Stranded Colorwork Getting Tangled? Try a Yarn Guide!

I’ve been working on my stranded knitting technique lately, and one of my biggest issues when knitting colorwork is that the yarn is constantly getting tangled. Has this ever happened to you? If so, a yarn guide might be helpful!

Find out how a yarn guide can be useful for your stranded knitting.

Colorwork Sampler Scarf

Knitting something like this colorwork sampler scarf? A yarn guide can come in handy!

Yarn guides come in all shapes and sizes. The label on my yarn guide, which I found randomly at a second-hand store, calls it a Norwegian knitting thimble. I’ve also seen it called a yarn stranding guide or just a plain old yarn guide. We’ll just call it a yarn guide to simplify things, but know that if you’re shopping for your own, it might be called any of these names.

Yarn guides might look different, too. You’ll see yarn guides like mine (pictured above) that you wear like a ring, with two wrapped wires for threading your yarn. There are also yarn guides that snap closed, like this inexpensive yarn stranding guide from KnitPicks. You can even use two or more Portuguese knitting pins to keep track of the separate strands. The idea is just that you find a way to separate those different colors.

Using a yarn guide

This Lovebird Sweater designed by Donna Kay uses two strand of yarn at the same time to create these tiny flowers all over the sweater. When I started the sweater, it had been a while since I had practiced stranded knitting so the yarn guide was a real life saver!

How the yarn guide works

No matter what type of yarn guide you have, the benefits are the same.

To use the yarn guide, you’ll attach it to your finger, your clothing — wherever your particular yarn guide calls for. Note that for yarn guides that are worn as fingers, you can put the guide on any finger. Do whatever feels most comfortable for you. Next thread the different strand of yarn through the guide. You can leave your skeins of yarn where you normally would. The only difference is that instead of going straight to your fingers and needle, the yarn is first being threaded through the guide.

What a yarn guide can do for you

No tangles

If you’ve ever tried stranded colorwork, you know the mess that can happen when your skeins of yarn get twisted. Tangles are bad news not only because they’re hard to pull out, but also because they can affect your tension (more on that later) and seriously mess up your gauge.

Tension helper

Besides tangled yarn, another challenging part of stranded colorwork is avoiding that dreaded pucker. If you pull those floats too tightly in the back, you’re going to see a pucker running across your work. One way to avoid that pucker is to get into a rhythm with your knitting that lets you ensure those floats are stretching long enough. If your tension changes while you are knitting, those float lengths can change too.

The yarn guide acts as the middle man between your needles and the skeins of yarn. When yarn gets tangled together, you have to pull a little harder to stitch it, right? Pulling a little harder is often what creates those too-short floats. With the yarn guide, though, the tangles aren’t happening, so the yarn is fluidly moving from the skein through the yarn guide and to your knitting needles.

They’re not for everyone

Even with all the benefits, yarn guides are not for everyone. I tested my yarn guide on a swatch before using it on my actual project, and I found that I did need to make some minor adjustments to use it. Don’t worry if you try it and don’t love it. Knitting is all about finding what works for your style — and what makes techniques like stranded colorwork just a little easier!

Have you ever used a yarn guide? Did you find it to be helpful or a headache?

Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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