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With spring comes color, and with color comes great stripes, and with great stripes comes great responsibility. This month I had not one, but two excellent color questions.

Joining It In

Dear Patty,

What is the best way to join new yarn when you have run out for stripes?  I read a great article on Modern Daily Knitting recently that named several methods of joining a new ball. It covered when to join in the middle, when to join on the edge, all sorts of examples except for the one I need, a striped scarf. I can’t join in the middle if I’m changing colors (like I would for a single color scarf). I can’t just start knitting on the edge (that leaves a big loop). I can’t tie on (a knot makes a lump). To quote an old TV commercial, there’s got to be a better way.

Living on the Edge

Dear Living,

Like with so many knitting “rules,” this one left me in the dust for years. First, when I was a new knitter I was told to “always” join a new ball at the start of a row. Then in later years, I was told to “never” join a new ball at the start of the row when knitting a shawl or scarf. Like you, I felt stuck between the nevers and the alwayses.

What’s a girl to do? Make it up! I don’t know if this is the best way, but it’s my way, and it works.

If you just start knitting with the new color, the edge is pretty sloppy, even when you purl back and snug up the tail.

For a neat join, I start by putting the tail of the new color under the old color. If you are a thrower (English-style knitter), you can hold the tail going to the left:

Or, if you’re a picker (Continental-style knitter), to the right:

Knit the first stitch with the new color, and then holding the tail and the working yarn together with the old color trapped between them, like this:

English (thrower).


Continental (picker).


Knit the second stitch. Then drop the tail and just start knitting with the new color.

When you purl back over the doubled stitch, work it like one stitch.

When you’re back on the RS row, give a little snug to the tail of the new color.

And, ta-da! A neat, clean stripe:

This is my way and it works for me. I’m a huge fan of making things up.


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Carrying It Up

Dear Patty,

I want to work stripes in flat work (like shawls). I don’t want to cut the yarn at the edges. (All those ends!) I’ve frogged the project three times now because when I carry the yarn up, it makes the edge all gathery. How do you properly carry yarn up the side of a project? Thanks for flattening out my shawl, 

Wrinkly Edges in Chicago

Dear Wrinkly,

Your query reminds me of the first time I did Fair Isle. I carried the floats too tightly across the back of the work, and the whole piece ended up looking like an old man that had been in the water too long.

If you pull on your yarn too tightly when carrying yarn up the side for stripes you can have the same issue.

When you bring your new color under the old color, the yarn you are carrying up the side is like a vertical float, so if you pull too tightly you can get a slouchy look.

If you notice your stripe is getting slouchy, it’s not too late. You can give a tug to your work to let the carried yarn relax before you go back to the first color. But, if you start the next stripe without de-slouching your work, it’s all over but the crying.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of de-slouching, so here’s how to avoid it in the first place. When you bring your new color under the old color and enter the first stitch, you can hold onto the fabric as you knit the first stitch. I hold onto it with my thumb and middle finger and pull down a bit. This will make sure you are keeping your carry loose enough to not hike your fabric up.

If you do this for the first stitch of each RS row you’ll have a perfectly smooth, non-slouchy, non-wrinkly striped marvel! As with so many things in life, the secret is to relax your grip.

Speaking of Relaxing

Dear Patty,

I have been knitting for about two years now. I love it, but I’m clearly doing it all wrong. I keep reading articles about the health benefits of knitting. It’s supposed to be relaxing. It’s supposed to lower my blood pressure. It’s supposed to boost my brain power, and it’s supposed to teach me patience. 

My kids have pointed out that none of these things are happening.

Relaxing? I love it, but I mostly knit lace and I have to concentrate like crazy. I get stressed, I drop stitches, I rip, I swear.

Boost my brain power? I need to cast on 182 stitches and have to rip and redo it 3 times because I can’t seem to count to 182.

If patience means snapping at my kids “not now, I’m counting,” or “wait until I finish the row,” then, yeah, I’m patient.

So, how do I reach this knitting nirvana that I hear so much about?

Not calm, patient or smart in Tucson (Janet)

Dear Janet,

I have so many feels about this particular myth.

