This post is specifically for catching floats while doing Fair Isle, or stranded colorwork knitting.
Fair Isle knitting is when two colors are used to knit across one row. For this example, the Main Color (MC) is held in the right hand, and the Contrast Color (CC) is held in the left hand – you may change that, but it’s how I did it. By using two hands the project is knit using both English and Continental style.
If you haven’t mastered two-handed knitting, you can still knit colorwork if you keep each yarn in the correct position. But keep trying to learn two-handed knitting because it’s a lot of fun.
The Triple-patterned Watchcap
My example here is my second knitting of the Triple-patterned Watchcap from the “Hat’s On” book. The first hat was made in pink and off-white. It is a small size and won’t fit me, so I wanted one that would.
I decided to use up some of my Brooklyn Tweed Arbor yarn in greens and gold, which I bought to knit some mittens a few months ago.
This watchcap has three sections of colorwork (hence the name). However, this time I changed the second section of colorwork and made hearts. That section of the hat will not be seen while being worn because the brim flips up over it – see image below.
The pattern begins with a braid, then the first section of colorwork is knit. The work is turned, and the rest of the hat is knit.
Layed out flat, the first section is inside-out.
You may wonder why I would bother, but I love doing colorwork and I wanted to try that heart pattern. I will use it again at a later time on another hat where it will be seen. The pattern calls for colorwork at this area.
Managing the Floats
When one of the yarns (either MC or CC) has to be carried along behind the work for more than a few stitches, while the opposite yarn is being used, those yarn strands – called “floats” – need to be caught. If they are not, there will be long strands of yarn on the wrong side of the garment.
Some people say five stitches are the max before catching a float. I think it’s really the knitter’s preference, but long floats are not advisable. Once you know how, it’s simple to do, so just catch them often.
My photo below is of the back of the knitting (that hearts section in the hat) and shows how it will look when the floats are caught. There are no long loose bits, and it makes a “fabric” of it’s own.
Carrying the Left Hand Yarn (CC)
This is the easy yarn to carry. As you get ready to do the stitch, slip the LH yarn over the needle from back to front. Then knit with the RH yarn – do not pull the LH yarn off, just let it get caught up with the MC yarn as you finish the stitch.
See it done on Suzanne Bryan’s tutorial around 4:10 into the video. Also, below I mention that she wraps the other – RH yarn – around 3:20.
Carrying the Right Hand Yarn (MC)
Here is where I had my trouble. I learned it correctly and then forgot the next time I knit. When the CC yarn (or RH yarn) is being used for four, or more, stitches at a time, carry the MC by doing this:
For the next CC stitch, bring up the MC yarn (held in the right hand) and wrap around the needle (as if to knit with it – my dark green yarn below). Then, wrap the CC yarn from FRONT TO BACK over the needle (blue yarn).
Now, pull the MC yarn (dark green) up over the needle and it will be caught by the CC at the back of the work. A tug on the carried yarn keeps it from showing through to the front.
If the CC (LH yarn) is not wrapped front to back, the stitch will twist and on the next round of knitting will have to be corrected before knitting. I was, on my second Katie’s Kep, and kept wrapping my left-hand yarn from back to front and couldn’t figure out why my stitches looked wrong on the next round. I was wrapping that CC yarn the wrong way!
Suzanne Bryan’s video is good, but you have to look closely at time 3:20 + to see how she wraps the LH yarn front to back and then pulls up the RH yarn so it won’t show through.
I like to knit colorwork hats for winter because they are naturally heavier because of the two yarns. Those floats create a wrong side design of their own.
A Hat That Fits
My newest Triple-patterned Watchcap fits my head – yay! It is snug, and I could probably wear the XL size. This one is a large and measures 20 inches around. A hat knit like this does not have much “give” because of the colorwork designs.
I do love this design and it has become one of my favorites to knit. I see one in the future that will be full of hearts!
See the pattern at Ravelry, but it is not for sale alone. It’s part of a book full of great hat patterns. I highly recommend the Hat’s On! book.
Here are some of the other hats I’ve knit from the same book.