Sometimes when I have a knitting project in the queue but don't have the correct yarn for the job I'll resort to combining two strands of a fingering or lace weight yarn to arrive at an aran or DK weight. And I've seen other knitters knit with two strands to achieve a marled effect, too. Until recently I only ever did this out of pure necessity but the results have so many pros that I'm definitely going to take it into consideration when planning projects from now on.
Here's what I like about it:
- The yarns lay next to each other, so your gauge remains in tact but the fabric you knit is actually thinner than if you used a yarn that is as thick as it is wide (ie round). It's like knitting with tape yarn. And because the two strands move to wherever they fit the most comfortably the twists and turns that occur during knitting don't create as much bulk and dimension as a tape yarn would. I have found that I really appreciate this thinner fabric for a spring or summer knit like the Gemini I'm wearing under my cardigan in the photo above.
The biggest pro in my experience has been the drape of the fabric (ie. how it behaves and looks when it hangs or moves). I'm particularly happy with the drape in this Gemini shirt which is a result of my first point about achieving a thinner fabric. The drape that this Sweetgeorgia Silk Merino Lace achieves in a double strand is just killer! Definitely something to consider (ie swatch) if you're humming and hawing between a double stranded fingering vs single strand of DK or light worsted - or any substitution using this technique. I have to confess I'm more of a 'start knitting and see how it goes' kinda gal - but swatching is never a bad idea.
Lastly, if you're knitting with a hand dyed yarn you can knit with two stands of a finer yarn to arrive at a bulkier weight and avoid pooling by joining the two strands at different points in the colourway (Not to say there aren't ways to do this when knitting with a single strand.) Last month I test knit this Moonstone Cloche by Abbye Dhal in two strands of Malabrigo sock yarn. There are greens, reds and purples in this colourway and there was no pooling to be seen - although I was less on top of where the two strands joined when I picked up stitches for the crown.
Also, I suspect that there might be an economic benefit to knitting some yarns in this way in terms of gaining yardage or avoiding buying too many skeins ie. if you know you'll have half a skien left over when knitting your garment with a DK weight yarn you can eliminate the "waste" (I have so many unused half-skeins!!!) by buying one skein of fingering weight yarn to divide into two and knit in a double strand (instead of two full skeins).
Okay now for the CONS...
For me there is only one CON, but it is kind of a big one. I find that I have to really pay attention to make sure that I'm always knitting in both strands. A pointy knitting needle will help with this, but the knitting is a bit less mindless when knitting with a double strand. When I do miss a strand it appears as though there is a hole in my knitting and I end up having to 'repair' them with duplicate stitch if I don't catch them while I'm knitting. The duplicate stitch does the trick, though, so at least there's an alternative to frogging or dropping back to that stitch.
Okay, I lied! I have one more thing to add that might be considered a con. My one point against using a double strand for structural things like hats is that the thinner fabric may take away from the structure of it, which I did find with the crown of this cloche hat. The body of the hat is knit in linen stitch which is super dense due to all the slip stitches, so I did not find it made a fabric that is too floppy, but I could see that being the case for other hats in regular knit and purl stitches.
Do you ever knit in a double strand? What do you like/dislike about it?
Hi, I'm Janna. I'm a tapestry weaver, longtime knitter, 2013 graduate of Concordia University's Fibres and Material Practices program, and founder of Everlea Yarn. In my art practice I combine textiles and socially engaged media. Here on the VY blog I mostly share my knits, local events and about other local artists and crafters.