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by Laura Chau March 13, 2020 2 min read

In our last post we looked at how to work the decreases on the crown of the Bellfield Hat. As you decrease on a hat crown there will be fewer and fewer stitches on your needles, and at some point, you’ll need to change to needles for working small circumferences - double pointed needles, magic loop, or 2 circulars. All of these methods have similar challenges for colourwork, the biggest of which is maintaining tension.

Switching to double pointed needles or magic loop

Once you’ve worked a few decrease rounds, the stitches will become tight around the needle - time to switch to your double pointed needles or long circular.

Colourwork hat in progress in beige, grey, and caramel, laid flat on a concrete floor. Stitches are divided over 3 double pointed needles.

You can knit the next row onto the new needles, or slip the stitches without working them. When dividing up the stitches amongst the needles, consider how the pattern repeat falls. Try to keep full repeats together on one needle - it’s okay if the needles have vastly different stitch counts.

Colourwork hat in progress laid flat on a concrete floor. The stitches are divided into halves on a long circular for magic loop.

Hot tip: It’s easiest to keep the beginning of the round toward the center of one needle, rather than between needles.

Floats across needle junctions

It’s particularly easy for floats between double points to be too short - the yarn always wants to take the shortest path, and will cut the corner to do so!

Spread out the stitches on the right needle before working the next stitch.

When switching between needles (either double pointed or magic loop), spread out the last few stitches worked on the previous needle before working the first stitch on the next needle.

Watch out for accidental yarn overs between the needles.

It’s also very easy to accidentally make a yarn over around the needle when switching needles, shown above. Make sure both strands are behind the right needle before moving onto the next needle.

Catching a float

For longer stretches between colours, you might want to catch or ‘trap’ your floats - this anchors the float in a stitch and prevents the float from getting too tight. When working the smaller circumference of a hat crown you might find that you need to catch the floats over shorter stretches in order to maintain tension than you would lower down on the hat or on another project with a larger circumference.

On Bellfield I caught the floats on rounds 21 and 22, at the centre of the seven consecutive background stitches, catching the contrast colour directly over the stitch in the same colour on the round below.

To catch a float in the pattern (dominant) colour:

Preparing to catch a longer float across the back of the work. The yarn to be caught is in the left hand.
Insert the right needle into the next stitch to knit (above). The strand to be caught is on the left.

Bring the yarn to be caught over the right needle from back to front.
Bring the left strand OVER the right needle from the back, holding it in place and making sure the first float isn’t too tight;

Wrap the working yarn from the right hand around the needle normally.
Then wrap the right strand normally and draw through to complete the knit stitch.

The yarn is now trapped in the back of the stitch. Continue in your working yarn.
The float should be trapped in the stitch, at the back of the work. Continue in your working yarn, checking that you haven't pulled the float too tightly across the back.

With a little practice, your stranded colourwork will be flying off the needles!

Save this tutorial for later on Pinterest!

Colourwork over small circumferences image for Pinterest.

Read all colourwork club blog posts. 

If you're not a member of the Colourwork Club all three patterns can be purchased together here. 


A Chinese-Canadian woman with glasses smiling at the camera.
Laura Chau

Laura is a Canadian knitter, designer, and editor.

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