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The last time I remember doubled yarns being hot was when we were holding one strand of Le Gran from Classic Elite and one strand of novelty yarn to make garter stitch scarves.

Doubling yarn has come a long way since those glory days, but the idea is still the same. Doubling yarn makes a thicker strand that knits faster, and lets you play with color and texture.

Because I’m old enough to remember Le Gran Mohair, I am also old enough to get the song “Double Vision” by Foreigner stuck in my head any time I talk about doubling anything. I had the album and the cassette tape.

For this month’s article, I played with some of the yarns featured in Jeanette Sloan’s designs for Field Guide No. 15: Open to show you some of the thinking around doubling yarn. Here are all three yarns knit to their gauge as a single strand:

Fyberspates Cumulus up top with Fyberspates Gleem Lace and neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering side by side below


The first thing you’ll notice when doubling a yarn is that the gauge changes. I can give you a chart to get you started on doubling yarns, but it’s not quite right, it’s “ish.”

Single  Doubled
Lace Fingering
Fingering DK
DK Worsted
Worsted Chunky


Because you are holding two yarns together, there is more going on than for a plied yarn of the same size. That thing is the space between the strands. When a yarn is plied with two strands, some of that space or air is eliminated in the twisting together.

There is no deliberate twisting when you knit holding two strands together, so they’re aren’t locked together—they are free to float parallel to each other. Your gauge holding two strands of lace weight yarn together will be in the range of a fingering yarn, but it will likely be bigger than a 2-ply yarn of the same weight.

This extra space also lets you shift gauge easily. This photo shows Gleem (what a silky gorgeous yarn!) in shades Shoreline and Denim. I knit it at label gauge with a single strand (upper left) then doubled and knit with a needle one size bigger (lower right), which makes a fabric that is definitely useable, but maybe a little too firm. The swatch on the left is knit doubled with a needle three sizes up from the needle used for the single strand. Sizing up the needle makes a fabric that really works better with the yarn—soft with drape. If I look closely I can see the strands spreading out in the looser swatch.


One of the most fun ways to double up is holding two different colors of yarn together. Recently Anna Maltz and Cecelia Campochiaro have written whole books on working with marled (the “official” word for two yarns held together, especially when they are different colors) yarns, and Stephen West has a bunch of patterns that utilize marling.

I could go on and on about marling. It’s so fun. But I’ll get you started by showing a closer look at Shoreline and Denim Gleem Lace marled:

Marling adds depth and motion to your fabric. What I like the best about it, is how organic it looks, it’s not very orderly.

In the MDK Shop
Cecelia Campochiaro's marling odyssey captured in five knit-it-now designs. Thanks for your Shop purchases. They support everything we do here at MDK.
By Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne


If you have a yarn that is textured like the fluffy Cumulus, doubling the yarn makes a super textured yarn. The fuzzy of this yarn also allows a bigger shift in gauge than a smooth yarn.

The top swatch is knit with a single strand at ball band gauge; the bottom is knit with a double strand and a needle size three times bigger. When doubling yarns you can make a very interesting texture too.

These swatches are knit with one strand of Cumulus and one strand of Gleem. I love the little flashes of shine from the Gleem that appear randomly in the fuzzy of the Cumulus.

How do I choose a needle size?

I have a spectacularly lazy way of choosing a needle to swatch with. Please note: I did say swatch. Doubling yarns make unique fabric, and swatching is the only way to know if you’ll like all aspects of the fabric—gauge, color, texture.

My lazy way is to add together the needle sizes of each strand and, pretending that the air between is knit on a US 1 (2.5 mm), I add a 1 (this doesn’t work out as neatly using mm needle sizes):

For me Gleem knits to ball band gauge on a US 1 (2.5 mm), so I knit two strands of Gleem on a 3 (3.25 mm).

For Cumulus by itself I use a US 3 (3.25 mm), for Gleem a US 1 (2.5 mm), and the air between is a US 1, so I knit Cumulus and Gleem doubled on US 5 (3.75 mm).

Try it and see if it works for you.

Doubled versus plied

Rustic Fingering is a single-ply yarn, and you can see in these swatches that it does a fair amount of wiggling around—the stitches aren’t very consistent. Wiggle happens with all the doubled yarn swatches, but it’s the most apparent with the single-ply. (These swatches are knit like the others, single strand to ball band gauge and double strand three US needle sizes up.)

I know some of you are wondering what’s the difference between a doubled yarn and a plied yarn. Clever knitters, take a look.

