Color Dominance in Stranded Colorwork

March 6, 2023

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  • When I started knitting in the seventies we were making Lopi sweaters – and we were told to always bring the next color over (so as not to make a hole). It does require you to untwist the yarn – but that has just become another repetitive process that I don’t mind doing – and I like the even look of the stitches. This would be impossible, however, if you use both hands to carry the yarns.

    • Terri – this is an interesting thing! I, too, was offered the same advice when I started out with this type of knitting. There is actually another way of working with two colours, that looks very similar to stranded colourwork – called twining – and it does call for twisting the yarns. It’s to make a dense and woven fabric. But that’s a rather particular situation, and you’re right, requires both yarns in the same hand. The “no holes” thing is actually a bit of a red herring, and I find that advice for colourwork knitting sometimes gets confusing and confused. Sometimes you’re offered a rule for one situation without explaining that it doesn’t apply in another. You do absolutely need twist in intarsia, to avoid making holes, but in stranded colourwork, unless you’re specifically working a “twined” fabric, twisting isn’t necessary – there aren’t holes, I promise. Working without twisting permits different ways of holding the yarns, plus it’s easier: as you say yourself, there’s untwisting to be done. And, twisting really tightens up the fabric, taking out the stretch and flexibility, and messing with your tension. I hope that helps!

  • Thank you SO MUCH for this post! I was just boring my husband to tears talking about this yesterday, but it’s REALLY interesting to me and you’ve made it so clear! And, as you say, if I’m not sure where my dominance lies, make a swatch and see what happens. I love that idea. Many smiles and thanks!!!

  • As always Kate, you do SUCH a good job explaining things like this. Prior to reading this, I’d never felt that color dominance was an issue that I had to consider as that wasn’t ‘me’. But after reading this, I’m now going to have to pay more attention to my swatch stitches. Thank you!

  • As always, Kay’s guidance is superb. Her comments are easily understood, and illustrations helpful and clear. She’s True asset to our knitting community.

    • No love for knitters who hold both strands in the left hand?

      • Hi Lindy! Thanks for your comment. You’re right… we didn’t mention that. I’m writing to a very tight wordcount, and although the mention was in an early draft it looks like we removed it – along with a lot of my extra words (I always get far more detailed that space allows). I’m sorry about that. The good news is that the same comments hold hold true.

  • My reminder for myself is “left leads, right recedes”

  • This was fascinating! Always new things to learn. Thank you Kate!

  • I changed the way I move my yarn after watching a video on YouTube from Arne and Carlos about color dominance. Now I’m much happier with my finished projects.

  • I totally agree that the left hand’s yarn makes slightly bigger stitches on the stockinette side and will be a little more prominent. But I don’t understand the explanation. On the reverse side the yarn travels a slightly longer distance but what does that have to do with the size of the stitch on the front side? If you tie one rope around a 2×4 and another one around a 2×6, edge on they will look the same even though the one on the 2×6 has to travel a longer distance around the back. Why is this different?

    • When I knit with multiple colors and carry one of them over the left hand and the other travels over the right, I also use two different yarn movement techniques. Using the right hand needle, I pick (continental technique) the yarn from the left hand and, using my right hand finger, throw (American throw technique) that hand’s yarn over the needle tip. I could be that I then get different size stitches from slightly different tensions between each technique.

      • Mary-Anne – Yup, that’s exactly what’s happening!

    • Hi Tess! Good question, and I like the analogy you use… the issue is that the yarn is travelling a slightly longer path when you work it, but when you wash it, and stitches settle, the extra yarn gets taken into the stitch. Effectively, in washing/blocking, the 2×4 and the 2×6 have been removed. Does that help?

  • Does knitting using rotating floats instead of parallel floats reduce colour dominance?

    • I’ve never heard the terms rotating floats and parallel floats, would like to hear more on that.
      Thanks Kate for emphasizing consistency rather than right way/wrong way.
      I learned I needed to WRITE DOWN which hand while knitting 5 color stranded slippers where the background color changes – KDD Pouzles.

      • I have gone with the memory aid “Light in Right,” to keep me sorted as to which colour is in which hand. If the colours are both of relatively equal value I then have to make a decision and stick to it… probably then I’d write it down, too!