knitting stripes, a tip to “carry up”

The first time I worked a project in stripes I was confused what it meant to “carry up”. How did I do that? My sole reference book at the time simply stated: “Wrap the working yarn around the other yarn(s) every 2-3cm (1in). Make sure the yarns do not pull.”[1] Did I twist the yarns together to the right or left? How many times did I twist? What if I tried knitting the two strands together? At the time information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now, this was over twenty years ago. All I had was the one book, while full of techniques, wasn’t a successful way to teach this crocheter how to knit!

More importantly, I didn’t understand the value of swatching yet. Yarn was precious and I didn’t think that a swatch could help me learn new things. It was a way to figure out my gauge, that was it! I also thought swatches wasted my yarn. Yes, I know now how limiting that mindset was.

Now, with years of experience I know how to successfully carry up yarn for knitting stripes. Further, I can prove it.

TL;DR: The secret is consistency.

Ok fine, I hear you grumble. Does it really matter?

That depends.

What are your goals for the project? Will the edge of your fabric be prominent (perhaps the edge of a cowl joined together at the short ends), or will another stitch cover it to create a border? In this second case, it may not matter as much if at all.

Swatch Example

Since I now love to swatch, I knitted up this example to show how different inconsistencies affect the edge. I also knit up a bit with a consistent change. From a distance, this unblocked swatch isn’t extra loud about that edge.

knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. The striped sections are seperated by solid purple knitting.

Yes it’s a bit wonky, but the entire thing could use a blocking.

Let’s look more closely at this knitted fabric. I’ll describe the three sections starting at the bottom, the cast-on edge.

Inconsistent Edge Examples

inconsistent knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This swatch shows the inconsistencies in changing the working yarn.
click on the image to view larger

In this first stripe section, I twisted a few times one way, then switched to going the opposite, then returned to what I did at the start.

The inconsistencies for this edge are subtle. It’s likely no one would notice once it’s blocked and worn a few times.

Can you switch back and forth how you twist? You can, but I think you’ll find it easier to always do it in the same way. It turns into muscle memory and then you don’t even think about it.

inconsistent knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This swatch shows additional inconsistencies in changing the working yarn.
click on image to view larger

The second section was when I decided to first twist for a few rows, then for a few of the color changes I knit both yarns together on the first stitch of the change, and in the final few rows, I twisted again.

This is more obvious in its inconsistencies.

Is it clear to those who aren’t knitters? Probably not until they stare at it for a while after you point it out.

I find this type of inconsistency the hardest to create. The act of knitting the two strands together is a very different action than twisting. There might be a reason you choose one method over another, but I wouldn’t suggest mixing them in one edge.

Consistent Edge Example

close up of knit striped swatch, in purple anda varigated purple-green-grey yarn. This photo shows the consistent edge.
click on image to view larger

In this final third section I picked up the new yarn the same way every time.

It should be no surprise that I think this consistent edge looks the best.

It was also the fastest sample to work. The first two took me about 15 minutes each. This one took less than 10 minutes.

Confession: It was challenging to intentionally make inconsistencies in this swatch. I had to rip it out a few times to make it happen.

For any other consistencies in this swatch, I had a feline assistant.

A black cat is sitting on a lap looking at the knitted swatch laying on a wooden desk.
My helper while knitting the striped swatch.

He didn’t spend the entire time on my lap either. He wanted to climb onto my shoulders.


The key to a clean edge is to be consistent in whatever method you choose for carrying up your yarn.

If you’d like to learn more about working with multiple colors, the best way to learn is to try different methods in a swatch. I like to write down what I do in a notebook and also record my thoughts on each method.

If you want to read more, technique and beginner books offer ideas and often clear photos of how different methods look. Remember, your public library can be a valuable resource, and don’t forget that many (all at this point?) also offer eBooks. I wrote about a few books I recommend in reference books – knit and crochet.

As you work certain designs you may find a benefit to using one method over the another.

If you’re working with multiple colors and can’t carry them all up at once, I recommend Xandy Peter‘s solution for weaving in ends as you go, it’s available as a YouTube video.

Crocheters, I’m working on swatches that explore why consistency is important for you too.


  1. Stanley, Montse. Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook: A comprehensive guide to the principles and techniques of handknitting. Reader’s Digest, 1993. p. 159-60.

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