How to Change Colors in Knitting

How to Change Colors in Knitting

Once you begin to get comfortable with knitting in one color, you can shake things up by using more than one color in your projects! Changing colors in knitting can give your projects a unique and vibrant touch.


You can add additional colors as (clockwise from top left) instarsia, mosaic, stranded colorwork or stripes. It can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be! If you have never done it before, let's start with simple stripes while working flat (back and forth). 

When you are ready to change color at the end of a row, drop the working yarn and pick up the end of your new color. You can just begin knitting with the new color, leaving a tail of about 6-8 inches, but you will get a neater and more secure change with this method:  move the working yarn of the old color to the left, out of your way. It's helpful to trap it against the left needle with your left hand to prevent the last stitch of the previous row from stretching too much. Make a loop with the new yarn about 6-8 inches from the end. Insert your right needle tip into the first stitch of the row and use the loop of the new color to make the first stitch. On the second stitch, knit with both strands of the new yarn. (Make a note of the fact that when you get back to that stitch there will be two loops over the needle, but they need to be worked together as a single stitch.) Drop the tail of the new color and the working yarn of the old color and continue working across.

When you get back to the place where you started with the new color you have to make a decision – will you cut the old yarn color or carry it up the side? With wide stripes, it’s better to cut the old color, but if you are doing skinny stripes, you can carry the color up the side. Otherwise, there would be way too many ends to weave in.

Cutting the yarn:

Even if you plan to cut the yarn of the old color, I recommend waiting until you knit back to the place where you started the new color. This helps with edge stability. Snug up the old color gently, then cut the old yarn, leaving a tail of 6-8 inches. You will weave that in when you are finished (or when you get annoyed by the waving tails on your edges!)

Carrying the old yarn up the side:

If you will switch back and forth between 2 colors frequently, you can carry the unused color up the side. After the second row worked with the new color you will be back to where you joined it. If you want to switch back to the old color now, just pick up the old color and run with it. If you will knit a couple more rows, take the ball of the old color and pass it from front to back over the strand of new color you are working with. This will trap it along the side so that it won’t catch on anything as you knit, and you won’t end up puckering the edge. There is a quick video about how to trap the unused yarn here.

Weaving in the Ends

As you continue to knit, the tails of both colors will start to accumulate if you are cutting them instead of carrying them. To avoid any tangling or unraveling, you will need to weave in the ends. To do this, thread the tail into a tapestry needle (large eye, blunt tip) and weave it through the stitches on the back of your work, being careful not to let it show through on the front. Then weave it a couple of times back in the other direction before trimming it close. This will make sure that the tail is secure and won’t come undone.

Changing colors in knitting can add a fun touch of whimsy to your projects. With a few simple steps, you can create beautiful, multicolored knits that will impress your friends and family.

Happy knitting!

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