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What is knitting with two colors called?

Knitting with two colors is known as stranded colorwork knitting or Fair Isle knitting. It involves working with two different colored yarns to create patterns within a knitted fabric. The two most common techniques for knitting with two colors are stranded knitting and intarsia knitting.

Stranded Knitting

Stranded knitting, also known as Fair Isle knitting, involves holding both yarn colors throughout and twisting or “catching” the unused color behind the stitches being worked. This allows the knitter to switch between colors with ease to create motifs and designs.

Here are some key facts about stranded knitting:

Feature Description
Other Names Fair Isle knitting
Yarn Management Both yarns are held together across the row
Color Switching Frequent color changes within a row
Motifs Intricate patterns and designs
Texture Smooth stockinette stitch
Uses Sweaters, hats, scarves, blankets

The key to stranded knitting is to make sure the yarn not in use is properly caught along the back of the work. This prevents long strands from forming on the wrong side of the fabric. It takes practice, but the result is a smooth stockinette knit with designs of multiple colors.

Intarsia Knitting

Intarsia knitting involves working large blocks of color rather than stranding yarns across a row. Each section of a color is worked using a separate ball of yarn.

Here are some key facts about intarsia knitting:

Feature Description
Yarn Management Separate yarn balls for each color section
Color Switching Infrequent – at color boundaries
Motifs Large blocks of color
Texture Smooth stockinette stitch
Uses Sweaters, blankets, graphic designs

With intarsia knitting, a new length of yarn is used each time a color change occurs. The yarn not in use is twisted at the back of the fabric to prevent holes. Intarsia allows for large motifs and blocks of color in a design.

Comparing Stranded and Intarsia Knitting

While both techniques involve working with two colors, there are some key differences between stranded and intarsia knitting:

Feature Stranded Knitting Intarsia Knitting
Yarn management Both yarns held together Separate yarn balls
Pattern motifs Small, intricate designs Large blocks of color
Color changes Frequent, within rows Only at color boundaries
Texture Smooth stockinette Smooth stockinette
Skill level Intermediate to advanced Beginner to intermediate

In general, stranded knitting allows for more complex colorwork within a design, while intarsia knitting excels at larger, bolder blocks of color.

The History of Two-Color Knitting

Using two colors when knitting has a long and storied past. Here is an overview of how knitting with multiple yarns evolved over time:

  • 1800s – Fair Isle knitting – Stranded colorwork was developed on Scotland’s Fair Isle using locally available sheep wool in multiple natural shades.
  • 1842 – Bohus Stickning – Scandinavian stranded knitting was established as a cottage industry in Sweden.
  • 1880s – Origins of intarsia – Early intarsia motifs depicted elaborate pastoral scenes.
  • 1920s – Fashion designs – Knitwear designers like Coco Chanel used intarsia to create bold, geometric looks.
  • 1940s – Syndicated patterns – Women’s magazines spread stranded and intarsia knitting styles to home knitters.
  • 1960s – Artistic revival – Knitters explored new stranded colorwork motifs and patterns.
  • Today – Two-color knitting remains popular for its artistic possibilities and winter warmth.

Knitters today can explore both stranded and intarsia techniques to create stunning colorwork garments and accessories.

Tips for Knitting with Two Colors

Ready to try two-color knitting? Here are some top tips to get you started:

  1. Pick smooth, solid yarns – Variegated or textured yarns can obscure stitch patterns.
  2. Choose colors with high contrast – This makes designs stand out clearly.
  3. Check your tension – Make sure stitches are even in both colors.
  4. Be patient – It takes practice to manage multiple yarns seamlessly.
  5. Catch yarns frequently – This prevents long strands on the wrong side.
  6. Use a color key – Keep track of which yarn goes where in the pattern.
  7. Carry yarns loosely – Make sure carried yarns don’t pull in fabric.
  8. Join new yarns inconspicuously – Twist yarn ends at color boundaries.
  9. Try both techniques – Stranded and intarsia offer different effects.
  10. Invest in needle tips – Pointed tips make catching yarns easier.

Don’t get discouraged with tangled yarns and uneven tension at first. With some practice, you’ll be knitting beautiful two-color designs in no time!

Two-Color Knitting Patterns

Here are some popular patterns that showcase stranded and intarsia colorwork techniques:

Pattern Technique Description
Fair Isle Hats Stranded Typical small repeating motifs
Scandinavian Sweaters Stranded Stylized snowflakes and reindeer
Argyle Knits Intarsia Diamond shapes in contrasting colors
Graphic Blankets Intarsia Large blocks forming pictures or symbols
Cabled Colorwork Both Cables combined with two-color motifs

Mix and match techniques within a project for unique effects. For example, try stranded patterning on an intarsia background.

Choosing Colors for Knitting

Picking the perfect color combinations is an art. Here are some tips on selecting colors for two-color knitting projects:

  • Match yarn weights and fiber contents – This ensures even stitches and texture.
  • Consider color value – Pair light and dark shades for high contrast.
  • Use a color wheel – Adjacent hues like blue and green work well together.
  • Try complementary colors – These are opposite the wheel like red and green.
  • Add pops of brightness – A neon orange makes blue tones pop.
  • Study nature and art – Pull palette inspiration from natural landscapes.
  • Trust your instincts – Go with color pairings you find pleasing.
  • Swatch before committing – Make sure a combo knits up well.

The options are endless when selecting two colors. Developing an eye for color combinations just takes practice and experimentation.

Two-Color Knitting Resources

To continue improving your two-color knitting skills, check out these helpful resources:

  • Stranded Knitting by Jennifer Dassau – A reference book on Fair Isle techniques.
  • The Art of Mixing Colors by Jane Davies – Guidance on choosing effective color schemes.
  • Purl Soho tutorials – Free video tutorials on stranded and intarsia knitting.
  • Very Pink Knits videos – A YouTube channel with useful instructional content.
  • Craftsy classes – Paid online workshops on colorwork knitting methods.
  • Ravelry forums – Connect with a community of knitters for advice.
  • Knitting magazines – Look for colorwork patterns and tips in each issue.

With some guided practice, books, videos, and online resources, you’ll be able to take your two-color knitting to the next level.

The Benefits of Two-Color Knitting

Why should you incorporate colorwork into your knitting? Here are some of the great benefits:

  • Eye-catching results – Colorwork knits are bold, vibrant, and lively.
  • Artistic expression – Play with colors and patterns to add your own flair.
  • Versatile designs – Pair with solids or add colorwork accents.
  • Warmth – The double layer of stranded knitting provides insulation.
  • Prevents boredom – The color changes keep knitting interesting.
  • Pops visually – Contrasting motifs stand out clearly.
  • Creativity – There are endless color and pattern possibilities to explore.

Adding a second color opens up new realms of textile creativity and visual impact. Give it a try for your next knitting project!


Whether you opt for the bold blocks of intarsia or the intricate patterning of stranded knitting, working with two colors opens up endless creative possibilities. As you gain experience managing multiple yarns, you’ll be able to create stunning sweaters, accessories, and decorative knits. Learning the intricacies of color theory allows you to put together dazzling combinations. With a bit of practice and some helpful tips, you’ll be knitting up eye-catching colorwork designs in no time. So grab two skeins of yarn and get ready to take your knitting to the next level!