Everything you need to know about double-sided knitting. What it is, how it’s done, and how to use it.
Did you read a pattern or saw a post online where they talking about double-sided knitting? A project that has no wrong side and two distinct sides of colorwork instead? And now you are wondering what exactly is double knitting? How do you knit it and what is it for?
Well, then you come to the right place. This little tutorial is all about double-sided knitting. I’ll talk about the basics first and then I’ll show you the most common techniques and how to use them.
So, let’s dive right into it!
Note: Don’t forget to check out my full tutorial on double knitting on youtube.
Definition: What is double knitting
Double knitting describes a number of knitting techniques where you knit two separate pieces of fabric on only one needle by slipping stitches without knitting and/or carrying a second yarn in a special way so it does not interfere with the visible front side. It can be used to…
- knit two separate pieces at a time,
- to create intricate colorwork,
- to knit a fully reversible fabric that is twice as thick,
- or as a smart way to knit in the round on straight needles.
It is important to note that there is not THE double knitting technique. Instead, there are quite a couple of different methods that share one fundamental principle: You are knitting two sides at the same time. And depending on whether you are using two different yarns/colors, and if you interlock the two sides (or not), a different fabric emerges.
Most commonly it refers to a reversible colorwork technique where you knit with two strands held together. You cast on twice as many stitches (one for each side), and only knit each stitch with one color, holding the second color in a way it will be hidden between the two layers you create.
Note: Sometimes you also read double face or double-sided knitting. All these terms describe the same thing. Double knitting yarn has, however, nothing to do with this method. Though maybe a bit confusing, the latter only describes the weight of yarn and not the technique you use it for. Check out this post with common knitting terms and what they mean.
Is double knitting hard?
Now, there is a common misconception that double knitting is hard. And it really isn’t all that difficult. In fact, if you know how to knit the knit stitch and the purl stitch, you already know almost everything you need to know. Okay, you also need to know how to slip stitches from one needle to the other but I don’t think that is a particularly high entry barrier.
I would say it is by far the easiest colorwork technique in knitting perfectly suitable for beginners past their first couple of projects. It is much easier than Fair Isle or Intarsia but equally as versatile.
With that being said, you should know that, since you are knitting a double-sided fabric, projects will also take twice as long to finish. Plus, knitting colored motifs requires you to follow a chart (either of your own making or from a pattern). While it is super easy to read a simple colorwork chart (see below), it may take an experienced eye to keep track of your progress.
Different double knitting techniques & uses
As I already said in the introduction, there are a couple of different double knitting methods, and I quickly want to show you the most popular ones and what they are good for.
#1 Double Stockinette Stitch
By far the easiest way to do double knitting is using the double stockinette stitch. You can even start with only one yarn/color and still create a reversible fabric that is twice as thick.The repeat is actually remarkably simple:
- Cast on an even number of stitches with a long tail cast on
- Right side: *Knit 1, slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front*
- Wrong side: *Knit 1, sl1 purlwise wyif*
I recommend using a relatively small needle and a slightly fuzzy yarn. But other than that, it’s a super simple pattern and the perfect entry project to the world of double-sided knitting.
This method is perfect for scarves and other simple flat projects you want to be twice as warm. It can also be a great selvage to keep knitting from curling, and you can even use it to create little pockets in your fabric you can later use for quilting or inserting drawstrings, wire, etc.
#2 Standard Double knitting
Once you understand the basics, you can also pick up a second color. Double Stockinette Stitch works because you are essentially knitting each row twice. But you can also knit with two-strand held together instead. Sounds complicated? Not at all, it’s actually both easier and faster. The basic repeat is:
- Cast on an even number of stitches
- Step 1: Bring both strands to the back of your work and knit one stitch using only yarn A
- Step 2: Bring both strands to the front and purl one stitch using only yarn b
- Repeat steps 1+2
Here’s my full tutorial on the standard way of double knitting (where I explain everything in great detail + there is a video)
Now obviously, there’s a bit more to this technique, as you probably want to create colorwork, etc. You also will have to learn a special selvage method that keeps your knitting from falling apart, there are certainly more invisible ways to cast on for double knitting, and there is a special bind-off involved you need to learn as well.
Still, those are techniques for advanced knitters. The basic technique with a few simple twists will get you quite far. So, don’t be scared! This method is great for colorwork and reversible projects in two colors (like a hat that you can wear two ways) etc.
#3 Two at a time
Orignally, double knitting probably emerged as a way to knit two pieces at the same time. SSS – Second sock syndrome is a common “malady” among knitters and double knitting provides you with an easy solution. The technique is virtually the same as in standard double knitting – you only skip the selvage stitches and you need to do separate cast-ons.
Of course, you can also double knit in the round. The technique is very versatile. You can also double knit ribbing or other complex patterns – there are almost no limits. As you twist the yarns in colorwork, there is no feasible way to knit with two colors (on one side), though.
Why would you do this? Well, a lot of fitted garments are knitted in pairs. Socks or the sleeves of a sweater are two very popular examples. And under normal circumstances, you want both to be exactly the same. So, if you are someone who gets easily confused about when and where you placed an increase or decrease, this is a very valid technique to produce two identical twins every time.
#4 Brioche Stitches
Experienced knitters may be a bit puzzled that I mention the brioche stitch in an article about double knitting. However, if you think about it a moment longer, it is actually quintessential double knitting. The only difference is that you cross the yarns with every stitch and thereby create a different sort of look where you can see both colors at the same time (and no pocket in the middle).
But that doesn’t change the fact that you are knitting each row twice and you are slipping every second stitch without knitting. And in fact, realizing that the brioche stitch is nothing else but double knitting makes a lot of things much easier – like increasing or decreasing.
Much like double stockinette stitch, brioche stitches are best used for warm winter wear. They are reversible and super voluminous. You can’t really do any colorwork, though. You can only knit each side with a different color.
How to read a chart
There is one thing you will have to deal with when doing double knitting: You need to learn how to read a chart. I know it sounds super scary, and I know a lot of knitters who shy away from it like it was the plague. Now, I do urge you to read the full tutorial I just linked. That being said, when it comes to colorwork, charts are super simple.
Basically, each square stands for one stitch. And the color of the square will tell you which color you have to knit your next stitch.
So, you are starting in the bottom right corner (exactly where you place your very first stitch as well – you are knitting right to left as well, after all). And then, check what the square tells you to knit. And then, you move your finger to the next little square, check the color of it, and knit the next stitch with that yarn. If it is a flat project, the return rows are always read from left to right, and the color code will be exactly the other way round (so pay attention!).
There are two things you need to be aware of:
- Double knitting is always done in pairs. So, unless otherwise specified, if there is a square in color A, this automatically means you have to knit (or rather purl) the paired next stitch in color B and vice versa.
- Some double knitting charts come in black and white. Usually white will be your main color for the right side, and black the main color for the wrong side. There should be a legend that tells you which color means what. And if there isn’t, remember that double knitting is reversible and it probably makes no difference as long as you stick to your decision