The Fair Isle Advent MKALendar is all about stranded colorwork. I've shared some of my favorite colorwork tips and tricks previously, including how to catch floats on the next round, how to keep your floats loose with yarnovers, and how to do two-pass knitting to handle three or more colors on the same round.
This trick is my favorite one for keeping your floats from getting too tight: knitting colorwork inside out. And no, that doesn't mean you have to purl in colorwork. Let's take a closer look.
What's the time?
When you knit in the round — be it on a circular needle or DPNs — your work forms a circle.
Think of your work as a clock face. The most usual way to hold circular knitting is to have your hands at the bottom of the clock in the 6 o'clock position. The needle tips are closest to you with the rest of the work resting on the cable away from you. If you're right handed, the working needle is in your right hand and the work progresses from right to left in a clockwise direction.
Many knitters just starting out with in-the-round knitting tend to hold their work differently: they have their hands at the top of the clock at the 12 o'clock position. The needle tips are now on the far side of the work; the rest of the cable runs between the needle tips and the knitter. The work still progresses from right to left but in a counter-clockwise direction.
Like with many things in knitting, both methods are correct and produce the same end result. But holding your hands in the 12 o'clock position can lead to some confusion if you're not familiar with the structure of knitting. "If I'm knitting my stitches… why does my hat/sock/mitten/whatever come out in all purls?" That's because you're knitting inside out.
Right side out vs. inside out
So what's happening here? This illustration might help you figure it out.
When you hold your hands in the 6 o'clock position going clockwise, knit stitches form the outside (or right side) of the tube. Purls, being the reverse side of the coin, are on the inside or wrong side of the work.
The contrary happens when you hold your hands on the far side in the 12 o'clock position. (I also like to call this 'knitting on the outer rim'.) The right side with all the knits is now on the inside of the tube. What you see on the outside (which is actually the wrong side) are all the purl bumps.
If you're a new knitter and have this problem, the fix is really simple! Just reach on the inside of your work, flip it right side out, and re-adjust your hands and needle tips so that you keep them closest to you at 6 o'clock.
Knitting colorwork inside out
What does all this have to do with colorwork knitting?
When you're doing colorwork in the usual way with hands in the 6 o'clock position, your floats are on the inside of the work. Especially if the work is scrunched up on a short circular needle, the floats often travel a very short distance to get to the point the yarn is next needed. Having floats on the inside makes it difficult to see if they're loose enough; you're not constantly taking a peek into the tube to see how things are going. If your floats are too short on the inside, your work may start to pucker on the outside.
Many knitters think they knit colorwork more tightly than one-color stockinette and compensate for it by changing to larger needles. But this will only make the stitches bigger, looser, and sloppier. It doesn't address the real problem: floats being too short.
If, however, you flip your work inside (or wrong side) out and hold your hands in the 12 o'clock position, your floats will now be on the outside of the work. The floats will travel the longest possible distance on the outer rim which already automatically makes them longer. Having floats on the outside also makes it easier for you to keep on eye on them, readjust and stretch out your floats if need be.
How to go from knitting right side out to knitting inside out?
Starting from holding your hands in the 6 o'clock position, push the cast-on edge of your work away from you to the inside of the circle.
Flip the entire work over so that the wrong side with floats is facing towards you and you're ready to go! When you don't have much fabric yet, the work tends to flop over on itself. Things will get easier when you've got a couple of inches worked.
Try this trick to see if it helps with your colorwork tension. Perhaps you don't need to change to larger needles, after all.
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