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How To Change Colors in Knitting: Making Stripes

Liat Gat - Founder

January 19, 2011

Making stripes in knitting is as easy as starting to knit with the new yarn. I show you how, plus tips like how to twist the yarn up the sides of your work so you don't have to cut it, and how to make stripes on ribbing without an ugly purl-bump row.

Lolcat tiger stripes
It’s almost this easy! Changing colors to make a striped scarf or hat is as easy as falling off a log.

This is the same technique you should use when you run out of yarn and need to switch to another ball.

To Change Colors, Start Knitting With The New Yarn

When you get to the end of your row, start knitting with the new yarn, leaving a 6-inch tail hanging down for weaving in later. It’ll all become clear when you watch the video.

KnitFreedom - How To Join a New Ball of Yarn/Change Colors in Knitting/Make Stripes
KnitFreedom - How To Join a New Ball of Yarn/Change Colors in Knitting/Make Stripes

Twist Your Yarn So You Don’t Have To Cut It

Happy Stripes Guy
Stripes… Ur Doin’ It Rite

If you are making thin stripes (six rows or fewer), don’t cut your yarn!

Instead, twist the unused color up the side of your knitting every two rows, like I show in the video below.

You can use this technique on the delicious Classic Washcloth by Clara Parkes, or an unevenly striped sweater like the Poppy by Lisa Mason.

Other classic striped projects to try:

Here’s how to bring your yarn with you unobtrusively so you can change colors without having to cut your yarn or weave in ends:

Twisting Yarn up the Sides of your Knitting - Making Stripes
Twisting Yarn up the Sides of your Knitting - Making Stripes

Knit A Plain Round Before You Switch Colors in Ribbing

Colored Purl BumpsRebecca, one of the KnitFreedom Forum’s knitting angels, asked a great question this morning about adding stripes on a ribbed project, like a hat.

She was worried that the tell-tale two-color bumps would show on the purl stitches and look awful.

An easy solution to the problem is to work a knit row all the way around right when you start the new color.

Worried that it will look funny? Try it for yourself and see.

Rebecca says, “It doesn’t look bad at all! It looks great. You really can’t tell that you knitted on the purl stitches, and it transitions beautifully. I made sure to knit that round a bit on the loose side, and it still stretches very nicely.”

How to Switch Colors on Garter Stitch

If you are creating a striped garter-stitch scarf, only change colors when the pretty side is facing you. The wrong side will contain the color-change rows (like the photo above) and the right side will just switch invisibly to the new color.
So there you have three tips for how to change colors in knitting and make stripes. Now go forth and stripe!

If you liked this tutorial on how to change colors in knitting, post in the comments!

See also: How to Count Rows on Garter Stitch

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Stop making these common mistakes and knit with confidence

36 thoughts on “How To Change Colors in Knitting: Making Stripes”

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  1. Hello, I am enjoying learning from this site but I do have a question. I am knitting a hat in the round and my join is at the back. what is the best way to change color when you don’t have a flat piece? Thank you in advance.

  2. MarieReine Millette

    Hello I want to know h.ow I change color in knitting a blanket. so that its clean on both .sides. I’m knitting in garter stitches.I know that theres a way but I forgot how to.Thanks,

  3. Help help going nuts liatt, KNITFreedom members and staff no doubt a very silly question when knitting toe up two @x socks how would I carry a contrasting colour from one end of a row to other end Using contrasting two and heel colour
    So Instep remains main colour, toe and ankle in contrasting colour
    At the point where stitch increase. How to I carry the min colour to end of row to knit the instep Sorry does this even make sense I am so embarrassed my disability effects my written and reading comprehension please may I ask you keep this in mind when trying to read this that’s why I find your videos much easier to learn by took so much to write this very sorry to bother just had to reach out. Many thanks

    1. Hi Kim,
      This is a good question! If you are making toe-up socks and want to make a contrasting heel, you need to follow a pattern that lets you do that. If you use my basic Fleegle-heel based toe-up sock pattern, you won’t be able to do that.

      Instead, I recommend my faux-heel-flap toe-up sock pattern. It actually has instructions for when to start knitting with the contrasting color yarn. In this pattern, you don’t have to carry the two yarns at once.

      You can look over the Faux-Heel-Flap Toe-Up Sock Pattern here, and read more about it here. If you are a subscriber to our newsletter you can just enter your email again on that page and it will take you to the page of downloads where you can download the pattern.

      I hope this helps! Good luck and thanks for reaching out,


  4. SEEN A FILM HOW TO KNIT GARDER SITCH AND ADD A DIFFERENT COLOR AND HAVE BOTH AS RIHT SIDE LOST ,CANT FIND AGAIN CAN YOU HELP? I know how to switch colors but want it so both sides don’t show that last color on row below

  5. I am knitting the cowl that was on the cover of a recent Vogue Knitting mag. It was designed by Maie Landra and uses many colors. It is knitted in the round, so that there is no wrong side. At certain points, I am carrying 6-7 colors up the seam. Should I just cut the color each time I am finished with it? The seam looks messy to me.

    I appreciate any feedback on this.


    1. Hi Susan, that is a lot of colors to carry up the seam. There are a few things you can do:

      1) Give the yarns a twist when you switch them so that they are held close to the work.

      2) Cut the colors and weave in the ends, but ONLY if you like weaving in ends.

      3) Crochet over the yarns at the end (see my post on adding a crochet border to see how to do this).

      I hope this helps!

  6. Hi, Liat,
    I was pushed into retirement due to a spinal problem, and lost many of my avocations for the same reason. So, as my kind (and patient) grandmother had taught me to knit, I came back to it with lots of enthusiam and was then inundated with confusion!

