Changing Colors When Knitting Stripes

How to Change Colors When Knitting
Mollie Johanson

Ready to change colors in your knitting project, but you're not sure how? The process is easy and one that every knitter needs to know. Knitting stripes is the easiest way for knitters to add their own touch to a project and to add a bit of color to what would otherwise be a plain knit fabric.

While it might seem that you should just tie your two yarns together at just the right point, the process is even simpler than that. Plus, you won't end up with a knot in your knitting that looks unsightly and adds a small lump to your work.

Grab a few colors of yarn and start knitting stripes!

Drop the First Color and Start the Second

Loop the New Yarn Over the Needle
Mollie Johanson

To begin, cast on and knit (or work whatever pattern stitch you like) as many rows as you would like for the first color of yarn you're using.

It's a good idea to change colors at the beginning of right-side rows, particularly in stitch patterns like Garter and Stockinette. This will make the color change crisp and straight rather than dotted.

When you're ready to start working the second color, simply drop the first color and pick up the yarn for the second color. 

Leave a yarn tail of at least six inches on your new color. This will make it easy to weave the ends in securely when you finish the knitting. 

Insert your needle into the first stitch and hold the end as you loop the new yarn over the right needle, just as you would normally knit the stitch.

Knit the First Stitch With the New Color

Knit the First Stitch of the Row
Mollie Johanson

Complete the first stitch.

This stitch will look really loopy, loose and awful when you first knit it, but that's normal. When you are further along in the row, you can tighten up the last stitch of the previous row and the first stitch on this row by pulling gently on the yarn tails.

Knit Across the Row

Knit the Row With the New Color
Mollie Johanson

Once you've successfully changed colors, knit across the row and keep knitting in the new color until you want to switch colors again.

You can add a third color or go back to the first, whichever you like. The method is the same regardless of how many colors you use.

Carry Colors Along the Edges

Carry the Second Yarn Color Along the Edge
Mollie Johanson

If your stripes are short and you're going to use the same color again, you can carry the unused yarn up the side, so it's where you need it when you need it again.

To carry the yarn, give the two colors a single twist at the edge every other row or so. This prevents the carried yarn from becoming too loose.

Keep the Carried Yarn Smooth

Yarn Carried Along the Edge of the Knitting
Mollie Johanson

As you carry the yarn along the edge, gently pull it taut, so it is wrapped in the ends of the rows. This keeps the edges smooth.

With some knitting stitches, the carried color may show a little. Adding a border can help hide this with a decorative finish. However, often the carrying is barely noticeable.

Change Colors Back to the Carried Yarn

Change to the Carried Yarn
Mollie Johanson

When you are ready to change back to the carried yarn, drop the color you were using and pick up the carried color. Knit the first stitch of the row just as you did with the first color change.

The Back of Knitted Stripes in Stockinette Stitch

Back of Stockinette with Color Changes
Mollie Johanson

The back of the stockinette stitch shows how the color change looks and why it's best to start a new color on the right side of your work. Those extra lines aren't usually what you want to see on the front. However, you can choose to use this as a design element!

Once you've finished all your stripes, weave in all the ends of the yarn.