Double stranded knitting is a really simple technique that every knitter should know. If you're not familiar with it, you'll learn all about it today.
In this post, I'll explain what double stranded knitting is and isn't, why it's useful, and how to knit with yarn held together. I'll also provide a yarn weights chart for combining yarn.
So, let's get right to it.
What is Double Stranded Knitting
Double stranded knitting is when you knit with two strands of yarn of the same color at the same time as if they were 1 strand of yarn. When a pattern says to knit with yarn held double, or with yarn held together, this is also double stranded knitting.
Marl knitting uses the same principle of knitting with two strands of yarn. However, making a marled yarn requires combining different yarn colors at the same time. You can learn more about marled yarns here.
Typically, with double stranded knitting, you’re doubling up yarn for knitting using solid colors. However, you can knit with 3 strands of yarn held together, like in this free cowl pattern (shown below), or more than three strands.
What Double Stranded Knitting Isn't
Now, as you know in knitting, there’s similar terminology for different things. With that said, don’t confuse double stranded knitting with double knitting, which is something that produces an entirely different knit. When you’re double knitting, you’re simultaneously creating a two-layer fabric with mirror images on each side.
Double Knitting: Reversible Two-Color Designs by M'Lou Baber.
Also, don’t be confused by the use of “stranded knitting” in the name. Double stranded knitting has nothing to do with stranded knitting, which is to say colorwork knitting. Some types of colorwork knitting include:
- Fair Isle knitting, which has Scottish origins.
- Norwegian knitting, which is known as Selbu knitting.
- Bohus knitting, which is Swedish knitting.
Learn more about these different stranded colorwork traditions:
The Art of Fair Isle Knitting - Scottish Knitting
Selbu Patterns and Selbu Mittens - Norwegian Knitting
Poems of Bohus Knitting - Swedish knitting
Why Double Stranded Knitting is Useful
Now, let’s discuss several reasons why double stranded knitting is useful and how it can benefit you.
1. Combine Yarns for a Yarn Substitute
You want to knit a particular knitting pattern but you don’t have the right yarn weight for it in your yarn stash. For example, you have a lot of fingering weight yarns but you need a DK weight yarn.
You can absolutely substitute yarn for the project. Try using fingering yarn held double to make a thicker yarn, like with this free baby blanket pattern.
2. Create Your Own Yarn Blends by Doubling Up Yarn
Doubling yarn is also a great way to mix yarn fibers to make your own blended yarn. Try combining a smooth yarn and a textured yarn for an added effect. For example, mixing an angora yarn or a mohair yarn with wool will create a beautiful halo yarn. Dive into your yarn stash to mix and match to your heart’s content!
3. Enhance Yarn Fiber Properties
Did you know that if you mix different yarn fibers together, like a wool yarn and a cotton yarn, you can enhance the yarn fiber’s natural properties?
Combining these two yarn fibers can add some elasticity to your project. This is just one example. Play around with different options for different effects. Just be sure to read the yarn label for care instructions.
4. Combine Different Yarn Weights for Special Effects
There’s no rule saying you have to combine yarns of the same weight together. You can absolutely mix different yarn weights to knit with. This is a great way to use leftover project yarns.
Here's a double stranded knitting pattern for fingerless gloves that uses 1 strand of lace + 1 strand of sport to equal a worsted weight yarn.
5. Doubling Up Yarns Offers Unlimited Pattern Options
You can use just about any knitting pattern to make any type of knitting project with doubled yarn. If gauge is critical, you’ll still need to knit a gauge swatch for the best outcome of the knitting project. If gauge isn’t critical, like on a baby blanket or a knitted scarf, just cast on and get started!
Here's a shawl pattern that uses 2 lace weight yarns held together to make a fingering weight yarn.
Did you know that you could search on Ravelry.com for double stranded knitting patterns? You can! If you do an Advanced Search and scroll down, you'll find this category underneath yarn weights.
As you can see, you can search by single stranded patterns, double stranded patterns, knitting with 2 strands of the same weight, and knitting with 3 strands of yarn.
6. You Can Knit Faster!
If you’ve got a knitting fever to knit faster, double stranded knitting can solve that problem. Obviously, knitting with single strands of thin yarn will take longer to complete any project.
Knitting with yarn held double to make a thicker yarn will produce more visible results quickly. Problem solved.
Speaking of visible results, it's time to learn how to double up yarn for knitting.
How to Knit with Yarn Held Double
Double stranded knitting is super easy and doesn’t require you to learn anything new. Like with any knitting project, it’ll require a cast on like this one or this one, a basic bind off, knitting and purling.
The only difference from "regular" knitting to double stranded knitting is the fact that you’re holding two strands of yarn together, or multiple strands to accomplish it.
