Inside the Bluebird Cardigan

Thank you all so much for the lovely compliments on yesterday’s knitted set: the Bluebird Cardigan and its matching accessories!

I love that no one thinks it’s too much matching to wear a coordinated sweater+mittens+beret set. I’m totally going to wear it all together! In my fantasy life, I’ll wear it with a circle skirt for an ice-skating date. (In my fantasy life I’m also an excellent ice-skater and can do twirls and such! In reality, I’m lucky not to fall…)

chickadee cardigan and matching mittens

A couple of you asked about seeing the inside of the colourwork part. You got it!

I hadn’t taken the set home yet so I snapped a couple of inside photos to post. This is exactly the kind of thing I wanted to see when I was learning: what does it look like on the inside? Is there a secret to knitting with different colours? How do ‘real knitters’ do it? (Not sure I can tell you how ‘real knitters’ do it but I’d be happy to share what I did!)

Here is the inside of the Chickadee Mittens:

chickadee mittens

You can see the floats on the inside, that’s where the yarn is waiting to be used again, and ‘floats’ behind the other coloured stitches until its turn to be knit. Those floats are pulling the mitten tighter. Compare the width of the mittens, the inside-out one is much smaller than the right-side out mitten! My colourwork is still a little tighter than the ideal.

colourwork on mittens

It needs to stretch, so therefore, the floats need to be as wide as the space between the colors, at least! Even better if it’s looser so there is more room to stretch. It goes against my natural inclination not to leave holes, leaving it loose between colours, but it’s necessary so the mitts fit and stretch.

Here’s the inside of the hat:

inside of benji beret

The inside of the hat isn’t that different from the outside. Because the stitches alternate, one white with one orange, it looks pretty much the same. This is actually an easier type of colourwork because you don’t have to worry so much about leaving loose floats in between each colour change.

Here’s the inside of the cardigan:

inside of bluebird cardigan

In this photo, you can see that the colourwork part is only across the yoke, and the rest of the body is plain orange. So most of this cardigan is knit normally, it’s only the one part that uses multiple colours. It’s actually kind of neat-looking, the inside of the colourwork part, and I’ve even seen some sweaters in stores that use the wrong side as the right side.

inside of colourwork

Again very important to leave loose floats across the back. Especially because it’s going around the shoulders, a place where you need movement!

You can’t see the blue colours from the right side, even though they are running behind the white yarn.

birds on colourwork cardigan

Just in case you thought this was really hard, let me tell you: I’m no colourwork pro. This is only my second and third time knitting with multiple colours, the sweater being the second and the mitts being the third. This was my first colourwork project ever – Chevron Mitts and they weren’t nearly as scary or as complicated as I thought they’d be to knit!

robson trench coat and chevron mittens

(they match my Robson Coat perfectly!)

When it comes to colourwork, I originally thought ‘there must be a secret to this!’ Truth is, there isn’t, or I haven’t learned it yet. It’s literally knitting a stitch with one colour, then switching to a second colour when the chart or instructions say so. There are suggestions that make it easier, like holding one colour in each hand and knitting Continental-style with your left hand colour, but I found that harder and slower.

The biggest thing I learned about knitting with two colours is not to pull the yarns too tightly. My natural urge is to pull the yarn as tight as possible so there aren’t holes between the colours. But it’s OK! The yarn itself will fill in the holes. And if you knit too tight, the fabric can’t stretch. Which makes the colourwork part tighter than the rest of the garment. And if you pull really tight, the whole thing ends up too small. (Been there, done that! Made a pair of mittens, well half a mitten in fact, that I couldn’t get over my palm.)

Here are some knitting tips I found useful:

I hope this helps, to all of you who wanted to see the insides of these items! Do you have any colourwork tips to share?

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18 Responses to Inside the Bluebird Cardigan

  1. Katherine November 14, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    Great set!!

    I too once thought colourwork was mad complicated, but then tried it and found it to be pretty straightforward. I find almost all knitting techniques to be intimidating until you actually try them out :)

    I have one suggestion though: in colourwork, having really long floats means that they snag rather easily, so I usually capture the long ones as I knit, so that I don’t have floats longer than a few stitches, which will help the longevity of the final product.

    • Ho-Yee November 15, 2013 at 1:58 am #

      I second the tip about capturing the long floats. I wear a ring that is consistently snagging on things and so wearing a jumper with strands on the inside would cause me so much rage.

      I know instinctively how to do this, but I can’t really describe how to do it. Good thing there’s people out there who have already written about it. I liked this page in particular.

  2. Emily November 14, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Thank you thank you!! So helpful! Keeping the floaters loose is a really great tip – it’s also my inclination to pull everything as tight as possible to avoid gaps, but next time I will try to be more daring!

  3. Tasha November 14, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    I love seeing the inside of stranded knitting!