I blame Instagram for the unicorn of the “calm and patient knitter.” There’s Instagram, where we see a serene knitter, sitting by a lake with her bare feet in the grass, calmly knitting double-sided brioche seemingly without looking. What we don’t see is real life, and happens right after that picture is snapped: the knitter looking down, seeing a mistake four rows ago, swearing, crying, ripping, and throwing up in her mouth a little bit.

Let’s look at the real health benefits of knitting.

Blood Pressure

I must ask, do you love knitting? Does it make you happy? Of course it does. If everything in life came easy, we wouldn’t appreciate it. I still maintain that living in a place with winter makes me appreciate the spring, summer, and fall. So think about the feeling you get, the ecstatic high that comes from fixing a mistake in cables or lace. That joy would not be nearly as powerful without the soul-crushing low that came when you first saw the mistake.

So, knitting does lower your blood pressure—after it’s raised it.

Brain Power

I guarantee you knitting makes you smarter. So you occasionally can’t count to 182, but you can take two sticks and string and make a hat where there never was a hat. That’s brilliant!


How many times have you ripped out and then tried again? That’s patience. Anytime we press on with our knitting instead of throwing it on a bonfire or wadding it in a ball and sticking pins in it like some kind of sad crafter’s voodoo doll, we are showing more patience than most people will ever know.

So, knit on, swear, cry, laugh, feel the lows and the highs of what it is to be a knitter, and know that you are calm, patient, and smart—on the inside.

Patty in Your Pocket

Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.
Do you have a knitting myth you’d like Patty to bust? Email it to

About The Author

Patty Lyons is a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert. In her pursuit of training the mindful knitter, Patty is known for teaching the “why” in addition to the “how.” She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.

You can find Patty at her website and on Ravelry.

Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at



  • I can commiserate with Janet that’s for sure. I just spent a week trying to get the back of a sweater joined to saddle shoulders with short rows and then when I finally worked it out I find I’ve twisted the stitches and have to start again! Oh well, like I tell my hubby it’s all practice

  • I’ve been knitting about 20 years. Just this week I frogged a shawl consisting of YOs, SSK, (kinda lace) literally 4 times over 2 rows, cause I couldn’t count to 5. Pattern is Miss Babs Novelle. Simple to memorize, they say….yes, if you aren’t me, lol.

    All my knowledge in knitting has been while fixing mistakes. That’s the way we all learn, and can only learn anything.

    Lace? Use markers on repeats within the pattern, keep a log of what row you are on, and how many stitches you should have at the end of the row. I use the dollar store composition books, so I can write notes, title the project. I also use the 3M colored see through tape—put the pattern in a plastic page protector and use the tape so you know where you are—on both the chart and written instructions.

    Not many of us can count while distracted.

    I can’t knit lace with ANY distractions, and I only have cats, not kids. Maybe knit a cotton washcloth instead when you are surrounded by mayhem.

    For your lace, perhaps try to carve out 15 minutes alone time, so you can knit the row, stop, but know you can come back to it without chaos. (The beauty of the notebook!)

    This has worked, sorta, for me. I mess up too, but now know when I need to have mindless knitting vs. the knitting that hurts my brain.

    Don’t give up! Good luck!

    • Love color tape hint! Thanks

    • Great advice. Thanks. I’ve been knitting for years too and still mess up. I’m now attempting to finish a Norwegian yoked sweater I started 35 years ago, just have yoke to do and will look for that tape. The yarn is Rauma wool and looks as good as the day I bought it. Knitting is both maddening and joyful.

      • I am so happy you havent given up on your sweater.

  • Janet, you need to knit something else! Lace needs peace and quiet, if there are kids, dogs, tv, etc it’s hard to pay attention. Knit something with lots of soothing stockinette, preferably in the round. I once knit a sweater with lots of cables on the front, and stockinette back and sleeves. Knocked out the easy parts in no time, but the fronts were abandoned for ten years! I finished the sweater when the youngest was in high school.
    So give yourself a break, and become queen of the hats and mittens!

    • I love hats and mittens. I’m into colorwork. Great to start with small projects.

  • What does the back side look like when you are “floating” a second color up several rows along an edge? I know how to twist it, but don’t like the way it looks and therefore feel the need to cut if carrying more than 2 rows.