Here's how to knit with yarn held double. Cast on with 2 strands of yarn as if they’re 1 strand of yarn, as shown above. Knit or purl as if you’re using only 1 strand.
In other words, do everything you’d normally do with 1 strand, but with 2 strands of yarn held together. Easy, right?
In this image, you can see what double stranded knitting looks like on the knitting needles. I knit this swatch by doubling up yarn from one skein of Cascade 220 worsted weight, and I used ChiaoGoo size 11 knitting needles.
How Do You Hold Double Stranded Yarn?
You’ll hold double stranded yarn the same way you’d hold a single strand of yarn. There are, however, different ways to prepare to knit with yarn held double.
- pull yarn from two balls of yarn and knit as normal.
- knit from both ends of the same yarn skein if you want to.
- use your yarn winder to wind the two strands together into one ball of yarn.
All three options are easy and don’t require any additional expertise. The third option will add one extra step if it’s already in a yarn ball or yarn cone. If it’s in the form of a yarn hank, that’ll add two extra steps. If you don’t have a yarn winder, no worries! You can wind your yarn by hand, too.
I’ve used all three methods and don’t have any major complaints about any one of them. Winding the yarns together beforehand certainly makes knitting with them a bit easier. But don’t take my word for it. Try them for yourself and see which one you prefer!
Combining Yarn Weights Chart
This post wouldn’t be complete without a yarn held double chart. If you look at the chart below, it shows you what knitting with 2 strands of the same weight of yarn equals when held together.
When you double up yarn in the same weight, here's what they equal:
- 2 strands of lace weight yarn held double = Fingering/Sock to Sport Weight
- 2 strands of fingering yarn held double = Sport Weight to DK Weight
- 2 strands of sport weight yarn held double = DK to Light Worsted Weight
- 2 strands of DK yarn held double = Worsted to Aran Weight
- 2 strands of worsted held double = Bulky/Chunky to Super Bulky Weight
- 2 strands of chunky yarn held double = Super Bulky to Jumbo Weight
Keep in mind that this chart should be used for yarn weight approximations for 2 strands of yarn held double. If you choose to add more than two strands or want to combine different yarn weights together, you’ll definitely need to knit a gauge swatch for better accuracy.
Some yarn brands, like Garnstudio.com's Drops Design yarn, use yarn groups to differentiate the yarn weights. They have yarn groups from A to F, with A being the thinnest and F being the thickest yarn. I’ve written them below for clarity.
- Yarn Group A = Lace, Fingering/Sock, and Sport weight yarns (0 - 2).
- Yarn Group B = DK and Worsted (3 - 4).
- Yarn Group C = Worsted and Aran (4).
- Yarn Group D yarn = Chunky weight or Bulky yarn (5).
- Yarn Group E = Super Bulky (6).
- Yarn Group F = Super Bulky to Jumbo (7).
The combined yarn weight chart above reflects both the Yarn Groups and the numeric Yarn Weights. It doesn't list Yarn Groups E or F because doubling yarn in these two groups would be the equivalent of something larger than Jumbo Weight, Yarn Group F.
Now, let’s talk about choosing a knitting needle size for double stranded knitting.
What Size Knitting Needle for Yarn Held Double?
Choosing a needle size for double stranded knitting will depend on a couple of things. If you’re knitting from a pattern and using the recommended yarn, the needle size(s) are provided for you. But if you want to substitute your own yarn blend, you’ll need to knit a gauge swatch.
Let’s look at some swatches. The smallest knit swatch used only a single strand of worsted weight yarn and size 7 knitting needles, per the yarn label’s recommendations. The second and third swatches used worsted weight yarn held double on size 9 knitting needles and size 11 knitting needles, respectively.
How did I know to use these knitting needle sizes? First, I used this Cheat Sheet to find my baseline reference for the yarn weight and the knitting needle size. Then, knowing 2 strands of yarn held double equals 1-2 yarn weights thicker yarn, I know I’m going to have to go up 2-4 needle sizes to accommodate this thickness. Here’s how I know this.
Using the swatches above, 2 strands of worsted weight held together is the equivalent of Bulky yarn (5) to Super Bulky yarn (6). Going back to my cheat sheet, bulky yarn uses sizes 9-11 knitting needles. This is your starting point.
What you can’t see from these pictures is the density of the swatches. The size 9 needle swatch is tighter than the size 11 swatch. If you want a looser gauge, you’ll need to increase your knitting needle sizes and swatch again.
I hope that you enjoyed this post on double stranded knitting. Did you learn something new? I'd love to hear all about it. Drop me a line below.
Next up, read about Marled Yarn and learn how marled knitting is similar to double stranded knitting. Until next time!
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