Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stranded Knitting: One Hand or Two?

Stranded knitting, or "fair isle", as most knitters I know call it, can be done in so many ways! Like everything else in knitting, there is no one method, and the best approach is to try several different techniques and then adopt the one that works best for you. You may even find, as I have, that your preferences change over time and with the type of project you are working on.
A good starting place for learning stranded knitting is the 2-handed method advocated by Elizabeth Zimmermann. Of course, it requires that you master knitting with both right and left hands first. No need to purl, thank goodness, because you can do all the work in the round, with the right side facing and use steeks to open up your tube at the end. A good demonstration of two-handed knitting can be found here. (Note that I don't advocate weaving in every second stitch as shown. Everything else here is superb.) There are a couple of advantages to the 2-handed approach:
1. The 2 strands of wool come from either side and are never in danger of entanglement. If you wind a couple of centre-pull balls, either by hand or with a wool-winder, then the balls can sit on the floor at your feet, one on either side and the knitting becomes smooth and efficient.
2. With this method it is easy to weave in the yarn that is being carried in back. Like Meg Swansen, I recommend that you carry nothing over an inch, so at a gauge of 5 sts per inch, you could comfortably carry the back strand over 5 stitches.
Two-handed fair isle is what I do most of the time when working on a larger circular needle. I knitted the "Trelllis Waistcoat" this way.
Eventually I progressed to 1-handed stranded knitting. Many knitters, like Meg Swansen, do this all with the left hand.Since I am predominantly a right-handed knitter who holds my needles underhanded in a sort of pencil grip, I use my right hand for one-handed stranded knitting. Here's how I strand the wool around my fingers:

A stitch with the main colour over the first finger:

A stitch with the contrast colour over the middle finger:

Note that the two colours are never twisted around each other; the pale green always travels under the navy blue. It is still possible to weave in the carried colour, but not quite as simple for beginners to master.
Which approach do I prefer? As mentioned above, I tend to use the 2-handed technique with projects on larger circulars. However, when I work on dpns, or when working a round with the colours alternating every stitch (as above), I prefer the one-handed method. This week, that is. Knitter's choice, as always!

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely a two-handed stranded knitter. For me, it's faster, and my tension stays more even. I've never had much luck stranding with DPNs (corner issues!), but with magic loop, I do just fine.