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Recently, I’ve been trying to become more open minded. (People who know me: stop laughing.) I find that over time, one’s habits of mind, especially the ones that have been useful in the past, can become limiting. For the past 15 or 20 years (hmmm, coinciding with onset of motherhood), I’ve had a “triage” mindset, in knitting and in life. Learn what you need to know to do what must be done.

When I was a newer knitter, this meant I learned a lot, very fast, because every project presented new rungs on the learning ladder. Over time, the firehose of new-to-me techniques dwindled to a trickle. Like most humans I know, I tend to repeat positive experiences, which has meant less learning along the way. I’ve felt like I need to shake things up, but it is hard to give up the mindset of waiting until I absolutely need to do something, before stretching to learn how.

The project we embark on today, A Year of Techniques,  is exactly what I need to shake off my resistance and learn some new stuff.

I’m starting now, with helical stripes. The first pattern in A Year of Techniques is (hold your breath): the Hyacinthus Armwarmers.

Here Goes Nothing

Confession: until Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford sent me the pattern and tutorial a few days ago, I could not have said what helical stripes are, let alone alone how to execute them.

Yesterday, I watched Jen’s video tutorial. I may have been just the tiniest bit skeptical about Team Arnall-Culliford’s claim that helical stripes are “incredibly easy.”

I cast on my Hyacinthus Armwarmers.

“Here goes nothing,” I thought.

Well, guess what: helical stripes are incredibly easy. They have a quality of easiness that is actually easy, as opposed to the so-called easiness that is only easy after you’ve read several books and practiced for six months.

But easy doesn’t mean “not clever.” Despite the simplicity of helical stripes, I could have continued to knit for the rest of my days without ever thinking of this neat trick.

Helical stripes are a leap of spatial imagination. I love them. No, scratch that. I lurve them.

Helical stripes are so easy that I knit my first few of them in my dentist’s waiting room, reading the step-by-step tutorial off my phone. I continued to knit them, flawlessly from row 1, while I sat on the phone in conference calls for most of the afternoon.

Here are my first helical stripes, using a single Zauberball that has been divided into two balls. (I divided it unevenly, to maximize contrast  in the stripes at the start of my mitts. Once I get going, there’s no telling what will happen.)


Beyond Single-Row Stripes

While knitting my helical stripes, a question crept in: beyond socks and mitts, how often are one-row stripes really used? What else can we do with this technique?

I didn’t have to meditate on this very long to think of my four precious skeins of indigo-dyed wool from Lana Plantae.

I bought these at Vogue Knitting Live in January because –well, I had to buy them; they are Things Dyed With Indigo. What I really want to make with this yarn is a boxy pullover, in the round. But anyone can see that the skeins vary in color; I couldn’t knit with more than one of them without a dye lot stripe. But if I worked two or more skeins at the same time, in helical stripes, the shade differences would blend.  That’s truly useful.

I also remembered a time, early in my Honey Cowl career, when I got into a deep discussion with a bunch of knitters about the “seam” that forms at the place where the 2-row slip-stitch garter pattern switches from round 1, which is plain knit, to round 2, which is purl-slip-purl all the way across. I have always accepted this seam with serenity, as something I cannot change. But helical stripes, the same simple technique that lets you knit single-row stripes without a jog at the color change, also lets you change from knit to purl without that seam. That’s what Jen says. I cannot wait to try it. It is killing me not to cast on a Honey Cowl right this minute.

And finally, Jen says that you can knit 2-, 3-, or even 4-row stripes using the helical stripes technique. WHAT. I will have to see it to believe it. But I trust Jen.



  • Squeal! So excited about this. My zaberball hasn’t arrived yet but soon I hope as can’t wait to try

  • I’ve just made Donna Druchunas’ Resist hat with two single-row stripes. Oy! I tried several techniques…none was especially easy to follow nor what I hoped to achieve. I have a Z-ball and can’t wait to start!

    • Hats! I didn’t even think about hats!

  • That is bloody brilliant.

  • So clever! So simple! What a great year this will be, lots of new techniques and colorful zauberballs making a daring appearance in monochromatic NYC!

  • I’m itching to cast on right now!

  • Is it just me, or was that difficult to see? I would love to see it again with larger needles and using more contrasting colors.

