How To Alternate Skeins
June 22, 2022

How To Alternate Skeins

Sweater-knitting season is in full swing here in Australia, so we thought it was a great time to talk about different methods used to alternate skeins during a project.  For this post, we are talking about alternating skeins of hand-dyed yarn that are from the same colourway.  When it comes to hand-dyed yarns, it is highly recommended that, for larger projects like tops and sweaters, you alternate skeins (see our post 'Should I Alternate Skeins? Yes, And Here's Why...').  When you alternate skeins, you are blending two skeins together which evens out any variation in colour between the yarns, breaks up colour pooling and evenly distributes the colour across the fabric.

You don't need to alternate skeins right from the start: it's totally fine to work a few rows of your pattern using one skein.  If you are knitting a top-down sweater that has short row shaping across the neck or shoulders, make sure you work all the short rows first before attaching the second skein.  It's impossible to alternate skeins while working short rows.  I usually knit the neck/neck band or, if it’s a bottom-up sweater, the hem, then the short rows and then I start alternating skeins.  If you are knitting flat, simply start the next row using your second yarn.  If you are knitting in the round, follow the steps shown in the video below.

Attaching The Second Skein In The Round


Now you are ready to to alternate skeins!  Below are a few of our favourite methods. 

Basic method for alternating skeins when knitting flat and in the round

This is a great 'all purpose' method that can be used for lace, cabled, textured, stockinette, garter and slipped-stitch patterns.  The only downside is some potential tension issues that can occur if you pull the yarn up too tightly from the back of the work.  Don’t worry, this will improve with practice!  The video below walks you through alternating yarns while knitting flat and in the round, and has has a few tips on how to prevent tension issues from happening. 


Alternating skeins in the round using the 'yarn forward' technique.

This method works best when the last stitch of skein one, and the first stitch of skein two are knit stitches (this will make more sense after you watch the video).  Now is a good time to mention that you can begin to alternate yarns anywhere in the row.  So for this method, if you are working a cable, lace or textured stitch pattern, make sure you begin alternating yarns where there are two knit stitches that are always together.  If you are working stockinette stitch, it won’t matter at all.  The benefit of using this method is that it's seamless (no visible seam on the wrong side) and it prevents tension issues that can occur when you swap yarns using the method above. 


Jogless or Helical Knitting

This our favourite method when working stockinette in the round.  It's seamless, easy to do and blends yarn beautifully.  The big downside is that its almost impossible to do when working any stitch pattern other than stockinette.  You can, if you are more experienced, tweak this method by slipping a few less/more stitches to make it work for your stitch pattern (we’ve done this for ribbed hems).


We hope you've found this guide useful, and we would love to hear what your thoughts on alternating skeins are.  Do you alternate skeins, if so what is your preferred method?  Let us know in the comments below.

Happy knitting xxx