Double knitting technique

One of my longer term projects is a double knit steampunk science scarf that I’m making for myself. Double knitting is great for scarves because it makes both sides at the same time with mirror-image colour work. The finished result looks really impressive with no untidy back to hide.

Steampunk science scarf in progress. West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 Ply in Rum Paradise and Licourice

A lot of people think that double knitting is complicated but it’s actually not that hard. Here’s my guide to getting started with double knitting

What you will need

  • Two different colours of yarn of the same yarn weight. I recommend using the same brand as you may find variations in weight between different yarns which can mess up your gauge. Most of my double knitting so far has used fingering weight
  • Knitting needles of the appropriate size for your yarn
  • Stitch markers (optional but I think they help)
  • A double knitting pattern. I recommend Ravelry for patterns. I’m currently making this pattern by Katrina Elsaesser. There are many many more I want to make in the future, and you should be able to find one you like no matter what your style

Casting on double knitting

Double knitting makes both sides at the same time, so you need to cast on twice as many stitches as are in the pattern. I prefer to use the cable cast on because I think it gives the neatest edge. Just cast on as normal but hold both yarns together so each cast on stitch counts as two, one in each colour. After casting on each stitch check that the yarns are the right way round so the colours alternate. You can use your favourite cast on. Just make sure that you end up with twice the number of stitches in the pattern, half in one colour and half in the other, and that the colours alternate.

Before you start- which colour is which?

Before I start the pattern I like to knit a plain row so that the start of the pattern doesn’t get lost in the cast on edge. This also means that I can clearly see which colour is the main colour and which is the pattern colour on each side. If you alternated colours in the cast on it will be easy to see which colour is the main one for which side. If you made a mistake in the cast on, don’t worry! It’s easy to fix mistakes in this row.

We will call the main colour facing you for this row colour A. The colour on the side facing away from you is colour B. Once we get onto the pattern, colour A will be the background for the side that matches the pattern. Colour B will be the background for the mirror image pattern. Generally it doesn’t matter which is which. If the pattern has writing, or you feel strongly about which colour is the the pattern on the “right” side, make sure you follow these instructions with the right side background colour as yarn A.

Knitting the first row

Hold both yarns at the back of the work and knit the first stitch with yarn A. Next, move both yarns to the front and purl the next stitch with yarn B. Continue alternating knit colour A, purl colour B to the end of the row.

You should now see that you have two sides of fabric, both in knit stitch, one in colour A and one in colour B.

Turn your work. You now have the side in colour B facing you. This will be the background for the first row of the pattern

How to read a double knitting pattern

Double knitting patterns consist of a grid of black and white squares. The white squares represent the background colour and the black squares the pattern colour. For each stitch you will knit in the colour represented by the square then purl in the other colour. The odd number rows are read left to right- these will be the mirror image of the pattern. The even number rows are read right to left- these are the right side pattern.

I find it easiest to use stitch markers every 10 stitches. I don’t get lost in the pattern and it makes counting easier! When I finish a row I cross it off on the chart so I know where I am

Double knitting your pattern

Now you know how to read the pattern it’s time to get knitting! I like to keep one ball of yarn on each side of me to help reduce tangling. I can knit in both English and Continental styles so I hold one yarn in each hand. If you prefer one style over the other then you can have both yarns on your preferred side and pick up the yarn you need to stitch with. I think that my technique is quicker as I can keep hold of both yarns so I’ll show pictures of how I do it.

For this row black is my background colour (the white pattern squares). You can see I have stitch markers every 10 stitches (that’s 10 of the pattern, so 10 of each colour) to help me count.

The first stitch

I knit the first two stitches together so the sides of the fabric are closed. This has a twisted look. I like this effect, but some people don’t and prefer to use slip stitches instead (I’ll cover this another time!).

Holding the yarns

Now it’s time to separate the yarns. I hold the yarn represented by white squares in my right hand and yarn represented by black squares in my left hand.

Double knitting a white pattern square

The first stitch in this row is a white square so I knit the first stitch in black with both yarns held behind the work

Now I move both yarns to the front

The knit stitch was black so the purl is in the rainbow yarn

Double knitting a black pattern square

Next I have a black square in the pattern. This means that the colours are switched. First I knit in the rainbow yarn. This is the yarn in my left hand

Follow with a purl stitch in the black yarn

This stitch will be in the pattern colour and show up on the black background. Keep following the pattern to the end of the row. If you hold the yarn the way I do, white squares are knitted with the right hand colour and black squares with the left hand colour. When you get to the end of the row, turn your work round and switch the yarn in each hand.

Casting off

Casting off double knitting is just as simple as using one colour. Knit the first stitch in the colour yarn for that side. Move the yarns to the front and purl the next stitch in the other colour. Pass the first stitch over the second as usual. Move the yarns to the back and stitch the next stitch in the first colour. Keep binding off in alternate knit and purl stitches until you reach the end.

If you prefer, you can also pick one of the colours and cast off as normal with it.

Give double knitting a go! I’m happy to help if you need it. Leave me a comment if you have any questions or need more tips

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