The Ins and Outs of Two-Color Knitting Techniques

Two-color stranded knitting can be used to make a series of designs in your knitting work, or can be used for creating stripes. Oftentimes, two-color stranded patterns will have the knitter working in the round. Stranded knitting can be worked flat, but many people find it easier to maintain tension when working only the knit rounds, rather than having to purl back.

Ready to work it? Here are some two-color knitting techniques to try today:

Striped Beach Sweater - Bluprint Pattern

Tide Pools Sweater Pattern via andrea_knits


Stripes are a simple way to practice color changes in the round and get a handle on managing two colors in your work. For a newbie knitter, this is an easy way to add some colorwork detail in your knitting without taking on using more than one color in a round.

When working stripes in the round, you will run into the issue of a jog in your knitting. Because knitting in the round is essentially creating a continuous spiral, your first stitch from a round will not directly line up with the last stitch in the same round. There are ways to fix this so don’t let that turn you away from stripes!

[box type=”shadow”]See our tutorial on knitting jogless stripes in the round for more information.[/box]

Cute Little Knit Hat - Pattern on Bluprint

Fair Isle

Fair Isle knitting refers to a type of two-color stranded knitting made by knitter from Fair Isle, a Scottish island. These types of designs may have more than two colors in them, but generally use only two colors per round to create the design. This type of  Fair Isle knitting uses the two-color stranded knitting method to create traditional Fair Isle motifs.

Fair Isle can also refer to other two-color stranded designs that use two colors per round to create any type of colorwork design. I’ve used this technique to create larger motifs on socks and sweaters, smaller motifs for hats, like the Sardines pattern, seen above, and even to work up a knitted chicken!

[box type=”shadow”]For in-depth explanation and instruction on the Fair Isle knitting technique, be sure to take a look at The Fair Isle Vest. [/box]

Salty Hill Scarf, Bluprint Member Pattern

Two-color cables

This is a really fun two-color knitting technique if you’re feeling adventurous! Similar to Fair Isle, with two-color cable knitting you’ll be managing two colors per round but you’ll also be working cables at the same time. While it sounds very scary, it’s really quite simple (in one of those “how did I ever think this was so difficult?” kind of ways) once you get going. The trickiest part will be casting on with two strands and making sure to take a moment to untangle your yarn every few cast-on stitches. Knitbrit’s Salt Hill pattern uses this technique to create the gorgeous scarf seen above.


When knitting with two colors per round, as in Fair Isle and the two-color cable technique, maintaining an even tension is very important. You will want to try to keep your tension looser than normal. Pulling too tightly will cause puckering in your knitted fabric, and in some cases, will make it impossible for you to get the finished piece on. This will take some getting used to, especially if you tend to have a tight tension already. I would suggest starting with a worsted weight project for practice, and I feel it’s more difficult to maintain that looser tension on thinner yarn.


Floats refer to the strands on the wrong side of your knitting that link from stitch to stitch. While many patterns try to keep you from holding a float over 5 or 6 stitches, there are patterns where you will hold a float over 8 or 9 or more stitches. Again, this is where an even tension comes into play. Many knitters catch their floats. That is, twist the float yarn and the working yarn once about 4 stitches in so that float isn’t loose and floppy. I would suggest doing this when knitting socks and sweaters and other things you have to put your body, hand or foot into. I probably wouldn’t worry too much if it were a hat, but that’s just me.

So what kind of two-color knitting project will you start with? Do you have any tips or tricks to keep a good tension and manage floats?

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