I love traditional Fair Isle color work, but occasionally it's fun to branch out and strand entire pictures like those in my San Graal mini skirt (which, incidentally, comes with instructions on making it longer). Often these pictures require long stretches of a single color.
Single-color stretches leave long strands of the unused color(s) at the back of the work. These strands are known as floats.
I don't like to have floats longer than an inch. Fingers (or toes) catch too easily on long floats. But for fingering weight yarn, an inch could be 8 stitches. If a float spans too many stitches, the design can pull out of shape. So I think 4 or 5 stitches, or 1 inch---whichever comes first---is a good rule.
But sometimes there are 11 or 19 or even more stitches of one color at a stretch. What to do in this situation?
It's possible to catch the unused color in back so that it doesn't show in front. This tutorial will demonstrate how.
When doing stranded colorwork, my two favorite ways to work are holding one color in each hand, and holding both (or all) colors in my left hand.
With the "one in each" method, I hold the main color in my right hand, and the contrasting color(s) in my left hand. I then "pick" the contrasting color (CC) from under the main color (MC), and "throw" the MC yarn across the top of the CC yarn. The resulting CC stitches are slightly bigger than the MC stitches, and they seem to pop out of the knitting.
When I have more than five consecutive stitches of a single color, I catch the unused color(s) at the back of the work. This limits the length of the strands at the back, or "floats."
To catch the unused yarn, I cross the yarns and continue knitting as before. I usually drop the yarn in my right hand, then pick it up from the other side of whichever left hand yarn I'm trying to catch. If I'm using more than two colors, I catch the yarns one at a time to prevent bulky lumps at the back of my work.
When I'm knitting with all colors in my left hand, I usually start by weaving one CC through my fingers as shown below with the gold yarn. I then wrap the other colors each around a different finger, with the MC last (on top). This separates the yarns so I can easily choose which color I want.
The MC stitches always come from over the CC stitches, so all the CC stitches are bigger than the MC stitches.
If the unused color is a CC yarn, I simply "pick" the MC yarn from under the CC (as shown at left), instead of from over it as usual (shown above). This way I never have to let go of the yarn---it's really fast!
If the unused color is the MC, I use my thumb to push the CC yarn to the right-hand side of the MC yarn (below). From there I can easily take the needle over the MC yarn to knit the CC, and I still don't have to let go of the yarn.
Next time I'll show the backs of these swatches.
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