A step by step tutorial on joining yarn in knitting with 10 different techniques from easy to invisible – with or without knots & weaving in
So, your yarn ran out and now you want to join a new ball, right? Or maybe you want to create some stripes with a different color. And now you are wondering how to join yarn in knitting the easy way. Well, you came to the right place because this tutorial will show you all together 10 different techniques.
Why so many? Well, arguably some of them are a bit easier than others. But that’s only half of the story. Not every method works with every fiber. Some yarn is feltable, while other fibers are super slippery. And then there is colorwork to consider, as well as knitting in the round.
I structured this article in a beginner-friendly way. Meaning, I’ll start with the basics, and the further down you go, the more advanced the joining methods will get. I also added pros and cons for every technique, so it will be a bit easier for you to decide which version you should pick.
So, let’s dive into it.
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- When you notice that your yarn is almost up, stop knitting after you finished one row. For most knitting stitch patterns, you need around 3-4 times as much yarn as your project is wide to finish one row. So, don't knit too far. You will need a tail of around 5 inches.
- Pick up the new ball of yarn and start knitting the regular way, leaving a tail of 5 inches.
The first two stitches will be quite loose to knit. But you can tug gently on the tails to close any gaps.
- After you knit 10 or so stitches and the stitches are still on the needle (important), tie the two ends in a loose knot.
- Finish knitting your project according to your pattern and then gently untie the knot again.
- Thread the first tail on a tapestry needle and weave it in on the wrong side.
- Thread the second tail on a tapestry needle and weave it in as well.
If you are working on a seamed project (like a sweater or so), you can also hide the tails in the seam instead of weaving in as I showed you above. Also, make sure to check out my tutorial on weaving in ends for further help and tricks.
When you are knitting in the round, you can employ the exact same technique. But in this case, you need to switch yarn in the position that is least likely to get noticed. Simply drop the old yarn and continue knitting with the new ball.
#2 The spit splice/wet splice
The so-called spit splice is so invisible and easy it almost feels like magic. It relies on the fact that animal fibers (sheep wool, alpaca, cashmere, camel, yak, etc) are feltable. Basically, it boils down to picking the two ends you want to join apart, wetting them with a bit of spit, and then rubbing them together in the palm of your hands.
PRO: Fast, invisible and does not create any waste.
CON: Does not work on plant-based fibers or superwash yarn; No feasible option for colorwork. May create a visibly thicker section in your knitting.
#3 Overlap Join (knit double)
If you are looking for the easiest way to join yarn in knitting, then the overlap method will be your new best friend. The idea is quite simple: You knit 3-5 stitches with two strands held together and trim the tails on either side later on. It’s so simple that you might wonder why you haven’t thought of it before. The only problem is that it’s not totally invisible on the right side.
PRO: Simple in the extreme, works in almost any position.
CON: Slightly noticeable on the right side, doesn’t work for colorwork, not ideal for slippery plant-based fibers.
#4 Weave in as you go
If you hate tapestry needles and you don’t like knots either, then you can also weave in ends as you knit. This is a wonderful method that works for all slightly fuzzy animal fibers and is both fast and simple. Basically, you are trapping the tails on the wrong side.
PRO: Simple, fast, and does not require a tapestry needle or knot. Works for simple colorwork or to join a new ball.
CON: Only works for well slightly fuzzy and feltable yarn; noticeable on the wrong side.
#5 Twist and weave
Twist and weave is one of the most versatile ways to change colors in knitting. It’s just so brilliant. While it initially might be a bit more difficult to learn (mainly because you are doing things you normally don’t do in knitting), the effort is worth it. It works at the beginning of a row or in the middle, there are no knots involved, and is utterly seamless.
Check out my full Twist and Weave tutorial here.
PRO: Very versatile technique that works in almost all circumstances and with all fibers.
CON: Takes a while to learn; you need to weave in tails later on.
