Double Knitting

This week I’ve taken up double knitting again. I almost forgot how much fun that is.

Quite a while ago I wanted to knit multi-coloured mittens. I looked for a pattern and I decided on working with this one from Drops:

Fideli Mittens from Drops

Never having done stranded colourwork I was in trouble right away: there was no way I could get the tension right. So I tried to learn more about all the different possibilities for colourwork, and I discovered double knitting. That did not only solve my tension issue, it also made the inside of the mittens as beautiful as the outside!

At first double knitting is really confusing: I kept forgetting what was back and what was front, which should be a purl stitch and which should be a knit stitch. It takes a while to figure out how to handle the yarn. Some people knit with both colours in one hand, other people have a colour in each hand. That’s what I’m doing. In The Knitter’s Book of Knowledge Debbie Bliss states that this is the fastest and most even way of holding yarns, but it requires some practice, especially for the hand that you usually don’t use to hold the yarn. I’m still struggling to get even purl stitches with my right hand.

The basic principle of double knitting is that you create a two-coloured reversible fabric. Where you change colour both sides of the fabric hold together, but when you work rows entirely in the same colour the front and the back only come together on the sides.

 

In double knitting you create the reversible fabric by alternatively working a stitch on the front side and a stitch on the back side of your project. In my blue and white sample with both sides in stockinette stitch, I will first knit a blue stitch, bring both yarns forward, purl a white stitch, bring both yarns to the back and repeat the whole sequence. If I want a white stitch to appear on the blue side however (and a blue stitch on the white side), I knit a white stitch and purl a blue stitch. While I’m working on the blue side of my sample, that is. When turning around the work, it’s the other way around, and that’s where I went wrong at first in this sample: as I hadn’t been double knitting in a while, I couldn’t get my head around switching the colours, so I had to make my drawing twice …

Double knitting motif

The most easy way not to get lost in double knitting is to consider every pair of stitches as one (a blue one + a white one, a knit stitch on the front + a purl stitch on the back). When counting one counts only pairs, not single stitches.

For double knitting I learned a lot from watching instruction videos. Most credit for helping me figure out how to work double knitting goes to Nathan Taylor aka Sockmatician, an actor with a passion for complex knitting projects. On his YouTube channel where he vlogs about knitting, he also has a series of excellent instruction videos for some more advanced knitting techniques. His expert patterns for socks and other things are on Ravelry.

For the blue and white sample I’m working on now, I’ve used the two-colour long tail cast on Nathan shows in this video:

 

The selvedge with slipped stitches is shown in this video. Mind you, I had to watch it at least 20 times before I got it right! I’ve decided to keep the selvedge the same colour throughout the sample, because when I try to make it follow the pattern I get confused again!

 

If you’ve never worked double knitting before and you’d like to give it a try, it might be a good start to watch this video over and over for an hour or so …

 

Or have a look at this video from Drops if you’d rather keep the both yarns in one hand:

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