Tutorial: Alternating Skeins of Yarn the Easy Way
Ever wonder how to alternate skeins of yarn while knitting? Or have you heard that alternating skeins is the best move when knitting bigger projects with hand dyed yarns, but you aren't sure what exactly that means? Have no fear! We have a full tutorial today showing how to alternate skeins of yarn while knitting and when you will want to use this technique.
Working with hand dyed yarn is truly one of the highlights of being a knitter. The depth, variety, and complexity of the colors are far more compelling than any commercially available yarn. Hand dyed yarns are never boring! But for larger projects, it can be helpful to learn the super easy way of alternating skeins to make your project the best it can be.
There are 3 main reasons why you might want to alternate skeins while knitting:
- You are using hand-dyed yarn, tonal yarn, or variegated yarn: The complex beauty of these hand-dyed skeins mean that there is bound to be some variety from skein to skein, and alternating can help avoid pooling.
- You couldn't get the same dye lot in the skeins you are using for a solid color knit: It happens: you need an extra skein or two, and suddenly you can't find anything from the same dye lot, even though you can find the same color.
- You are purposely blending different colorways or even different brands of yarn. This can be a great way to manually create color fades, gradients, and destash single or leftover skeins!
Here's an example: These two skeins look very similar - Sugar Mix Two Sweets (color 515) and Sweets in Rock Candy. Both are fingering weight superwash merino, with the same base color. We want to combine them into an Oaklet Shawl (free pattern). Choosing a pattern that has a lot of texture (like garter stitch, for example) also does a great job of hiding color shifts, but it's important you see in stockinette how these two colorways combine. In the skeins, they look like they are the exact same base shade:
But when knitting them together and alternating, you can see a very subtle shade difference in the light grays, which almost look like a faded stripe:
When knitting a shawl like this, you are knitting flat. This means that we are alternating skeins every two rows- one right side row, then one wrong side row. After the wrong side row is completed, the yarn ends up back on the same side as the other ball of yarn, and you can easily switch for the strand below the one you just used.
You might think that switching balls of yarn every two rows would leave a strange line of the edge of the shawl, but it is barely noticeable. Here, compare the left side of the shawl (no alternating occurs on the left side) to the right side, where all the alternating occurs:
This is particularly easy to hide in a knit that has a bit of garter at the edge, as the switch is very similar to how a garter stitch sits. When switching between yarns, be mindful of your tension. You wouldn't pull too hard on the yarn if you weren't switching, so don't pull too hard on the switch, or you may find that the edge where you have alternated skeins is tighter than the opposite edge.
And that's it! Now, keep working on this pretty shawl-in-progress:
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