tips tricks and techniques

joining knittingAnd that truly is the question when you have to add another skein … or change colors … or have a break in your yarn. After all, there are only so many one-skein wonders you can make. I love seamless garments, especially those that only use a skein; that said, at some point I am going to need a way to join an extra skein.

The problem is that so many patterns and books just say “join in the next skein/color”.

What the heck does that mean?

Well, read on MacDuff … I’ll give you my thoughts on how best to join.

Often, pundits will tell you to always join the yarn on a seam so you don’t have to knot it and can use the ends within the seam. What you do is drop the old yarn, start knitting with the new yarn, and worry about securing the ends when you seam. Yes, this works. That said, I avoid seaming as much as I avoid wasting yarn. If I have enough yarn to go half-way, I don’t want to waste that by joining a new piece early. Yes, I am that cheap. Joining on the seams works if you don’t mind wasting yarn.

At one time or another, we’re all tempted to tie a square-knot and tuck the ends in later. And this works to some extent. However, square-knots can work loose (especially if we’ve cut the ends too short) and then you have an unplanned hole in your lovely knitting. If you want to just work a simple knot, at least do an overhand knot … one that doesn’t come out. If I’m in a hurry and need to finish, I often do an overhand knot … and I’ve NEVER had one come out.

The downside to this particular “join” is that you do get a hard spot in your knitting – whether you work a square-knot or an overhand knot. If you’re working something that is fluffy or thick or “cushy”, this is not such a problem. But if you’re working a gossamer lace shawl, the knot can ruin the overall look.

What to do? Here are a few joins that I’ve tried … and what I think about them …

  • Russian Join — this was shown to me about two or three years ago (even after 40+ years of knitting, I still continue to learn new tricks). I love this knot. Basically, you’re securing each end within the core of the old yarn. Once you knit thru this join, you have a very secure join with little evidence that you’ve joined a new ball. This join works great, unless your yarn is thin (lace weight would be too tedious to even try) or is a one- or two-ply yarn. With the one- or two-ply yarns, the problem is that there is no “core” to hold the new yarn. Further, if the yarn is slippery, this can sometimes come undone as you’re trying to knit thru the join.
  • spit and rub join or “spit and splice” — I’ve never liked this method. It only works with easily feltable yarn (so cotton and a blend with a majority of non-animal fibers won’t work). Basically, the idea is that you separate the fiber to open it up, do the same on the other yarn, and then wet the ends and rub together until the ends are felted. This gives a secure, if non-hygienic, join. The strength of this join depends heavily on your fiber content.
  • double uni-knit — I recently read about this one in Laura Bryant’s stellar book, Artful Color, Mindful Knits. This is a great knot, especially for lacy items and yarns that won’t work with the previous joins. This is a fisherman’s knot, so most sites that describe it are using fishing line. But believe me, this one works. The cool thing about this knot is that it is completely secure and you can trim the ends right up close to either end of the knot and IT WON’T COME UNDONE and you don’t have ends to mess with later. The resulting join is tight and secure (albeit there is a bit of a bump).
  • for ribbon yarns and others in the novelty arena (yarns I use rarely), you can literally sew the ends together to create the join:
    joining novelty yarns

    joining novelty yarns

Regardless of HOW you join your yarn, please remember to leave nice, healthy ends (for all the joins except the double uni-knot). Ends should be approximately six inches to allow for “burying” into the knitted item.

Here’s how:
When you are all done with your item and after making sure the joins are secure, block your item as you wish. When the item is done blocking, THEN tuck in your ends. This will avoid any ends popping out during the blocking process.

To hide the ends: work with the knitted fabric (on the wrong side) and use a blunt-tipped tapestry needle appropriate to the thickness of the yarn.

  • If garter stitch, weave each end (in opposite directions) along the purl-bumps. This will ensure the ends don’t show on the right side.
  • If stockinette stitch, weave each end (in opposite directions) in a diagonal direction, splitting the purl bumps and securing the ends. Check to ensure that the ends don’t show thru on the right-side.
  • If cabled or other highly textured knitting, weave each end thru the back of the cable twist or other recessed areas.

Once the ends are buried, you can then trim right close to the knitting (making sure to AVOID cutting the knitting … trust me, that is NOT a pretty thing) and you’re good to go.

By the way, if you come to a knot in your yarn coming from the working skein (which happens because the fiber breaks in the milling process) NEVER just keep knitting. Instead, stop and cut the knot off and secure the ends as if you were joining in a new skein. The knot that is made by the processor may not be a solid knot; further, the knot ends have been trimmed so you don’t have anything to bury/secure. Again, STOP and CUT and re-join the yarn. You would also do this if you come to a weak spot in your yarn. Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort!

So how do you join in new yarns … please share in the comments!sig block

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