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True confession time, I’m a flat knitter. Yes, you heard that right I like to knit flat, including colorwork. I know some of you think there be dragons when your knitting has edges, but it works for me. 

I was so happy to see flat colorwork in Field Guide 25. Dee Hardwick does amazing color and is also a fan of flat knitting—solidarity, sister!

One of the most gorgeous pieces in Botanica is the Cottage Throw, so many motifs and such great color, all knit flat.

I pulled out a single motif to sample, a sweet line of flowers. The giant chart for the throw might become so many things for me. I may never knit the throw, but I will use the motifs as a mix and match stitch dictionary for other projects—the hem for an otherwise plain sweater, or the cuff of a mitten …

To swatch I chose Skyline and Barn Red—two colors of Atlas, that are high contrast and that I wouldn’t normally put together. I am auditioning all of the things.

Why Flat?

One reason I knit flat is because it’s how I learned to knit so it’s familiar and comfy. In my knitting life I’ve knit both throwing and picking, so two-handed knitting is no problem for me.

The biggest reason I knit flat for colorwork is when I knit in the round, I look for speed. In colorwork knitting I might pull a little tighter with my picking strand in my haste to fly. That microscopic tightening means uneven floats, and sad, sad knitting for me.

I feel like I have much more control over gauge and floats, knitting flat. I go slower and am much more methodical with my knitting, so I enjoy it more. I even have a better memory for color dominance when I knit flat.

Some Tips to Get Even Floats

One of the easiest ways to help keep your floats even is to make sure your stitches are evenly spaced when you make the color change (upper left). I am a stitch buncher. I feel like my knitting goes faster if I have all of my stitches bunched up on my left needle ready to be knit. If I do this while knitting color work, my floats are woefully short and my knitting is permanently scrunched.

If I’m knitting while stressed or while watching something intense (I do love a good murder mystery show) and suspect I will be pulling more than I’d like, I slide a finger between the knitted fabric and the float being formed (upper right). For me this helps keep the floats loose without thinking too hard about it. I do this a lot when I do knit color work in the round.

If I have a float that’s too loose and floppy I could rip back or cut and spit splice the float. I prefer the LaZee™ method, I knit the floppy float together with a stitch in the next row. Left to right, top to bottom, I have a floppy float on the purl side (sometimes they are even bigger than this), I work to a stitch on the knit side that is about in the middle of the loose float and knit the float and the stitch together.  Even though the colors of yarn have high contrast I can’t see the float peeking through, and it’s nicely caught on the purl side.

I can’t be the only knitter that prefers working colors back and forth. Flat knitters let me know you’re out there!

Jillian “Sunshine” Moreno at MDK

So Good Together: Atlas + Kidsilk Haze

MDK Atlas: Shifting Gauge

I Made It with Atlas: Fog Cutter

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


  • I’m with you Jillian! Happy to knit things in the round but going backwards and forwards, knitting a row, then purling one is lovely and contemplative time.

  • I’m a big fan of flat colorwork! I never understand why people are scared of it. My perl rows are slower, sure, but I’m not knitting for speed.

    • My nemesis in knitting flat–so far–is reading the chart “backwards.” I’ve never done flat color work before I did the Blossom Stripe shawl, and that’s been an issue for me.

  • I love that tip about picking up a loose float – I’ll be using it a lot! But I’m not convinced about knitting and purling flat. In one color it’s fine, but for me picking with my left hand while throwing with my right with more colors results in Wonky Stitches. I guess if I knit the whole Cottage Throw flat I might get the hang of it, but I prefer the LaZee Method! I was thrilled to discover steeking, and the risk of knitting “too fast” is minuscule for this slow knitter. I’ll be using the “finger in the float” tip to keep the floats from being too short, knit in the round inside out and block like mad.
    Thanks Jillian!

  • I don’t mind flat color work and can use both hands… but never thought of catching a sloppy float on the next row. Thanks for your always helpful tip!

  • You are my people.
    When I report knitting colorwork flat to other knitters, they usually stop talking to me. Isolation is hard out here! Thank you for this time together!

  • I made a color work jacket knitted flat, (see Summer Woods in a Heat Wave, account, Oysterlust on Ravelry) . It was a great learning opportunity, and I would do flat color work again.

  • Do you have any recommendations on piecing together the squares?
    I find my mattress stitch comes “apart at the scenes”

  • I’m a self taught “adaptive” knitter–injured both thumbs long ago and can’t hold needles the “correct” way. THANK YOU for this great article and the cool hints. I tuck the right needle between my mid-thighs and knit quite quickly and evenly, and loop the floats for color work over a forefinger. Yes, purling is a bit slower, but I get a fabric I like a lot! Thanks again!

    • My thumbs work quite well but that’s how I knit too. How many more of us are out there?

    • I once noticed a right-handed knitter who clamped her right needle between her elbow/upper arm and her side. She looked quite comfortable.