Because I have the power of spinning, I plied two strands of Rustic Fingering together on my wheel. It’s a light ply, but still twisted together and blocked. For the knitted swatches I used the same size needle (I used half as many stitches for the plied swatch). Look how much more orderly the plied swatch is, the stitches line up better, and I could have gone down a needle size, the yarn is more compact.

Just for fun, three colors!

Gleem Lace Shoreline and Denim with Rustic Fingering in Oliver.

I held both colors of Gleem and Rustic Fingering together, in a three-strand yarn. I know some of you have an eye twitch happening right now because the colors are all over the place, but I can’t get enough of the random flow of color. Applying my needle sizing formula: Gleem US 1+ Gleem US 1+ Rustic Fingering US 2+ US 1 for air = a size US 5 (3.75 mm) needle.

One more tip: rewind it doubled

Hello, Oliver

I have one last tip to help your knitting of double yarns go smoothly. When you knit two strands from the same cake, one from the inside and one from the outside, they spool off at different rates. One strand can spiral around the other, instead of staying parallel—sometimes they even tangle.

To combat this, I rewind my yarn cakes with the yarns doubled. I use two separate cakes when I can, but I will also wind a new cake with two strands from the same cake. When I’m using a strand from the inside and outside of a single cake, I make sure to hold the strands under tension so they are less inclined to wrap around each other.

Oh, and for those of you missing 1978: Foreigner’s “Double Vision.”

This Could Come in Handy

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About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Thank you SO much Jillian!! I love learning about how different yarn constructions affect how my knitted fabric behaves. Reading your essays is like color commentary in sports, but for swatching!

    • Jillian, thank you for the timely article. On my needles is a project that I call my sock monkey blanket. It is a 2 x 2 rib in cream and red stripes at top and will be the same at the bottom and the body is a medium dark grey. To get the effect I wanted I doubled up the stands of Pattons super wash wool. It took some fiddling before I found the right needle size to give me the texture and guage I wanted. I really wish I had seen your article before I had started knitting this as your tips would have been handy. Thanks for the great read.

  • Thanks for the earworm! Now I can’t focus on reading the rest of your post:-)

  • Helpful guidance regarding needle size selection when doubling yarns. However your formula only works when using the American needle sizing. Clarification that it doesn’t work for metric would be helpful for those of us who use metric sizing.

    • I can second the fact that she did mention this in the article. Also, you can find needle size conversion charts on the Internet to use as reference if you want to try this method for choosing your needles. I got my conversion chart as part of my course materials for a Craftsy class, but I’m sure they’re not difficult to find.

      • I agree. It is clearly stated—what more is there to say beyond “this doesn’t work out…”? Also her examples are using US sizes. I personally go by mm sizes when I think about my needles BUT it’s no trouble at all to learn the US sizes—on a needle gauge, or online, or maybe even on the needle (or needle package) itself. (No idea why readers feel the need to nit pick in this way!)

        • Great comment on today’s world. I am surprised they didn’t ask for her to be fired.

      • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
        Okay, but since the USA is only one of three countries in the world that hasn’t officially switched to metric, and since no-one but the USA uses US needle sizes, it’s a fair point, especially since MDK has an international audience and has been metric-positive in the past. If no-one says anything to be “polite”, people are going to think everyone is comfortable with it when they’re not. Requesting metric isn’t that strange; stating US sizes only isn’t that useful, which is a shame for an otherwise well-written article.
    • She did include that in this article. She wrote, (this doesn’t work out as neatly using mm needle sizes)

      • Could have made it clear; sounded like a vague suggestion.

        • Agreed. I wasted a couple of minutes trying to make something out of this in metric and and it’s not just not neat, it’s impossible. I presume US sizing is on a geometric progression or something? However I did find a spreadsheet formula which produces a predictable output at least for metric.=((A28+B28)/2)*1.5 {where A28 is the needle size for yarn 1 and B28 is the needle size for yarn 2}. It was suggested to multiply by 1.5 or 2. I haven’t tried it out on real yarn yet.

  • Love the article particularly about needle sizing when doubling yarn; ever so helpful!!

  • Again a beautiful masterly and fun stroll along yarn construction. I was never interested in plying yarn- what you did with Oliver makes me want to give it a twirl.

  • Great article!

  • What great information. Can’t wait to do some double yarn knitting. Wait, I’m currently doing some.

