Holding yarn for stranded colourwork knitting

My recent obsession with knitting stripes has been a lead in to trying stranded colourwork knitting. I love the look of two-colour knits for socks, mittens, beanies and jumpers and I’ve been keen to try it out.

Learning how to do knit stranded colourwork

There are many different techniques and holds for both continental and English-style stranded colourwork knitting so if the following doesn’t work for you, don’t give up, check out some articles and videos, and you’ll find the most comfortable method for you.

As an experiment, I picked up my 2.5mm 15cm double-pointed needles, cast on 30 stitches and distributed them over three needles. I did a few rounds in the main colour and then I realised that in order to get a shifting pattern (i.e. I wanted diagonal rather than vertical stripes) it would be easier to have an odd number of stitches so I increased one stitch and brought in my secondary colour.

I soon realised that my normal knitting yarn wrap hold around my little finger was causing problems with tension. I’m a continental knitter (I hold my yarn in the left hand) and I did some experimentation.

At first I was treating both yarns as one and wrapping them together around my little finger:

One way of holding yarn that did not work for me
This method of wrapping the two yarns at once around my little finger did not work for me and I kept losing tension from the yarns.

I realised that I needed to wrap them separately. I settled on wrapping the main colour first (closest to my palm), and then the secondary colour. This kept each yarn moving at its own pace and allowed me to give one yarn a tug to tension it up if it felt like it was loosening up. It also helped to keep the yarns better separated closer to my knitting needles.

A better way to wrap two yarns around the little finger for good tension
This method of first wrapping the primary colour yarn and then wrapping the secondary colour yarn gave me better tension and allowed me to pull on the tail that goes to the yarn ball if a yarn was becoming loose.

I tried to find a comfortable grip with one yarn over the index finger and one over the middle finger to keep the yarns separate but it wasn’t working out for me. In the end I found that I could keep both yarns over my index finger, again with the main colour closest to my palm, and I used my knitting needle to choose the colour I needed as I knit.

Two yarns over the index finger for stranded colourwork knitting
Keeping both yarns over my index finger was most comfortable for me.

I have plenty more learning and experimentation ahead and I’m planning to try knitting with one yarn in each hand which some people say makes for easier tension management. There are many styles, techniques and effects that can be achieved through stranded knitting, but this little experiment gives me confidence to keep learning.

One helpful article I found was from TECHknitting, Knitting with two colors on one hand AND three color knitting, specifically the section that explains how some patterns are more suited to stranded knitting than others (which is why I chose diagonal stripes for my experiment).

Stranded colourwork knitting