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Double Knitting

Double knitting is exactly what the name implies: You knit two rows at the same time. The resulting fabric is double the thickness of regular knitting, and both sides are the right side. This is especially useful for scarves and blankets where both sides are seen, but it can also be used to make reversible hats, mittens and jackets. Worked in a two-color motif, the design will be the same on both sides, but the colors are reversed.

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Photo 1

Double knitting can be worked in stockinette stitch, ribbing or in any textured stitch for that matter. However, you'll need to be really, really comfortable with a stitch pattern (or have a gymnastic brain) in order to work both right- and wrong-side rows of a textured stitch pattern at the same time. Here we'll look at two-color stockinette stitch double knitting. As with every aspect of knitting, there are several ways to accomplish the same task. This is one method of working. In the example, color A is white and color B is blue, and we'll work a 14-stitch repeat with two end stitches. Photo 1 shows one side of the pattern.

Casting On

Use the cast-on of your choice to cast on the required number of stitches for the project with color A; in this case, 16 stitches are used. To set up for double knitting, join B and proceed as follows:

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Photo 2

*K1 with A and leave the st on the needle; bring both yarns forward, purl the same st with B and slide both sts off the needle; rep from *.

You now have twice as many stitches as you started with -- 32 -- and every other stitch is a different color (Photo 2).

The Edges

If you twist the strands together at the beginning of each row and then proceed as usual, you'll have plain stockinette stitches, and the edges will be sealed.

Working the Rows

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Photo 3
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Photo 4

We'll work the first four rows without a design -- we'll simply have one color on the front and the other on the back.

Row 1: Twist the 2 yarns. *With both yarns in back, k1 A; with both yarns in front, p1 B; rep from * to the end of the row.
Row 2: Twist the 2 yarns. *With both yarns in back, k1 B; with both yarns in front, p1 A; rep from * to the end of the row.
Rep Rows 1 and 2 once more.

You now have a piece that has four white rows on one side (Photo 3) and four blue rows on the other side (Photo 4).

Two-Color Designs

Any two-color pattern can be used for double knitting, but you'll need to be an ambidextrous visualizer. Every stitch that is knit with color A also needs to be purled with color B. Here is the pattern used for our example written for regular one-sided knitting.
Row 1: K3 A, *k2 B, k2 A; rep from * to last st, k1 A.
Row 2: P3 A, *p2 B, p2 A; rep from * to last st, p1 A.
Row 3: Knit with A.
Row 4: Purl with A.
Row 5: K1 A, *k2 B, k2 A; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2 B, k1 A.
Row 6: P1 A, *p2 B, p1 A; rep from * to last 2 sts, p2 B, p1 A.
Row 7: Knit with A.
Row 8: Knit with B.
Rep Rows 1-8 for pattern.

For double knitting, you can probably work the first row comfortably from this pattern; you simply need to remember that after every stitch that is knit, you need to bring the yarns to the front and purl in the other color. If you wanted to write out the first row, it would look like this:
Row 1: [K1 A, p1 B] 3 times, *[k1 B, p1 A] twice, [k1 A, p1 B] twice; rep from * to last 2 sts, k1 A, p1 B.

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Photo 5

After completing Row 1, your stitches will be arranged as in Photo 5. Tip: A quick way to confirm that you've not made any errors is to look at the stitches and be sure that you don't have more than two of the same color next to each other.

Things become a bit more complicated when you get to the next row. The original pattern is written as if Row 2 is a wrong-side row, but with double knitting there are no wrong-side rows. Row 2 will be a right-side row worked in the reverse colors of the original. So for Row 2, all the stitches designated as purl will be knit, color A will be worked with color B, color B will be worked with color A -- and you'll need to add a purl stitch of the opposite color after each pattern stitch. The second row will be worked like this:

Row 2: [K1 B, p1 A] 3 times, *[k1 A, p1 B] twice, [k1 B, p1 A] twice; rep from * to last 2 sts, k1 A, p1 B.

The easiest way to convert this pattern is to write out the knit stitches only. You need to remember to always purl a stitch of the opposite color after each knit stitch; but if you can remember that, you don't need to write the purls into the pattern. Here is the pattern written with the odd-numbered rows having A as the main color and even-numbered rows having B as the main color.

Row 1: K3 A, *k2 B, k2 A; rep from * to last st, k1 A.
Row 2: K3 B, *k2 A, k2 B; rep from * to last st, k1 B.
Row 3: Knit with A.
Row 4: Knit with B.
Row 5: K1 A, *k2 B, k2 A; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2 B, k1 A.
Row 6: K1 B, *k2 A, k1 B; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2 A, k1 B.
Row 7: Knit with A.
Row 8: Knit with B.
Rep Rows 1-8 for pattern.

For our swatch we worked four plain rows, Rows 1-8, and then Rows 1 and 2, followed by four plain rows.

Binding Off

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Photo 6

Use this method to balance the beginning cast-on, which was initially worked with color A only.

With A, k1, p1, k1; pass the first st over the next 2; *p1 and pass the first st over the next 2; k1 and pass the first st over the next 2; rep from * until there are 2 sts left on the needle, cut the yarn and pull through the last 2 sts.

Photo 6 shows what would have been the wrong side in regular knitting, now a reverse image of what's shown in Photo 1. This is only one way to work double knitting, but we hope you've learned enough to attempt a fully reversible two-color scarf for next winter!

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