      • yes! i knit like that, it is very comfortable, and it is the reason for which circulars are really hard and slow for me!!

      • That is how I knit. It used to be very common in Scotland. It anchors the right hand needle in the same way that a knitting belt does in Shetland knitting.

        • I am Scottish and I used to think this was the only way to knit !

  • My mattress stitch too!

    • I prefer to knit color work in the round. I find catching the floats on the purl side with flat knitting quite tedious. Knitting in the round is just easier for me and keeps my tension more uniform,


    I have always preferred flat knitting — on long straight needles, too!

  • I’m one of those who is afraid of knitting in the round. Didn’t learn it and don’t do it. Therefore, I’ve never knitted a grown up sweater. I wish I wasn’t this way but, alas, I am. When a pattern says cast on 350 stitches I just have to move on.

    • There are lots of patterns for sweaters knit flat.

    • I agree! Also, picking up hundreds of stitches, I won’t consider the pattern!

  • I first learned color work knitting flat so I’m fine with it. Most knitting was done flat back then. (The world was flat back then too.) But I appreciate and can also do it in the round as well. Versatility is good.

  • It wasn’t called LaZee, but this method of scooping up a long float on the next round and knitting it together with the stitch was recommended in an article in Interweave Knits by Daniela Nii some years back. It was a merely a sidebar to an article about something else, but it sure made an impression on me! An easy way to catch those long floats, not only the loose ones. No twisting involved!

    • Midway through a hat with some very long floats and I’ll be trying this trick!

  • I also knit colorwork better as a flat piece than in the round. Thank you for the great tip about catching loose floats — I will definitely be using that!

    • Through teaching knitting to beginners and developing patterns just for them I feel back in love with flat knitting. Even stranded knitting. Like you I knit for relaxation and meditation. I need to slow down and just enjoy the process.

  • Yay! At last! I sometimes feel that I am the last person left who feels this. Mind you, there’s fair isle and then there is stranded knitting. I’m just doing Martin Storey’s Midwinter Blanket, which involves detailed charts rather than the predictable rhythm of fair isle.

  • Thanks for the color work help and inspiration. Yes, I knit color work (mostly picture Christmas stockings) flat.
    Since you grew up knitting on 2 needles, do you also knit sweaters and baby clothes flat?
    I learned to knit in Scotland when I was about 6. Sixty years later, I still very much prefer two long pins, the right one tucked safely under my right arm. Muscle memory is strong.

    • Me too prefer straight needles too but lots of new patterns in round I used to knit the yokes for Shetland jumpers in early seventies and were in round so can do it but have a preference for flat yeah sisterhood ps been knitting for 65 years yip am an oldie

  • I learned to knit in the round so when I have to seam something it looks like it

  • After numerous hats, cowls, and mittens, and even two yoke color work sweaters in in-the-round color work I have finally decided my color work looks best and is more satisfying to knit FLAT!!! Thank you Lorilee and Jillian!! Yes I agree with you, Jillian!! Applause!!! And I get to use more of my Nana’s amd Mom’s straight needles!!! A bonus! Neither ever did any knitting in the round. So satisfying to find an old style that is better for me!! Or maybe it’s because I’ll be 70 soon!

  • This is so nice to read! I learned to do colourwork on straight needles many years ago and have not been able to do it nearly as well on circulars. Nowadays, so many patterns are on circulars, and top down too, that I feel left behind. I am really happy when a pattern I like is on straights.

  • Me too prefer straight needles too but lots of new patterns in round I used to knit the yokes for Shetland jumpers in early seventies and were in round so can do it but have a preference for flat yeah sisterhood ps been knitting for 65 years yip am an oldie

  • I tried knitting a fair isle sweater flat, and had problems with the edges that were to be sewn together. Because of color changes and carrying up, edges were uneven and it was difficult to see which stitches were to be sewn. Wondering how you address this?

  • I’m a flat knitting enthusiast, too! I’m also a “lever” knitter (anchoring the right long needle under my arm) and it makes knitting fast for me – I find circs really slow me down!
    That float trick is great. I’ve done that by just “catching” the loose yarn on the next row, rather than actually knitting it together with a stitch, but your way looks just fine & the extra yarn doesn’t show!

  • Through teaching knitting to beginners and developing patterns just for them I feel back in love with flat knitting. Even stranded knitting. Like you I knit for relaxation and meditation. I need to slow down and just enjoy the process.

  • It’s nice to hear about someone else who knits a swatch, or tension square, as we say in the UK.

  • Thank you, Jillian, for your essay on doing colorwork in flat pieces rather than in the round. I started working on the cropped border cardigan by Fiona Ellis about a week ago. There are only four motifs using six different colors, but it is a pieced sweater and it is all colorwork. At first I felt like it was a lot more work than I wanted to do because doing flat piece colorwork is more time consuming, but I decided I wanted the sweater enough that I would keep trudging on. You’re right that you can control the tension better for the floats when you work flat. The motifs aren’t too challenging and working the purl side is manageable. The more I knit this sweater, the more practice I got. The result is purling in colorwork is easier now. This sweater has been rewarding. It’s no longer a slog. I know when I seam it together with the mattress stitch, it’s going to be another eye catching sweater in my collection. Yea for me!