  • I made a youtube video called No End Stripes for situations like shawls and scarves where both sides will be visible. Check it out for another tool in your knitting toolbox!

    • Just watched and subscribed! Great tips.

  • Thank you for the informative article. Patty, I would remind the woman who keeps losing count to Use stitch markers. For example place one every 25 stitches when casting on a large number.

    • Amen to that.

      • Double amen. Stitch markers are a good thing.

  • The doubled first stitch — it’s genius! Thank you!

    • It’s not actually the first stitch but the second stitch. Take a look at the step by step.The trick is placing the tail of the new color UNDER the old yarn, knitting the first stitch with the new color, and then knitting the second stitch with the new color yarn and tail held together with the old color trapped between.

  • I’ve been knitting for over 60 years (yes, over 60 years!) and whenever I need to cast on a large number of stitches I place markers every twenty stitches. It let’s you find mistakes as you make them (if you recount your twenty every time you place a marker, and you can correct your error very easily. If you don’t recount your twenty stitches again after placing each marker it is still easy to add stitches after counting each section when you do count. (Also, no casting on at 1:00 a.m. ever!).

  • I second the tip about knitting the old and new strands for one stitch and then carrying on with the new yarn. I’ve done this on many, many projects and it’s the easiest way to do this.

    • It’s not quite working the old and new strand for one stitch. I’m not working it with the old color. Take a look at the step by step.The trick is placing the tail of the new color UNDER the old yarn, knitting the first stitch with the new color, and then knitting the second stitch with the new color yarn and tail held together with the old color trapped between.

  • Great advice as usual Patty. Love what you shared with Kristy Glass about distractions and “Stu the sock knitter”; just one more “row”!! lmao

  • I’ve been knitting for about 10 years; recently I have not been “careful not to twist stitches” when joining in the round for at least 3 different hats I started. AND – I was in quite a few rows before I realized I had twisted. Knit happens. It does get more relaxing! But I wouldn’t knit lace patterns in front of the tv or around pets or kids or any other humans. Lifelines have really helped me on very complicated lace patterns too. Have some nice stockinette stitches to work on when there are distractions, and save the lace for quiet moments.

  • Hello Patty,
    It is always a welcoming feeling to open emails and there is yours waiting to be read and learned from. Thank you.
    For a long while now, I wanted to ask you about Sophie Digard’s yarn. I understand that it is her company and staff that makes the yarn for her, but is there a company that produces similar yarn and also in pastel colors? I am not a chocheter but really love her work and her choice of colors.
    Best of luck to you and continue sending us emails. Thanks you again.

    • I just became aware of her work and have saved a lot of it on Pinterest. I wasn’t really aware that it’s special yarn, figuring that it was probably fingering weight, so I really appreciate your question here. I hope, too, that we will have an answer soon!

  • The best! (Last response.)

  • I love Patty’s humor mixed with truth and great tips. Thank you!!

  • Thanks for this striping hint – just about to start a striped sweater. And I learned how to save this article to my account thanks to your directions – yay and thank you!!

  • I began knitting almost 60 years ago. I can measure improvement in my patience by the fact that I no longer care if I have to frog, even if it is from the beginning. It took about 50 years to get to that point, but arrived I have! I find that there are different needs of relaxation/focus that knitting provides. A “mindless” project (such as something that involves garter stitch and very few directions), to me is great for a general type of meditation, or something to keep my hands busy as I work out a problem in my head. On the other hand, something very structured (such as a lace project) is great for shifting my focus away from a troublesome problem to what is in front of me in my hands, thus providing a different type of relaxation. Therefore, I think that it’s great to have several types of UFOs on hand to suit whatever my current mood requires.Knitting has helped me in dealing with pain because it provides me something beautiful/ meaningful that I can create in the face of that difficulty.

    Knitting involves using both sides of the body, and I love the feeling of both hands being at work together! Sometimes the rythm, the focus, the feeling of both hands working together all brings me to a level of concentration where I’m totally in the present momet. This happens especially when knitting in a group when two or three hours seems to have passed in a flash. Also, there are times I feel a connection to my great-grandmother, who I understand was a faithful knitter.

    I learned to knit because it was kind of a drive something inside kept pushing me to ask my mother (who did not knit) if I could learn. She found a way to teach me. I’m so glad she did.

