be much easier. Now I want to add Papa to my embarrassingly long queue!

  • I think I would totally duplicate stitch this one … although now I’m curious about this ladderback jacquard (mentioned above!)

  • Your joke of the sharpie got me thinking—what about Papa flowers with bleach pen on denim yarn???

    • OMG that is a genius idea. I think the Rowan classic “Denim People” (with a very young Eddie Redmayne modeling!) has a few patterns like that.

  • I think you are right–duplicate stitch is the way to go. And the genius bit is working it before the arms and finishing work! As much as I love to do colorwork, this sweater seems like it could be a project from hell, even using ladderback jacquard. And definitely not intarsia in the round! OMG.

  • Loved the sweater at first sight but knew I would not be doing it. Some days even stockinette is a challenge. Wonder if purling the color stitches would work à la ganseys and State shapes on washcloths? Nah. Darn. I am in awe of you and those others who are tackling the other two… Oh, another thought. Would Kristin Nicholas get out her hoop and try embroidery? And would it have the same look? Apparently the musings on this design are endless. I can’t wait to see the outcome on Ravelry:).

  • P.S. Am even more in awe of Gabi..and apparently water-soluble stabilizer is the way to go for embroidery, not hoops.

    • I wondered about this – I’ve only done little bits of duplicate stitch, but as a former cross-stitcher, it seemed like something as big as these flowers would need a hoop to hold the fabric in place. Water-soluble stabilizer looks like it’s a good solution.

  • I am going to try the ladder back jacquard. I like doing stranded color work yet like the look of duplicate stitch on this sweater from photos. Ladder back jacquard seems to be a happy medium I will at least try.

  • My rule of thumb has been to duplicate stitch if the pattern is only one stitch (or sometimes two) and to use intarsia for anything more than that. It’s just a personal thing with me. Plus, I really enjoy duplicate stitching.

  • I forgot to add that I love the pattern!

  • Thank you. This has been bothering me since I first saw the pattern and I believe you have the solution……although the Sharpie alternative, that’s Genius.

  • I’ll take stranding over duplicate stitch, any day. But that’s cuz duplicate stitch is like some great mystery to me – half the time i can do it, the other half, it’s a disaster. Like I don’t remember the action. Left-handedness may play a role in this (as everyone teaching seems to be right-handed). Mind you, I’m mixed-handed, which is to say I do some things only left and others only right. So I don’t know if I can technically use this as my excuse. 🙂

  • For me, the thing about duplicate stitch is that a person can do anything. Any thing. I can imagine starting out following the pattern and then just…wheeeee!
    But I am definitely going to check out that ladderback jacquard method because 1) I fear the Very Long Float and 2) it just sounds so intriguing 🙂

  • The ladderback jacquard method is fascinating! I might try that on a simpler pattern than the Papa pullover. I also adore Halloween, so I very much liked his hat. My first stranded knitting project was last year. It too was a hat, but in my case with a very simple tree motif, suitable for a first-timer. I did swatch, with corrugated ribbing and stockinette, and was happy with the result. (Changing needles up by one size for the corrugated ribbing portion, I think.) However, when I started on the actual hat I found I had to go from size 2 needles for stockinette to size 5 needles for the colorwork portion. It may just have been a case of Newbie Stranded Knitter Syndrome, as I have found since then that going up 2 needle sizes for colorwork seems to be sufficient

  • You are a mind reader. I was fixin’ to ask how one handles the long floats in Papa. I want to do it as a cardigan and that makes the neatness even more important. You have empowered me yet again. It is also time to lay some other thank yous upon y’all. I became aware of MDK during the 3rd round of March Mayhem voting last year. You just sort of ran over me. Your writing style is dear to me. Your sense if humor is what is found in my Christmas letters – or more likely what I wish was found in my Christmas letters. I have learned just a bunch…and enjoyably . The spit splice is truly life changing. Approaching swatching from the point of view of not forcing yourself into a certain number of stiches/rows, but to experiment with different combinations to come up with a fabric that you like; then fudge the pattern. (I’m not sure I got this entirely from an MDK post, but perhaps from a link which led to another link and possibly to another.) Some process or other I used even though I was sure it wasn’t acceptable in the higher circles of knitting was vindicated. I’m so comfortable with it now I can’t remember what it was. Anyways, thank all of you associated with MDK for your knitting based posts, as well as inspiring fringe posts. I am a better knitter and person.
    Addendum: This is also on of the best thread of comments; most fascinating ideas.

  • I love stranded colorwork, but what I love about it is the rhythm! So I think I’d opt for duplicate stitch in this case. I also think I’d like the fabric better if the yoke isn’t double thick.

    Duplicate stitch: You know you can move over half a stitch, and then have your V’s pointing down like V’s instead of up like ^^^. That would float my boat, and keep knitters guessing!

  • Another option is to chain stitch crochet the flowers. The chain stitch gives beautiful texture and is very forgiving. I sometimes use backward knitting to avoid long strands as well, although in this sweater the backward knitting would have to be combined with intarsia to work well.

  • I think duplicate stitch is the only way I would do this sweater. I loved the look of this design but also didn’t like the idea of doing this color work stranded. I think if I knit it, I will duplicate stitch the flowers in multiple colors. We all have small balls in our stash-wouldn’t a bouquet of multi-colored flowers be fun?!

  • I am new to stranded knitting,so duplicate sticking would be the way to go.

  • There is a third option, the one that I am going with: bobbins. I’m following the chart using 2 feet long strands of the flower color.
    Not actually using bobbins, just letting the yarn hang in the back so that I can pull it up as needed. The color doodles lay smoothly and don’t thicken the fabric.

    • Ooh. Intriguing. Not sure I have the entire concept. Do you have multiple long strands hanging down the back and pick up the closest strand in each row? Not having a chart in front of me, I’m thinking that you’re going to have a strand when you need it within a stitch of the pattern. Do you give a wrap of the base and pattern yarns before and after each pattern stitch? I’m liking this if I’m even close.

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