    And gosh, thanks for linking to my colorwork posts! I’ll be doing some new ones soon too. But you really hit the nail on the head: the biggest key to even tension is not pulling the floats too tight. Above all else, if I make sure the stitches on my right-hand needle are spread apart slightly before I change colors in the next stitch, then I’m in business for great, consistent tension. It sounds like something too “thinky” to worry about, but after just a few projects you don’t even think about it, your right hand fingers just do it.

    Your tension looks perfect! Welcome to the wonderful and colorful world of stranded knitting. I’m envisioning you in an army of delightful stranded sweaters like this to match all your fabulous dresses. :)

  4. Anthea November 14, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    I love colourwork knititng! It’s much more exciting then knitting with only one color. I found Tasha’s posts very helpful when I first started knitting with multiple colors. Indeed, it’s all a bout tension. I also want to get my stitches very tight, but I learned to relax the threads more. And blocking does some magic too!

    I love your set, they all look great!

  5. Katie November 14, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    I have a couple tips. I recommend using a sticker wool for beginners. The wool doesn’t slip as much and the floats keep together nicely. Cascade 220 is what I used in my first colorwork project.

    Also, if long floats are a concern in mittens (hello finger snagging), pick up stitches on the inside off the cuff to knit a lining. This also makes them toasty warm and adds the potential for a softer yarn in a contrast color. Tanis Fiber Arts sells kits for her Snowfling pattern that includes a yarn with cashmere for the lining. With winter fast approaching, I am going to knit a pair of these for myself.

  6. Szarka November 14, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I’ve always heard when knitting color work on a small-diameter item (mitten, sock, sleeve), to turn the object inside-out, so you’re carrying the floats around the outside of the circumference while knitting. (Obviously you turn the object right-side-out when done, and frequently in progress to show it off.) The slight difference between the outside circumference and the inside is enough to keep the floats loose as they should be.

    Seconding the ‘sticky yarn for beginners’ tip.

  7. Rochelle New November 14, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    This is definitely the perfect iceskating ensemble! You’re too cute.

  8. Carol November 14, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Love these tips. I haven’t tried color work yet, so I’ll have to tuck these away in my memory bank. I did have a question though. Did you make the lace blouse or purchase it? It’s really lovely.

  9. Jessica November 14, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Oh gosh, I thought you’d steeked this cardigan (knit in the round all the way up and then cut it open) as opposed to purling the colorwork – but it looks like you purled the colorwork? How was that?

    Sticky yarn is definitely helpful for colorwork :-) … I’ve heard some knitters just size up/down a needle to compensate for differences in gauge!

    • Pepija November 18, 2013 at 8:05 am #

      Tasia, can you suggest a tutorial for purling the fair isle? or any pointers.

      I have been eyeing a couple of Phildar sweaters, and they all assume that fair isle is purled… and I am sort of chickening out all the time.

      • Tasia November 18, 2013 at 10:12 am #

        The fair isle is purled, Jessica’s right! I can’t remember having any troubles with it, the only part that is hard is that you can’t see your work. You’re looking at the side with the floats, not the motif, so that part’s a bit annoying. Also, when you turn, one side ends up loose and one side ends up tight. I think it’s the side where you end with knitting and turn to start with purling, that last stitch can end up a little loose, and then the reverse on the other end. It gets fixed a little when you block it, but I tried to focus on keeping the one side tighter and the other side looser when changing direction.
        Hope this helps!

  10. Ruth November 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Thanks for the inside photos – I’m just planning my first colourwork project so it’s good to see the inside as well as the outside!

  11. lori November 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Love love all of these and your inspiring posts!!!

  12. Amanda November 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Oh, I’m so glad you showed the inside of the cardigan! It’s neat to see what the birds look like from the other side. I’m not an experienced knitter so I was wondering how this is done!

  13. Jane November 15, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    Those mittens and that sweater are gorgeous – you should be super proud!!

    I’ve been knitting for years, and I also have trouble keeping my colourwork tension the same as my tension in stockinette. One thing I’ve found helpful is going up a needle size on the colourwork portions – it doesn’t fix everything, but it gives a bit of a “buffer” in case I’m not paying 100% attention while I’m doing my colourwork.

  14. Michelle November 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    I’m not a colorwork expert as I’ve only completed 2 (or maybe 3?) hats with stranded knitting. But I’m going to nth holding your work inside out as when doing 2 color stranded knitting.

    Holding inside-out is easier than it sounds – in fact the first time I knit in the round I naturally did just that (working needle is at the far side of the circle instead of near side and the knitted v’s are on the inside of the tube) and you can still see the right side of your knitting, but the floats are going around the outside of the work so they have less likelyhood of getting pulled too tightly.

    • Tasia November 18, 2013 at 10:25 am #

      Thanks so much for explaining this. I was wondering how on earth knitting inside out would be possible but now I get it! I’m going to try that out. I bet it’s easier to remember to catch your floats too, if you can see how much distance is between each colour easily.