  • Very helpful, thank you! I will definitely be trying this. I love color and color combinations, and I like even my “solid” colors to have subtle variation. It’s just more interesting! This opens up a lot of possibilities, especially if you’re not finding a yarn you like in the right weight.

  • Thank you for the video link. That HAIR!

  • How do you wind two hanks together? Do you put both on the swift at the same time? Also if you are using an inside and outside end do you hand wind those together?

    • Since she’s a spinner, she’s probably winding the hanks onto 2 bobbins so she can put them under tension using her lazy Kate and then winding them into a big cake. The non-spinner version is to wind them into separate yarn cakes, make a diy lazy Kate out of a shoe box or 2 yarn bowls, so they don’t get tangled, then wind them on to a ball winder or hand wind them if they are too big for the winder.

      • Thanks for this insight! I have liked winding into one doubled ball (rather than working from two separate balls) and it has resulted in fewer tangles, but I’ve only ever wound fairly short skeins this way (like, worsted weight yarn in a 100 gram skein put up). I have a project in mind using hanks of fingering doubled, but wasn’t sure what the easiest way would be. Tempted to buy a second swift! Lol

      • Years ago, I used to wind multiple strands together, thinking it would be easier to work from one large ball than several smaller ones.
        NOT! Inevitably, one yarn strand would develop a long loop because it was somehow stretchier than the others. I dealt with it by folding it along the yarn and working it tripled for a few stitches, but doing so every so often was irksome.
        I thought the problem was caused by hand winding, so I got a ball winder. No difference. I still use multiple yarns together, bur each its separate ball – in a baggie or other container. No more loose loops!

      • Great idea!

  • Some time ago there was a discussion about choosing which color of the fluffy yarn to use with a smoother yarn. It Compared Darker fluffy v. Lighter fluffy. Can anyone direct me to that post?

  • I was just about to start swatching Gleem with a yarn similar to Cumulus. Now I have a better idea about needle size to start with. Thanks so much.

  • Does the fact that you’re getting a bigger gauge balance the fact that you’re buying twice as much yarn?

    • Depends on how you look at it, I think. I just bought some worsted weight and some fingering weight from the same company—the skeins are the same price and weight (4 oz), but that also means the fingering weight is more than twice as much yardage. In other words, the price on the lighter weight yarn is less than half as much per yard!

  • I love this! I have put together, ‘made do’, combined yarn, etc to get the right weight/color as long as I have knitted! Sixty years ago I was told by a ‘proper knitter’ that if I could use yarn correctly, that I should not knit (we were in a church knitting group and I did not go back, but continued my improper work at home) now it is a trend! Thank you for your wonderful research and tips! I always learn a lot at MDK!

    • Oh wow! Glad you didnt listen to those yarn police

  • Thanks for all the information! I’m starting to use some of my wool yarn stash in rug hooking, my new sport.
    Winding them together should really help the strands stay on the hook better. Plus I think a marled background could be really different. Or a person could use a punch-needle…..

  • Hi, I tried to follow the directions to save an article but found a problem in that to the left of the article there is no “book mark” to save the article, there is a mail, a Facebook and another one but no book mark. What am I doing wrong?

    • You must have an account at MDK and be logged on to save an article otherwise it doesn’t know who you are to save it

    • It may depend on how you receive your articles. I receive mine in a news aggregator (Feedly) so I do not stay logged into my MDK account. If you are not logged in, you won’t get the bookmark. You can log in by clicking the person icon in the upper right hand corner, then you will be able to save. Hope this works. Not sure this is the answer for you, but it works for me.

  • Thank you, Jillian! Just what I needed!

  • This may be a silly question but…is the ball band gauge determined to be the best look and drape for that yarn? I always wonder, when I deviate needle sizes from that, in what ways I am not using the yarn to it’s best potential.

  • One of my favorite techniques uses 2 hand painted yarns or a hand painted and a solid yarn together. A favorite yarn, long discontinued, had 3 varicolored yarns. It made sweaters that went with everything.

  • Any chance we can get the save banner on this article?? Thank you!

  • Am I the only one pining for Le Gran?

  • As someone who doesn’t spin*, I have wondered about purchasing an “e-spinner” purely for plying.

    * Not yet, anyway.

  • Brilliant as always. I have often thought how much tidier it would be if I just plied the two together. Fearless warrior that you are , you have done it and survived. Brilliant.

  • Absolutely love this! I am a self-taught knitter/spinner who likes to work with color and texture. This article answers several more questions. I will be following you for more ways to do the crafts I love. Wanders off with Tramontaine running in her head…

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