Looking for stretch in stranded knitting

Following my stranded knitting experiment, I settled on a quick project that would test out my skills. A headwarmer!

Oh dear, it didn’t go as I’d hoped.

Stranded knitting headwarmer

I made up a basic repeatable pattern and knit it up with 10 ply (aran) yarn. As a flat piece I think this would have worked out well after blocking. As a piece of headgear it unfortunately falls short in the most important factor – horizontal stretch.

My biggest mistake was that I looked at an online tutorial for a knitted headband and calculated the total length of their headband based on the stitches and gauge. I made a swatch from the yarn I was going to use and calculated my own stitch count to match the total length of their headband.

When I looked at their measurement and measured my own head I thought “That sounds a bit short,” but I cast on anyway. As I was knitting, I thought “This looks a bit short,” and I tried to measure it from the circular needles and it was coming in at the length the other pattern had been so I kept on going.

By the time I was binding off I knew that the circumference would be too short so I didn’t cut off my yarns. I knew it would be frogged but at least I could try it on and learn from it. Sure enough, the horizontal stretch looks rough. It’s passable, and blocking would probably help it, but to make the best use of the loveliness of the yarn I’m happy to start it all over again (or put the yarn to a different use).

Example of vertical stretch in stranded knitting
Vertical stretch – the pattern is still visible.
Example of horizontal stretch in stranded knitting
Horizontal stretch – the pattern becomes hard to see.

I haven’t read up on solutions yet but thoughts I’ve had include:

  • Longer floats – perhaps stranded knitting for stretchy fabric needs longer floats? My floats look okay for a flat piece and they have room to straighten out a little as I stretch the fabric, but how loose should they be?
  • More stitches – measure my own head, deduct a little, and use this as the circumference measurement. More stitches would reduce the amount of horizontal stretch but would it make the headband too loose to stay on comfortably?
  • Thinner yarn (and more stitches) – a thinner yarn with more stitches might distribute the stretch across more stitches reducing the effect.
  • Different pattern – perhaps a different pattern would reduce the visual effect of the stretching.
Stranded knit headwarmer
Sorry little headwarmer, you’re going to be undone.

If you have any suggestions or links to useful information then I’d love to know about them in the comments below.