Double Knitting Tips For Beginners
Also known as reversible knitting this technique allows you to make two connected layers of fabric at a time. It’s great for any type of garment you want to potentially wear on either side, or for garments you will end up seeing both sides of anyway: hats, gloves, scarves/shawls, cardigans, blankets.
Having recently learnt how to do double knitting it is still fresh in my mind all the things I wish I had known before I picked up the pattern. Reversible knitting has some unique methods you will need to follow which don’t always correspond to the usual techniques found in regular knitting and this is what I want to pick up on for all those other beginners. Trust me, it will make life easier for you once you know about these 7 common problems and questions new double knitters face.
1: How Many Stitches Do I Cast On?
This is one of the biggest questions that get asked by beginners because a lot of the time designers fail to mention that their patterns and hence stitches only account for half of the work and once you realize this a lot of things begin to fall into place.
To work out how many stitches you need to cast on for the pattern simply count how many stitches you have in the pattern and then multiply that by two. You now have the correct amount of stitches for both sides of your garment. Don’t forget that you’ll need to split that number in half when it comes to casting on so that you have an even number on each side of you work (more on that in a moment).
Once you know how many stitches you need for your pattern you can now decide how many stitches you need for the border or edge stitches if this is not included in your pattern and you want to do one. Just remember that you ‘ll need to double the number of stitches if are working it out on only one side of the pattern.
2: How To Cast On
Now that you’ve worked out how many stitches you need and what division they will be across your two skeins of yarn you get to the point of “How do I actually cast on?”. There are numerous ways of doing so and the easiest one to pick up is to cast on in your usual method but alternate each skein’s yarn, however you will find that the edge looks a little untidy if you are not doing any borders after.
To make a neat cast on edge for when you do not need or want a border put on after you can follow the two color invisible cast on as demonstrated by the Sockmatician:
3: Reading A Double Knit Pattern
A lot of the time you will be working your garment flat so when you are reading a double knitting pattern you will start from the bottom right and work across to the left –> go up to the next row when you have turned your work and work left to right –> turn your work and repeat until your next instruction change.
Most patterns will have a color of noted key for you to work from so that you know when to change color or when to change the stitch type. However, a lot of patterns do not tell you that one stitch (usually represented by a square) requires a knit AND PURL stitch. So remember when you see an individual square it requires a knit and purl stitch to complete it not just a knit.
The reason you do a knit and purl stitch per square is because you are actually doing a knit stitch on either side of your work – remember that a purl stitch is just a backward knit stitch. As your project develops you will easily see that both sides will have knit stitches (unless your pattern is using different stitch types in which case these will be shown instead).
4: How Do I Hold The Yarn: Forwards Vs Backwards
As discussed above you will be doing a knit and purl stitch for each pattern square, but how do you actually manage your yarn when doing this? If the yarn is not positioned correctly you will end up with floats (strands of yarn) going across the front of your work when they are usually hidden between the two pieces of fabric.
So to make sure that you don’t get any floats make sure that you follow these two simple rules:
- When doing a knit stitch make sure you have your working yarns in the back of your work;
- When doing a purl stitch move your yarn strands to the front of your work before making the stitch and then move them to the back again to set up for the knit stitch again.
If you follow these easily to remember rules you’ll get into a nice rhythm and they will become instinctive movements you eventually won’t even need to remember. As the saying goes Practice Makes Perfect.
5: Yarn Tension
This is a matter that will definitely take some practice, especially if you have only knit in one style before. Now that you have at least two strands of yarn to work with you will need to play around and find a method that works for you. When you are doing this I would recommend practice on swatches so that you are comfortable before getting to work on the garment proper. However, don’t be afraid to start again if it doesn’t look right. Ripping out – also known as frogging – is a perfectly acceptable practice when knitting.
There are three common ways of holding your yarn when double knitting and as I just said, practice with all of them until you find one that works:
- English Style: holding both strands in your right hand and “throwing” the working yarn over to make the stitch. Make sure that you have the main color for that side in the front and the contrast at the back.
- Continental Style: holding both strands in your left hand and “picking up” the yarn to create the stitch with the right needle. Make sure that you have the main color in the front again.
- Mixed Style: holding a yarn in each hand and doing either both English and Continental Styles on the relevant stitch. This is my preferred method.
Once you have settled on a style that works for you then next step is to practice until you have a good tension: not too tight and not too loose. Small misgivings can be worked out in the blocking process, however you should always strive for a consistent tension. If you find that you are not getting the tension needed try changing the size of your needles or try a different style again.
6: Yarn Management – So Many Balls!
Since double knitting requires you to have two layers of fabric this naturally means that the garment will be twice as thick which as you guessed means twice as much yarn will be needed.
As you can see in the photo above I have used black and white yarn to create contrasting patterns that are reversible on each side: black background with white contrast on one side and a white background with black contrast on the other. The pattern I used to make the scarf was by notanicedragon and you can download a free copy of the pattern if you would like to make it too.
Since we covered off casting on earlier you will be aware that you will have at least two balls of yarn (more if you are wanting to do color work too) to look after and it is very easy to get into a big mess with skeins of yarn getting twisted and rolling every which way. The easiest way I have found to manage my yarn is to cake everything up into a center pull ball and then keep one either side of you and switch them over when you turn your work, or by keeping them both in a bag so that you then only have the connecting yarn to deal with. Here’s Knit & Crochet Ever After with a tutorial on how to wind by hand:
For those (like me) who would struggle to always use their hands in the manner I can highly recommend using a ball winder. They are very easy to use, ergonomic and inexpensive, plus you can really get some speed up and wind up a ball in a few minutes.
7: How To Bind Off With Double Knitting
There are many schools of thought when casting off your project but most people will agree that there are two common methods to choose from:
- Pick one color and bind off in your usual way: this is fine to do if you are going to be putting a border around to hid the non-matching side;
- By using both of your main strands bind off in pattern. For example when looking at the double knit scarf above I would take the black yarn and bind off the knit stitch and then switch to white and bind off the purl stitch and then repeat until finished.
There are various other methods that you can use but either of these two methods will be absolutely fine to use for beginners.
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