  • Years ago, pre-Ravelry when we all had blogs, my blog (which is still out there somewhere) was called “Knitting Relaxes Me….usually.” And really, it usually does! And my favorite sentence in this whole post is “As with so many things in life, the secret is to relax your grip.” Someone needs to make a knitter’s button with that on it! (Also, your method for joining a second color with the doubled yarn? I thought I had made that up and that I was doing some thing looked down upon by the knitting goddesses!)

    • The real trick is not knitting it with doubled yarn, but placing the tail UNDER the old yarn, knitting the first stitch, and then knitting the second stitch with the yarn and tail held together with the old color trapped between.

      • Yes, that’s what I meant – using the tail as a tool to hold the first color.

  • No matter how long you’ve been knitting (a year or 20) you can still make mistakes and need patience to tink several rows. Just imagine tinking 6 rows of linen stitch. Yes, I almost lost my religion, but so glad I did it. The tension was off which made the fabric look awful. Guess I’ll pay more attention.

  • Mess ups are part of the game. On average, I start a project over four times. It’s like practicing a sport or a preseason scrimmage before the big game. I refuse to give up. I have even tried three different yarns before I found one that worked well with the pattern.

  • My 10 year old niece who learned how to knit at age 8 can stripe like crazy with fingers flying – with no evidence of puckers or even of color changes along the edges, Is the secret to learn as a young child or just have a fabulous teacher? My personal technique for knitting long rows of lace is only one lace row (along with its resting row) per day. I can concentrate for that long and rarely make a mistake. Takes forever but so does re-knitting a dozen times per row and is a whole lot more peaceful and effective.

  • I love your reply to this lady. I am working on a sweater and I have made more mistakes than I have made good stitches. I finally decided that if I kept ripping out, I would never finish so if the mistake wasn’t the first thing you saw when looking at the sweater, I would leave it. I would prefer perfection, but I have had so many “life problems” that I am lucky to get a swatch finished. The sweater won’t be error free, but hopefully I can wear it in public. I don’t like to lock myself in the bathroom to do difficult patterns so I have to accept imperfect work or find a time and place to be able to focus and concentrate better. I love the feel and thought of the yarn and needles in my hands and that keeps me going.

  • Knitting is not relaxing for me but I love it. I can’t knot fast enough. Too many projects, not enough time.

  • What good advice! I’m saving this article for the next time I work with stripes. In the meantime, do I detect a Sondheim lover? “Where there never was a hat” is a line from his Sunday in the Park with George. Wherever that line came from, it is in my brain & I am now humming it which is not a bad thing at all!

    • Busted :). “Look I made a hat . . . where there never was a hat.”

      • Yes! Sondheim and knitting in the same sentence! Sign me up for that club. Like a Sondheim melody, knitting is complex and full of joys and sorrows. But we keep doing it.

  • I’m enjoying banging out children ‘s mittens to donate, no two the same by adding a couple rows of contrasting stripes. I have tried 3 different suggestions for avoiding the jog, but none looks good. Help!

  • I also have children, youngest now 12. To be honest my kids and husband were trained years ago to wait if I started counting out loud unless there was a true emergency. I also schedule knitting time. Just an hour at a time, when no one is allowed to talk to me (again, unless there’s an emergency). I put in ear buds and listen to audio books and shut out the world. This is when I work on projects with lace/cables/etc. Otherwise I keep a “vanilla” project always going, either a washcloth or really anything that is either garter or stockinette stitch. That is my go to for when I don’t have the ability to just knit.

  • Ooh, I love the technique for securing tails under the heading “Living on the Edge”. I have been working on a top (Bobbie from Quince & Co.) with a sequence of one-row and five-row stripes that is knitted flat above the armhole divide. The frequent addition of the one-row stripes, which you are advised to cut yarn between, was making the fabric lose coherence and causing me tension probelms. The floppy cotton yarn didn’t help either. I put it aside for months but will now retry it. Thank you!

  • I feel like a bit of a dunce, but I’m having trouble working out exactly how to catch the old yarn between the ends of the new. Any chance Patty might make a video of this one?

    • P.S. I did eventually grasp it – I think – by using the continental instructions, even though I am a picker.

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