Fairisle Two-Stranded Colourwork: One Hands or Two?

If you are a regular reader of my blog posts you will recall the one about my Blue Kellie jumper.

At the end of that post, I promised that the following post would be about the fairisle two-stranded colourwork knitting technique I used to knit the multi-coloured sections of Kellie. Well, although I did squeeze in a few posts since then, here is the one I promised.

Fairisle Two-Stranded Colourwork
The multi-coloured sections are knitted using the fairisle two-stranded technique. Although there are four colours used to knit these sections only two colours are used in each round, as is usual with the fairisle technique.

In the past, I always used the one-handed stranded knitting method for this type of design but to speed up my knitting during these sections I decided to use the two-handed stranded knitting method. This is where the right-hand carries one colour of yarn and the left-hand carries the other colour. This incorporates the two traditional methods of holding the yarn: English and continental, respectively. I am naturally an English knitter and “throw” the yarn around the right-hand needle when one strand of yarn is used. For the continental method, where the left-hand controls the yarn, there seem to be several ways of creating a stitch. Many appeared very complicated and I felt cack-handed. I had to find the best way that suited me. The one that felt the most natural way was to “pick” the yarn that lay between my left index and middle fingers with the point of the right needle, which is the traditional continental way. Take a look at Ann Kingstone’s video tutorial about “Two-handed stranded colourwork”.

No More Tangled Yarn
Working this two-handed method also stops the two different yarns from getting tangled because, when you do change yarn colour, you need to twist the yarns together to prevent a hole from forming in your work. If I was to knit two-stranded using just the one-handed method the two different yarns would end up in a twisted tangled mess.

Float Length
In the fairisle pattern for Kellie, there are a few rows where you do have to knit 5 stitches with one colour and therefore carry the other yarn colour as a “float” at the back of the work. As a rule, carrying a float for more than 3 stitches is not a good idea as it is more likely to affect the tension. I have found this is the case if I try to do this. When I carry a float over more than 3 stitches I find it is best to twist the yarn every 3rd stitch and on the next row twist the yarn on the 2nd or 4th stitch, not on the same 3rd stitch. Why? Because if you twist the yarn on the 3rd stitch on both rows the colour of the “float” yarn will show through to the front. However, I have also read that some knitting instructors say floats can be as long as 3 – 4cm (1 – 1.5″), but no longer, so you must decide what works best for you. Take a look at the video from Arne & Carlos about carrying floats. Check out their knitting technique too.

The Final Result
In the end, I am glad I spent some time choosing this two-handed stranded technique. It didn’t take me very long to master it and it did speed up my knitting enormously. Also, it was a massive plus not having to spend ages untangling my yarn after every row. Since then this is the only way I knit when using two different coloured yarns at the same time. Maybe I’ll have a go knitting one of these Rowan designs from their latest Autumn and Winter collections, both have sections where the fairisle technique is used.

Lazurite, designed by Martin Storey from Rowan Knitting & Crochet Magazine 70

Whisk, designed by Lisa Richardson from the Tweed Haze pattern booklet

Whisk, designed by Lisa Richardson from the Tweed Haze pattern booklet

So, how about you? When you knit using the fairisle technique do you use the one-handed or two-handed stranded technique? If you have only ever used the one-handed technique have I convinced you to maybe have a go using the two-handed method next time you choose to knit a fairsle design?

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Thanks for reading my blog all the way to the end!

Esther x