This is the most traditional and favoured method of managing yarn for two-colour stranded knitting. It is also used for Fair Isle knitting where, although there are many colours in a project, there are only ever two colours used in one round of knitting. The video below shows how I set up for and work two-handed stranded knitting. You may also like to see my illustrated PDF tutorial for two-handed stranding technique.
The method is called ‘two-handed’ because both hands carry a yarn. This combines two traditional ways of holding yarn for knitting – ‘continental’ and ‘english’. The yarn in the left hand is knitted in the ‘continental’ method, and the yarn in the right hand is knitted in the ‘english’ method. Often continental yarn management is called ‘picking’ compared to english ‘throwing’. This describes the way that the yarn is taken around the needle in each method; in continental knitting the yarn is picked up by the point of the working needle, whereas in english knitting the yarn is thrown around the point of the working needle.
The key advantage of combining these two methods for stranded knitting is that during knitting neither yarn need be let go in order to knit with the other. Also the yarns do not get twisted around one another when held this way. Simply place each ball of yarn on the same side of you as the hand that holds the yarn coming from it, then never the twain shall meet!
‘Stranded’ refers to the appearance of the yarns on the wrong side of the knitting. Each yarn forms a strand behind stitches in which it is not used. The biggest challenge in stranded knitting is to maintain an appropriate tension in these strands. If they are too tight the knitting puckers. If they are too loose the stitches at each side of them become holey. For good tension do not pull on the yarn before forming the first stitch after swapping yarns, then give a light tug on the stitch after making it.
The strands in this method of knitting are often called ‘floats’ because they ‘float’ behind the stitches. Sometimes it is necessary to trap these floats into the main fabric to avoid them being too long. The general rule of thumb is that floats should be no longer than 3 – 4cm (1 – 1.5″).