It is a truth universally acknowledged that ….. you just can’t beat a good striped sock (at least among the members of one of my favourite Ravelry groups).
You’d think that striped socks would be easy wouldn’t you? Knit a bit, change colours, knit a bit more, what can go wrong? The dreaded “jog” that’s what! If you don’t know what this means, it’s the point where you change colours and the stripes stutter a bit and get a little step in them, in a line, all the way up your lovely sock. It’s something that all sock knitters (or hat knitters, or jumper knitters, anyone knitting in the round) will want to learn how to avoid.
To understand how to deal with it, the first thing is to understand why it happens. Think about how knitting in the round is constructed – when you’re knitting flat, you go backwards and forwards and each row is distinct from the one before and after it: when you’re knitting in the round you’re effectively knitting a spiral and you don’t reach an end until you bind off.
What this means is that at the point where you change colours, the “end” of your round is above its “beginning” and that is what causes the jog.
When your stripes are a number of rounds deep, then there are a few ways to deal with this issue, but single round stripes are a special case that can’t be solved by the usual methods. To deal with it we must go back to the notion of circular knitting being a spiral and instead of fighting it, we use it to our advantage. Instead of a new colour breaking into that spiral, we let it create its own spiral and the two colours chase each other round the knitting without ever meeting.
How do I do this?
Cast on half your stitches with the first colour, then the remainder of your stitches with the second colour. You are now back at the start of the round (SOR) with Colour 2, and Colour 1 is dangling halfway round. Carry on with Colour 2 and knit until you reach Colour 1 (so you’ve knit half a round). Drop Colour 2, pick up Colour 1 and, without twisting them together, knit a whole round till you are back at Colour 2. Continue in this way, each time you’ve knit a round, pick up the other yarn and knit a round with that.
What if I want a plain toe/cuff?
Knit your cuff or toe in a single colour then when you are ready to start the stripes leave your working colour where it is and slip half the stitches. Now introduce the second colour and continue as before, swapping colours every time you get back to where the other yarn is waiting for you.
What if I want more than two colours?
Follow the same instructions as above, but split your stitches by the number of colours you want to use. The number of colours you can use is limited only by the number of separate balls of yarn you can juggle without tangling.
What if I want wider stripes?
It’s possible, but you need to have one ball of yarn for each round of a colour that you want, not just one for each colour. Say for example, you want to have a stripe sequence where you have three rounds of red followed by one round of blue – begin with three balls of red and one of blue, then continue as before, dividing the stitches by four.
Any other uses for this technique?
I’m glad you asked. If you’re a fan of mosaic knitting, you’ll be aware that it involves knitting a single colour on each round, then changing to the other colour for the next round. See the similarity? Mosaic knitting presents the same problem with the jog and can be addressed by the same solution, the only difference is that you’ll be slipping some stitches as you go to form the pattern.
Want to put this into practice?
My latest pattern, Walk on the Wild Side, uses exactly this technique and is available now – Walk on the Wild Side.
If you do have a try at this, then I’d love to hear how you get on!