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I am a hand-knitting designer and teacher. See and purchase my published designs on Ravelry.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mad For Plaid: Stranded Knitting

Emerson by Kate Gagnon Osborn
from Kelbourne Woolens
Another knitting technique to create a plaid patterned fabric is stranded knitting.  Two (or more) colors of yarn are carried across the row as they are alternately worked.  This technique is often referred to as 'Fair Isle' knitting, but true Fair Isle is a subset of stranded knitting with more specific rules about how the yarn is handled, as well as distinctive patterning.  Since that historical Fair Isle patterning does not include plaid, we'll stick to the term stranded knitting.

Our first example of stranded plaid knitting, Emerson, is a pretty cardigan with a basic pattern in two colors.  If you look back to the first plaid post, you'll see this is the same pattern as the slipped stitch Dhurrie from Rowan.  The difference is Dhurrie's slip stitch technique resulted in puffy solid squares which created dimension in the fabric.  With Emerson's stranded knitting, the result is a smooth surface.

(Of course, a smooth surface of stranded knitting is only achieved with blocking and good technique. If the floats of carried yarn across the back of the work are pulled too tight, stranded knitting will also be puckered.)

Aunt Fred by Pamela Wynnefrom The Rhinebeck Sweater
One of the best applications for stranded knitting is creating a diagonal plaid pattern.  For most other plaid techniques, a diagonal patterning can only be achieved by working each piece on the diagonal.  This is shown to great effect with Aunt Fred which combines a solid white yarn with a hand-dyed gold yarn with a great deal of variation within its tonal range.

One of the potential drawbacks of stranded knitting is its warmth.  With two strands of yarn used to create every row, a stranded sweater is both extra warm and extra heavy.  And when a heavier yarn is used, the sweater is often too warm to be worn indoors.  Of course, that might be just what you want in an accessory such as a hat or mittens.

Gingham Neck Warmer in Double Knit
by Gabriella Kartz
Here a cowl is worked in a stranded plaid pattern that is also double knit, resulting in a very warm reversible fabric.

Next up:  one-stranded intarsia.

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