    • I was able to follow magic loop – but couldn’t really figure out how she was doing the dpns – did she stop a whole needle away from the second color and if you never catch up how do you get the stripe effect – I can’t do magic loop so I need to understand the dpns –

      • Agree — a round or two more w/dpns would have been great on the video as I don’t do Magic Loop (I know, I know).

      • Yes, you just stop a whole needle away. It just saves slipping any stitches. You might find it easiest to just cast on some stitches and try it. It’s tricky to visualise and understand but super simple to do. There are lots of us around in the knitalong threads to help out if you’re stuck.

    • Hi Visually Oriented and Susan,
      We were aiming for a balance of keeping the technique looking like its related project, and it being visible. I really do take on board your comments though, and we will endeavour to get a better balance on the following videos. Many thanks for your feedback. Jen

    • It’s not just you. I would love to see a video with actual contrasting yarn and also a tiny bit more time spent explaining the dpn situation.

  • Your skill acquisition observations perfectly match my knitting history. This one skill per month approach is more likely to really grow my available techniques as opposed to a weekend retreat or a solo do it yourself plan. Thanks.

  • Mind blown! I was wondering what to do with my J. Draper bouquet, and am now inspired. Helical stripes!

  • This is almost cosmic! Last week i decided to knit some baby balloon pants with single row stripes. At my LYS, the owner, Mary, suggested this type of striping and explained how to do it. And here I now have the directions and a video coming! Perfect!

    • How wonderfully serendipitous. 🙂 I hope you enjoy them!

  • Hmmm..can’t open zip file on my iPad Pro? Any tips? Also is tutorial only on MDK site? I had bookmarked this hat awhile back so I am eager to start my hand warmers

    • Hi Di! I’m sorry to hear you’re having difficulty with the zip file on your iPad. It sounds like you’d find it much easier to use the Ravelry library instead, since then it’s just pdf files to open. This post tells you how to add A Year of Techniques to your Ravelry library: But if you have any difficulty with that at all, then please just email me on with your full name and Ravelry username and I can help you to get it sorted out. 🙂 Many thanks, Jen

    • I’m having trouble on the iPad Pro too! I can’t get it out of Dropbox.

      • I think my reply to Di should help you out as well. There’s a post in our group on Ravelry explaining how to add your patterns to your Ravelry library, where they are available as pdf files. Please do drop me an email with your full name and Ravelry username if you need further assistance. Many thanks again, Jen

  • Kay, it looks as though you are using Magic Loop? I so much prefer that to dpns – is there anything I need to know to adapt that or is it an easy transition?

    • Hi Teresa! Kay may be doing two circs. I’m definitely using Magic Loop for my Hyacinthus armwarmers, for the first time, and I am HOOKED. It works beautifully with this pattern.

      Live and learn!

      • what length are you using –

        • Not terribly long circs–I don’t have them in front of me, but 24 or 29″?

      • Thanks Ann! I was dreading the dpns – now I can’t wait to cast on!!!

        • In the video, you can see Jen using Magic Loop for her armwarmers. That’s where I got the idea–have always meant to try it but never did. Very Pink Knits has a great quick tutorial for Magic Loop:

  • Absolutely brilliant!

  • For a sock pattern using this technique, try Dorothy’s Slip Stitch Spiral Knit Socks. Lots of fun…it adds a slip stitch to the pattern, making a vertical stripe over the horizontal ones. Now to get out that Zauberball and try the handwarmers!

  • I got my pattern this morning too, and thought the same thing after reading through the description: I wonder if this will work on the Honey Cowl? Can’t wait to get started…even though I have to, at least until I get home from work!

    • I’m a bit confused as to how you would use it in a honey cowl. I have made one before, but don’t see how it applies here. I just made with a single hand painted yarn. Would you be alternating it with another color each round? Could you explain please? Sorry, I guess I need someone to draw me a picture. Lol.

  • I had not succumbed to this temptation until today’s post which hooked me right in! Thanks, MDK.

  • I don’t understand this statement: “I divided it unevenly, to maximize contrast in the stripes at the start of my mitts.” How will making your balls of unequal size affect the contrast? Unless you mean your mitts will each start with different colors?

