The other breed of colorwork

purl bee striped cowl nido mittens marl knitting

I have extreme admiration for intrepid intarsia knitters, but as I mentioned in yesterday’s Marl Mitts post, what’s most interesting to me, personally, in the realm of colorwork is the art of knitting with multiple yarns held together — a different breed of multi-strand knitting. Obviously, you can knit (or crochet) anything you like out of an actual marl yarn, but then you’re limited to what’s available, which is pretty much black/ivory or gray/ivory. (Both lovely; don’t get me wrong.) By pairing yarns and holding them together as you knit, not only are the color possibilities endless, of course, but so are the results you can achieve. And it goes well beyond mere marl. We’ve oohed and aahed about this amazing Chloé sweater, and taken a close-up look at this other amazing Chloé sweater, but I wanted to round up some other things that I find inspiring. For the purpose of talking about them, I’m breaking them down into three basic categories, but this is by no means comprehensive. I’d really love to see some of your favorite examples as well, so please share.


The Purl Bee Striped Cotton Cowl, above left, was one of the first really thought-provoking things I came across when I started scouring the web for inspiration. It’s an off-white cotton garter-stitch rectangle, grafted together into a cowl. But there’s magic in what happens as you simply pick up and drop various colors of cotton thread along the way.


marl sweater kid cowl

Simply holding (or, sure, plying) two different yarns together — high- or low-contrast — and watching them intertwine can be more than interesting enough. I mean, look at that amazing Dusen Dusen sweater above. (For sale in the Wiksten shop! Hide my wallet!) Things get extra interesting, though, if you hold two variegated or heathered yarns together. And then there’s what happens when you throw in a stretch of a solid color, or mix up your colors and stitch patterns, as in the Phildar kids’ cowl above. (I also want that kid’s hair.) See also pretty much everything by Nido, starting with the mittens pictured at top right of this post.


ombre blanket fade hat knitting patterns

If you take a very controlled approach to your color changes, transitioning from lighter to darker shades of a single color, or across analogous colors, you get something very much like ombré-dyed fabric. The more strands of yarn you’re holding, the more gradual the change can be, and thus the more subtle the effect. But it’s dazzling no matter how you do it, as evidenced by the 2-strand Ombré Blanket by Joelle Hoverson (from “Last-Minute Knitted Gifts”) and the 3-strand Fade Hat by Michele Wang. See also Nicole Dupuis’ insanely beautiful cowl for Bookhou.


15 thoughts on “The other breed of colorwork

  1. Okay, I really need to finish up the projects I’m working on….

    I love so many of these. I’ve never tried knitting 2 or 3 strands together though. I guess it’s time to give it a shot! These are really beautiful.

  2. Great collection of images and inspiration.

    I love working with multiple ends for colour, especially when I’m machine knitting, as it can create really subtle variations and I can also combine fine silks with other more substantial yarns. When I’m hand knitting and I want to make something bulky I often use multiple ends of the same yarn as I then have more choice over colour/fibre content and it can work out cheaper than some of the expensive good quality bulky yarns out there.

    Great post!

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    • I’m so glad!

      I know there aren’t any original observations here, but this is the kind of stuff I carry around in my brain and it’s nice to be able to talk to y’all about it, and maybe spark some ideas for you as well.

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