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Knit Basics: Stranded Colourwork

16th February 2022 intermediate 2 min read
Knit Basics: Stranded Colourwork

sawmill hat in black and white

Colourwork knitting is when you work with more than one colour as you knit. There are many different types of colourwork but in this article we are going to focus on stranded colourwork. This is where you are working two (or more) colours on each round at the same time. It is usually worked in the round.

Read on to learn about colour contrast, holding yarn in both hands and working in the round.


The first thing you need to think about when knitting a colourwork design is the colours. But interestingly ‘tone’ is far more important than the actual colours used! In the photo above I’ve taken out all the colour to create only a black and white image. This gives you information on colour tone, or how dark/light the colours are relative to each other. For colourwork to stand out you want contrast in the tone rather than the colour. In the photo you can see that the lightest colour is the background one. Then the single stripe of colour near the top is the middle tone and the first colourwork colour introduced is the darkest one.

If you are having difficulty figuring out the tones of your colours (the actual colour is very distracting!) why don’t you take a black and white picture and use this as your guide?


Stranded colourwork is primarily worked in the round. This is by far the easiest way of doing it. There are many different ways of holding the 2 colours; some drop and lift the different colours, others use colourwork rings but the most common and successful methods I’ve found is 2-handed colourwork. With this method you hold one colour in each hand. Ideally you want the dominant (or pattern) colour in your left hand and the background colour in your right hand.

You can see it in action in this video:


Working a hat in the round for the first time can be a little tricky. There are many different ways to knit a small circumference and it takes a bit of trial and error to find the method that is right for you!

The 2 methods I general use are:


This has got a big advantage because you never have to change the needle for the project. As a hat is a good bit bigger than a sleeve or sock though you generally need a 40″ / 100 cm long cord to make it comfortable.


The other method starts with a short circular needle which can be used until you begin decreasing for the crown. At this point the circular needle will become too long so you will need to move to double pointed needles.

The Sawmill hat from Cosy Knits is a really good project if you are new to colourwork. The gauge is heavy enough that you’ll have the knitting done very quickly and the stitch

If you want to try out Sawmill Hat you can find kits that include the book, yarn and extra goodies here.

About The Author

Carol Feller

Carol trained as a structural engineer, and she brings that love of analysing structure into her knitting, creating complex patterns that are easy to understand, while her approach to process is all about testing and playing, and making mistakes along the way. That’s where the joy lies!

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