    • I am not Kay, but having done this myself I think that yes, that’s exactly what she meant. Start with one end white and one end black, even if that’s not in the middle of the ball. I did this with a pair of socks… that I wish I had known how to do four row helical stripes with at the time!

      I am very excited about the idea of learning new techniques. I recently did a brioche challenged that got me knitting brioche… I’m going to try another striped sock using this helical technique. And I can’t wait to see what’s next!

      • Actually, really looking at my photo that’s not what I did… I thought I had, but I just wasn’t Kay-level clever yet. So the start of her mitts will be high contrast like the area around my sock heels, not like the cuffs or toes.

  • What a fantastic year it’s going to be!

  • How do you use this wonderful technique when your stripes change color…ie pink, purple, pink, purple, orange, purple, orange, purple, etc. When I try it I seem to get 3 stitches that aren’t in the correct color. Suggestions VERY welcome!!!

    • I wonder which yarn you are using? If you are using a self-striping sock yarn with short bursts of colour, you might be better working it against a plain colour so you have a good contrast. The colours may change more than once in a round, so you run the risk of having both yarns in the same shade.

      If you are using a Zauberball, you should get the graduated change in colour like the photos with the pattern. If the colour changes while you’re working with a yarn, just go with it and keep following the instructions.

      To check that you have the technique down, maybe swatch in 2 plain colours. Do a couple of plain rounds in one colour, then join in the other work a few rounds in helical stripes. If you’re getting it right, it will be obvious right away.

  • Can I use a ball of crazy?

    • Hi hmontini! I would suggest caution with the Crazy Zauberball. The normal Zauberball has a single ply which gradually changes colour, so when you work with two balls of it, then you’re striping one colour against another. The Crazy Zauberball is made from two plies and they are each different colours that gradually change. So when you stripe with two balls of this, you get the two colours against two colours, which means that there is generally much less contrast, and often two of the four possible plies are the same colour. If you have a Crazy you’d like to use, then I’d suggest pairing it with a solid coloured sock yarn. That way you’ll get great contrast throughout. I hope that makes sense. It’s hard to explain why it doesn’t work quite so well. 🙂

  • These look like so much fun! I love them. The colorway of Smoking Area is gorgeous and I can’t wait to see it in person, but I really, truly, hate the name. 🙁

  • Living in the NYC area, your comment about only shipping Zauberball colorway Shadows to NYC absolutely cracked me up. Thank you for that!

  • I’m currently knitting the beginning of a 2 row striped top down raglan, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to apply this technique, which I think will be extremely helpful in minimizing the jog.

  • What a (dare I say) brilliant idea – A Year of Techniques! Thank you so much, Ann and Kay! I’ve been searching for a way to expand my knitting horizons, and this is a great fit: learn something new, apply it, and complete a project. I’m currently having fun with helical stripes and looking forward to the next lesson.

  • I am thinking about making the summer honey cowl that Kay posted today. If I use your technique for the stripes and slip 3 stitches before the marker wouldn’t that leave a hole? I think I understand that you do that on each color. I guess it works out somehow but wanted to check. I also want to make sure you can just use the technique with the circular needle, not a magic loop needle. Thanks!

  • I had come accross Helix knitting for stripes a few years ago but it never dawned on me to use it to alternate skeins of hand dyed yarn. Someone mentioned it the other day and I’ve been combing the internet for info. It’s such a brilliant idea. I hate that spine but I accept it and do my best to make it less obvious. This is a game changer for sweater knitting.

  • Does anyone have a hint on how to finesse things when you drop your contrast yarn and return to the background colour? When the background colour laps the end of the contrast stripe, it has to sort of jump down a level and my knitting looks a bit distorted. Hmm, maybe join in a second strand of the contrast colour? I’ll have to experiment.

  • Helical stripes have helped a lot when I have multiple colors of yarn I want to slowly blend together. But I’m stumped before starting my next project with half variegated and half solid (2 colors). How do I handle the short rows at the neckline that drop the front of the sweater down a bit while doing the helical striping. Cast on starts with K1P1, and then continues to stockinette body with short rows.

  • Thanks for taking the time to talk about this, I feel fervently about this and I take pleasure in learning about this topic. Please, as you gain information, please update this blog with more information. I have found it very useful. There have to be charging stations everywhere.

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