Often there are situations when you wish the yarn you use for your project was thicker. Or you want to add a different colour to the yarn, but can’t find the right combination of colours in a variegated yarn available in your local yarn store. Or you’d like to adjust the fibre content of the yarn or to have a thinner and thicker yarn in exactly the same colour.
All of these seemingly complicated tasks can be easily fixed with one simple technique – double stranded knitting.
Let’s see what it is, why you might need it, and how to perform it.
Double stranded knitting is probably the easiest knitting technique out there. It’s even simpler than making a slip knot. All you need to do is to take 2 strands of yarn, align them and use them as one strand when you knit. That’s it! Watch how easy it is in this video tutorial.
WHY AND HOW
Even though it is so simple, double stranding is a mighty tool you can use to achieve so many different effects.
1. MAKE THE YARN THICKER
Let’s say, you want to make a hat (or any other project), and you have the perfect yarn for the task (you like the fibre content and the colour is just right), BUT the yarn is too thin for that particular hat. What will you do? Spend time and money searching for and buying a thicker yarn, or double strand the yarn that you have on hand? The answer is obvious.
If you have just one ball of yarn, the only thing that might keep you from double stranding is a fear that you will need to re-wind the yarn to make two equally sized balls, so you can use one strand from each of those balls to work on your project.
The good news is – you don’t need to do any of it. Simply take one end from inside of the ball, and the other end from outside of the ball, align them and start knitting.
Generally, two strands of yarn in Super Fine weight* (marked as 1 on the yarn label) will give you a strand that is about as thick as one strand of yarn in Fine weight (marked as 2 on the yarn label).
Two strands of yarn in Fine weight (2) = one strand of yarn in Light weight (3)
Two strands of yarn in Light weight (3) = one strand of yarn in Medium weight (4)
Two strands of yarn in Medium weight (4) = one strand of yarn in Bulky weight (5)
Two strands of yarn in Bulky weight (5) = one strand of yarn in Super Bulky weight (6)
*Weights of yarn are well explained in “Standards & Guidelines For Crochet and Knitting” issued by Craft Yarn Council.
The information above is just an estimate. The actual thickness of double-stranded yarn will vary depending on the actual thickness of the yarn you are using. So it is VERY IMPORTANT to make a swatch before you start working on your project. Make sure your gauge is the same as (or very close to) the gauge recommended in the pattern.
The size of the needles also matters a lot. Below is a photo of 3 swatches – the first one is knit with one strand of yarn and 4mm (US size 6) needles, the second one is knit with 2 strands of the same yarn and same 4mm (US size 6) needles. Even without measuring the gauge you can tell that the second swatch is bigger than the first one.
But there is something you can’t see from the photo – it’s the texture. The second swatch is much tighter than the first one. It is so dense that it will only work for mittens or slippers. For any other project, we have to use a bigger size of needles.
That’s what I did when I knit the third swatch shown in the photo. I made it with 2 strands of yarn and 6mm (US size 10) needles. That made the swatch bigger, but also loosened up the texture to work great for hats and sweaters.
2. SPICE UP THE COLOUR
You can take double stranding one step further if you use two strands of different colours (one strand of colour A, and one strand of colour B). It can be similar shades like the ones I used for the first swatch in the photo below. Or you can choose contrasting colours for a bolder look (second swatch in the photo).
There is also a way to create an ombre and gradient effects, but this way is a bit more complicated and deserves a separate article. I’ll get to it in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned.
3. CHANGE THE TEXTURE
There are two ways you can change the texture of your project by using double stranding.
The first one is to change the fibre content of the yarn (how amazing is that!). And that will instantly change the look and the feel of the finished knit like you can probably tell by looking at the first swatch in the photo below.
To make that swatch I used one strand of 100% superwash merino wool in Light weight (3) and one strand of 100% bamboo yarn in Light weight (3). As a result, I’ve got a Medium weight (4) yarn that is 50% superwash merino wool and 50% bamboo. This new yarn is warm and soft like merino wool, but also has the beautiful sheen and drape of bamboo fibre.
I picked colours that are very close because I wanted to show the texture, but there is no harm in using contrasting colours to change both the texture AND the colour of your project.
The second way you can change the texture is to work parts of your project with one strand and parts of it with two strands of yarn like I did when I was making the second swatch in the above photo. This is the most creative way of using double stranded knitting because it changes not just the texture of your project, but the overall style of the garment.
Take a basic sweater for example. If you knit most of it with 2 strands of yarn and the upper quarter (neckline and shoulder part) with 1 strand, you will get a slightly flirty (the upper part will be a bit see-through) fashion statement instead of another basic sweater.
If you make the top half of the same sweater with 2 strands of yarn, and the bottom half with 1 strand, you will easily turn this basic sweater into an “A-list-designer-looking” garment. The best part – you don’t even have to adjust anything. Just add or remove an extra strand of yarn.
You can probably tell from the photo of my swatch that the gauge is different for the part made with 1 strand of yarn, and the part made with 2 strands because I used the same 6mm (US size 10) needles for making the swatch.
If you want to get a perfect fit, you will have to use bigger needles for the part that is made with 1 strand of yarn. But it is totally optional. In fact, you can even play around the fact that the part made with 1 strand is less wide, and use it for making the waist part of the sweater.
As you see, there are so many ways you can use double stranding in your knitting. The only thing you need to remember is to always treat two strands of yarn as one. Make sure you don’t split the yarn when you insert the needle into a stitch to knit or purl it. And make sure you use both strands of yarn when you wrap the needle with yarn to make a new stitch.
There is also an issue with tangling yarns, but I cover it in a different article. Click here to read it.