  • That’s very interesting Jillian. I learned to knit decades ago as a child in the UK. I have no idea who taught me but there was no such magic as circular needles and I just knitted everything flat including Fairisle. However once I discovered circular needles I quickly taught myself to knit continental style with the left hand and found knitting in the round so much quicker with yarn held in each hand – and so much easier to get the tension correct. I do not find purling a problem with my English style but cannot purl continental – maybe it’s because I hold my right needle pencil style and need my left index finger for pushing the yarn off the needle. Thanks for the read.

  • YES!! thank you Jillian, I am one of your tribe of flat color knitters, and am so glad there are quiet a few of us here!

  • Agree

  • I love knitting flat! I started doing it because I prefer to work with cotton which is hard to steek. Now I do prefer it, though my current project is in a round.

  • Really do not know what your talking about. All those words flat floppy float. And I’ve knitted all my life 75yrs old.

  • Not experienced with colour work but have finished adult cardigans. Tried both flat and in the round. In the round garment has stretched, its the seams that helps garment keep its shape.

  • Round knitting isn’t at all attractive to me, as I feel claustrophobic when doing anything but a large circumference project in the round. Steeked knitting of a sweater to match stripes of yarn with long repeats would be justified, but the back and forth of rows fosters an experience of the Gestalt, if you will. And somehow I find knitting with 13″-14″ spn’s actually more comfortable to wrists and hands. So it’ll be rows knitting for me for most everything!

  • I find the purl side, flat knitting in colors, the easier (quicker) row for me. It also gives me a chance to loosen up or tighten up any floats in the knit row above, too. All in on the flat knitting!

    • I like knitting colorwork in the round inside out for this very reason.

  • I too, cannot do color work if I am wound up. Football games are an impossible challenge, as is wheel of fortune.

  • I’m a flat knitter and not ashamed. I’ll knit in the round if it’s something I’m really taken with, but I prefer flat and seamed—especially intarsia.

  • I must admit that I prefer to knit flat. I’ve been knitting since I was 9 or 10 and am 74 now

  • I like flat knitting, too. I am still learning to knit in the round (joining pieces, dealing with underarm joins) but I like flat knitting, too, especially the structure it gives to a garment. It’s hard to find nice modern designs knitted in pieces.

  • I’ve read through all the comments thus far … I’m so relieved & comforted to know there are so many of you out there that prefer knitting flat. Even more so that perhaps by ‘weird’ self taught knitting style isn’t so weird after all 🙂
    Because I find knitting in round uncomfortable, I haven’t attempted colour work, though I admire such items.
    I really love seaming garments, mostly thanks to discovering mattress stitch. Yay YouTube for wonderful seaming tutorials 🙂
    I agree well done seams give lasting structure to garments.

  • Another one here!! I even knit socks flat.

  • I like both, honestly. This actually made me think for a while! I prefer colorwork flat, as I seem to have more even tension in my floats, but that being said, I’d so much rather steek a cardigan than seam it, later! So, I guess for me, the technique that suits my level of laziness at the moment is the method I prefer.

    I’m a stitch buncher, too! It just feels faster.

  • I knit flat all the time. With any pattern. Speed is not important to me. I enjoy the journey. In my own experience, I feel that in the round garments don’t fit everyone well.
    I don’t apologize for this. And, I have beautiful wooden straight needles that I cherish.
    Thank you

  • I am just getting started with color work. I don’t know how to “float”. Are there good places to find steps for beginners.

  • I think I am on both sides of color work in the round and flat. I absolutely loved making Kate Davies Rams and Yows in the round. Steeked and a faded edging with about 900 stitches. Kates steeling tutorials made it very easy for me. (Knittingeeg on Ravelry for my Rams and Yows).
    But I am currently knitting Paula Pereira’s Cobogo’ from Textured Knits, a challenging cabled color work knit flat. My progress is on Rav as well. This includes the band edging as you go which I like. (Check erata on Cobogo’ for the cables if you knit this one.)
    I do agree that color knitting flat has been a challenge reading the WS of the chart from left to right. It has made my brain focus so that’s a good thing, right?

    • Autocorrect error: Kate’s “Steeking” tutorials.

  • I never considered putting my finger in there to create a looser float. This has been my bane when knitting socks, so I will try it in conjunction with your LaZee stitching on the back side to keep toes from becoming entangled. Thanks for the idea!

  • Teaching myself to purl from the right side let me fall back in love with flat knitting. I love it for charts (colorwork, lace, cables) because there is never a need to turn.

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