#6 Weave in and twist
Of all the colorwork techniques available to modern knitters, I personally love intarsia the most. And for the longest time, the first stitch of every color block ended up looking a bit weird – especially after I wove in the tails. And that’s why I came up with a method that would prevent it.
It’s both simple in the extreme and super neat. The only disadvantage of this color joining method is that it does not make weaving in tails later on any easier and you will have to pick up the (dreaded?) tapestry needle. Personally, I feel that is worth it for the super neat results you get on the right side.
Here’s my full tutorial on the Weave in and twist join
PRO: Super easy & super neat transition, almost unnoticeable on the right side, works with every fiber but particularly well for intarsia & colorwork.
CON: Requires you to weave in ends later on.
#7 Russian Join
A technique that saw a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years is called the Russian join. The fundamentals are quite similar to the spit splice. But instead of felting, you use a sharp tapestry needle to entwine the two yarns you want to join. As a result, you can use this joining method regardless of the fiber or how it was spun. It’s a bit more fiddly and requires some patience, but it’s pretty straightforward once you did it two or three times.
PRO: No knots and tails to weave in; works for basically every fiber.
CON: Creates a visibly thicker section; can be a bit fiddly; no useful technique for colorwork.
#8 Magic knot/Fisherman’s knot
The magic knot has been a knitter’s favorite for almost a decade. It’s fast, easy, and barely visible with the right kind of project. It sounds like it’s complicated but essentially you are just tying two overhand knots close to each other. It’s called “magic knot” because it’s so simple, and not because there were any tricks involved.
PRO: Fast and easy; no tails to weave in later on.
CON: Not suitable for colorwork. The knot may be noticeable and can unravel with slippery yarn leaving you with no spare yarn to fix the hole.
#9 Back join
Are you looking for a way to change colors without weaving in ends? Well, then there’s really just one viable solution that always you to join a new ball at an exact spot in your knitting and it’s called the back join. Sadly, you will need a pin or a paperclip to knit it but other than that it works like a charm.
PRO: Very precise join that does not require any weaving in.
CON: A bit fiddly, leaves behind a visibly thicker section on the right side, and not ideal for slippery yarn.
#10 Alternating stitches
The last method I want to mention is quite a bit different than the rest because in and by itself it’s no true joining method at all. But bear with me. Sometimes you are working with handspun and/or hand-dyed yarn. And the problem with these yarns is that usually, no two skeins are alike. This often creates a very visible transition.
And if you can’t alternate between the two skeins for whatever reason, then I recommend alternating stitches for a row. If you know how to do Fair Isle or stranded knitting, then that’s the exact same concept
Step 1: Join in the new ball with the method of your choice and knit one stitch.
Step 2: Pick up the old yarn from below and knit one stitch.
Step 3: Pick up the new yarn from below and knit one stitch.
Continue repeating step 2+3 for however long you see fit (best done for a full row).
Note: Nothing speaks against using a knitting thimble or using the fair isle method of your choice.
PRO: Allows you to carefully blend two different hues into each other.
CON: Very limited use cases and will leave you weaving in ends nevertheless.
Other ways to join in a new ball of yarn
Now, are there other ways to add a new ball in knitting? Definitely! Some just have a different name, while others make sense in only very specific situations. I tried to mention the most popular methods and the ones that make sense in my experience.
Above all, I would like to instill the thought that it’s not one method you should use for every project. For example, compare a reversible project, like a scarf, to a sweater. With the sweater, you have seams where you can hide tails on the whole wrong side that will never get to see the light of the day.
And then for the scarf, every part of it could be visible. Here, joining methods like the Russian join or the spit splice are probably much better – even though they are a bit more visible.
And of course, I hope I was able to bring across that different fibers work differently. The main difference is whether they are feltable or not. Because if the surface of the individual little hairs do not have microscopic scales, the fibers will never interlock (aka felt), and this means half of the joining methods won’t work or not work well.
In these cases, the very first method and weaving in ends the traditional way is often the smartest and best option. Often, I see knitters flocking around the newest and fancy flavor of the month technique but there’s a reason for tradition as well: It works!