Odds are good that once you've knit your first project or two—and maybe even before then— you'll need to join a new ball of yarn to your project in order to continue knitting. It's a common requirement, whether you run out of yarn before finishing the project or are changing colors for stripes or other colorwork.
The fact of the matter is that every knitter needs to know how to switch from one ball to another. The best news is that it's easy to do and there are a couple of ways to go about it.
Starting a New Ball at the Edge
The easiest way is to make the switch at the end of a row, a method recommended for new knitters. This is also how you change colors when knitting rows of stripes.
- Keep an eye on the yarn ball you're working with and, when you near the end of it, stop at the end of the row you're working.
- Switch to the yarn from the new ball when you start working the next row.
- Be sure to leave a few extra inches of yarn from each ball so you can weave in your ends later.
The first stitch may be a little messy with this method. If it feels really strange to start knitting with the second yarn ball, you can hold onto both strands of yarn as you make the first stitch if you like. This can make your edging feel a bit more stable.
Some people don't like this method because they say weaving in the ends along the edges of the work can make it look bulky and messy. However, with enough practice, you'll learn the best weaving methods to minimize this effect.
Starting a New Ball in the Middle
If you'd like to try a different method, you can use what is called an overlap join. It works when joining a new ball of the same color. This join is worked somewhere within the row, not at the edge, and it's barely noticeable.
- When you see that you're getting pretty close to the end of your first ball, pick up the yarn from the second ball.
- Overlap the two threads so that the tails are going in opposite directions.
- Knit three or four stitches with both yarns held together, leaving a tail of a few inches on each ball.
- Then drop the old yarn and continue knitting with the new yarn.
- Once you've knit a couple of rows after the join, gently tug the work to even out the tension a bit. This will make those stitches knit with two strands look less bulky.
When you're finished knitting, just weave in the ends as you normally would. You'll have a nice seamless join that no one should be able to notice.
This approach makes a very secure join and is perfect for big pieces like afghans and sweaters where you're going through a lot of yarn. It's really nice with scarves as well because your edges are left clean.
It does not work particularly well for stripes because you'll be changing colors in the middle of the row. However, this is similar to the joining technique for other color work such as fair isle, in which you're integrating colors within the same row. The difference is that you will not knit two strands at once, but simply drop the first strand and pick up the second.