Let's Talk About Knots!
February 16, 2018

Let's Talk About Knots!

Knot!  The word, when it comes to knitting, is akin to a swear word.  Some people don't mind coming across a knot or two in their yarn, while others classify it as a disaster.  It's a bit of a touchy subject, but I thought it was an important issue to address. So here we go.


Knots are unavoidable

Yarn is essentially a piece of string that, during the milling process, sometimes breaks.  The mill isn't going to throw away good yarn because of a single breakage.  So, what they do is tie the yarn together with a knot and the process carries on.  Now, unless a yarn company or dyer inspects every millimetre of each skein looking for knots (and let's face it, who has time for that!) nobody is going to know a knot is there until someone discovers it while knitting.  It is a pain, especially when you're mid row, BUT HERE'S THE GOOD PART: knots can be fixed!


How to deal with knots in your yarn

Firstly, check that it's actually a knot.  Sometimes yarn gets a little tangled and may look like a knot, but if you can't see the join just give the two ends a little pull and hopefully the yarn will untangle.  If you've discovered a real knot at the beginning of your row, then it's really easy.  All you need to do here is cut the knot out and re-join the yarn as you would if you were joining a new ball.  However, if you discover a knot mid row, this is what you need to do:

  1. Spit-Splice:  This technique only works with animal fibres that have not been superwash treated.  Essentially what you are doing is felting the two ends of the yarn together to form an even join.  Here's a very helpful video on how to Spit-Splice.
  2. Magic Knot: It truly is a magical knot that won't come undone!  Check out this video which demonstrates how to tie a magic knot.
  3. Russian Join: This is a bit more fiddly but the results are a seamless join.  See this video to find out how to do a Russian join.
  4. Just knit it!: Some people just knit the knot into their project.  There are a few reasons I wouldn't advise this method.  Firstly, you can't be sure that the knot will stay secure.  It's likely that your knot will unravel, leading to holes that are WAY worse than knots!  Also, knots usually work their way to the front of the project, so they become visible. Take the time to deal with the knot using one of the above methods; you'll be thankful you did.


    But shouldn't skeins with knots be discounted?
    I was reading a forum post on Ravelry a little while ago in the Yarn & Fibre group about knots in yarns.  Quite a few people mentioned that dyers and yarn companies should reduce the price of skeins with knots.  While reading this I was thinking of how many hours it would take us here at Skein to inspect every skein of yarn for knots.  Honestly, it would take days.  Add this time to the total cost of manufacturing and you would end up with very expensive yarn!  So should skeins with knots be discounted?  No, we believe that one to three knots in a skein is acceptable.  In reality knots, as mentioned above, can be very easily and quickly fixed, whereas checking individual skeins for knots would add to the cost of the yarn not detract from it.



    When knots become unacceptable

    I've read that it's an industry standard to consider three knots in a 50g skein acceptable.  That to me sounds like a lot.  Here at skein we consider three knots in 100g acceptable but no more than that!  Usually our yarns (as well as most indie yarns) are knot free.  Sometimes one or two knots are found, but rarely three.  Yet if more than three knots are found in your yarn, I think that it's fair to contact whomever you bought the yarn from and tell them about it.  This issue can then be further dealt with by the company with both yourself and the supplier.  In saying that, every yarn company and dyer has its own way of dealing with knots, so check with them as to what their policy is.


    Embrace the knot!

    I personally accept knots as a part of the knitting process.  I don't believe it's realistic to expect yarn to be knot free.  It's string, and string breaks.  I like the challenge of being able to deal with knots.  I feel rather accomplished when I join the yarn together and it looks seamless.  It's a skill knitters need to know, because knots are a reality of knitting.  So, my parting advice would be: embrace the knot, see it as a challenge, and use your awesome knitting skills to deal with it successfully.


    We would love to hear your thoughts!   Let us know what you think about knots in the comments below.