    When I learned to knit there were a few cast-ons and bind-offs; now there are whole books of them! And the equipment is amazing -so much to learn.

    Your videos are splendid. Your techniques are so helpful; you teach clearly and often anticipate my questions. I also appreciate that you demonstrate SLOWLY (I have been able to try a technique during your videos!). Other knitting videos may have useful information, but they demonstrate difficult stitches (like brioche) so fast that even if one could SEE the demonstration it is over before the beginning steps are understood. Most of us do some things well and other things seem to constantly defeat us-but I am hoping for a stocking stuffer to take one or more of your classes because you give me the confidence to believe that I CAN learn things that have been ill-explained before I found your website. (You were recommended by an advanced knitter in my knitting group.

    Now I know how she learned so much!
    If I were to sum up the one thing that I like best about your teaching it is that, without sacrificing details which make the difference between work adaquately done and something that looks truly good, you subtlely remind us that there is no knitting police! :-)

    A truly heartfelt thank you!!!!

    Pleasant Valley, NY

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Carrying colors on Magic Loop is no different than knitting regular magic loop – unless you mean working in Fair-Isle. If you mean Fair-Isle, yes, I explain how to do it in my course on Fair-Isle Knitting. If you mean just making stripes on Magic Loop – try it! I bet you’ll do it right. :)

  7. What did we do before the internet and You Tube? Thank you for this great video; BIG NEEDLES and CHUNKY YARN really helped. Bless you!

  8. Hey! Thanks for the videos!

    My question is, what do you do with the tail of the new color? Normally you’d tie it to the new color, trim, and weave in; how should I “bind it off”, and then do I still weave that in like normal?


    1. Yep! You leave a 6-inch tail and then weave it in on your knitting (in the stripe that is that color) when you’re all done. Sorry I left that out of the video!

  9. Thanks for all of your great tutorials, Liat!! However, I’m still a little confused about counting rows when doing stripes. I made a couple of rib knit hats for my granddaughters, and the plan was to do 10 rows of MC, 6 rows of CC and finish up with MC.
    Using a clickable row counter, I started counting with the first row I worked after the cast-on. 10 clicks later, I switched to the CC, but when I went back to inspect my work, I discovered I actually had 11 rows of MC before the color change. If we’re supposed to include the stitches still on the needle as a row, should I have started with the cast-on row as ‘Row 1’ on my clicker or stopped at ‘Row 9’ on the clicker with the unworked stitches being ‘Row 10’? Friends have asked me for the ‘pattern,’ so I’d like to give them correct details.

    1. Hm, that is a little tricky. The only thing I can think that happened is that you forgot to click one round? That would explain the problem. That’s why I don’t like relying on click counters – you can never really be sure if you remembered to click. That’s why learning how to count the rows yourself, just based on what you see, is such a useful skill.

      I think you did it right – no need to change the pattern or your understanding of rows – I bet you just forgot to click. One easy way to test this theory it to do about 3 rounds on a sample swatch, using the row counter, and then look at your knitting and see if you have the same number of rows or if it happened again. Let me know what you discover!

  10. Great help for me who learned to knit as a young girl, got very good (made argyle socks on four thin thin thin needles ), and now am reclaiming my craft in my retirement. I want to make a blanket in 2 university colors, garter stitch, about 50 inches wide. How do I squeeze 250 stitches on my 15 circular needle? The plastic tube seems VERY short…

    1. How wonderful that you’ve taken up knitting again! And it sounds like if you made argyle socks on tiny double-pointed needles, you were VERY good!

      About the blanket, you can totally do it – you just need to get a longer circular needle. They come in lengths as long as 60 inches. Then all your stitches will fit. :)

  11. How do you switch colors in garter stitch without the color bumps showing in a line on the “back” side? Thanks!

    1. Great question! The color bumps will show in a line on the back side, there’s no helping that, but what you CAN do is make sure you change colors on the “right side” every time, so that the color bumps only show on one side, instead of appearing on both sides.

      1. Well, this is an old thread, so I don’t guess I should expect an answer, but just in case: I’m not sure how to go about making sure I get my lines in the same side. I’m having trouble counting rows/ridges as it is, so getting the extra color line on the right side seems impossible.

  12. You are the best teacher on the planet… I have researched both procedures you demonstrate here and found answers in books and on the net and no one explains it or demonstrates it better than you… actually every single demonstration I have watched you do is the same, perfectly done, you also inspire me to grab my yarn and enjoy some time knitting. Thank you thank you thank you 8-)

    1. Oh my gosh, thank you SO much! Yaaaaay! (Hands in air in touchdown-position)… You inspire ME to keep on making videos!

  13. Thanks for all the videos you put up. I’ve been watching silently for quite some time, but now that I finally have a question I’m speaking up.
    I knit a striped sock recently, and twisted the yarns together at the end of each row, but it doesn’t look very neat. Is there a special technique to alternating colours while knitting in the round, or do I just need more practice?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Maya! This is a great question, and it’s been cropping up all over the place now that I’ve opened the Pandora’s box of knitting stripes.

      What you want to do is the Jogless Color Join – this joins the stripes so that they seem to spiral instead of stack up on top of each other with a really obvious”seam.” I’ll make a video about this ASAP and post it on my blog – give me two weeks at the most.

  14. I appreciate your using big yarn and needles, too. I do have both my contacts in, but regardless, it just makes it so much easier to see what you’re doing. I’d rather be concentrating on mimicking what I’m seeing you do than putting all my efforts into squinting at a tiny picture trying to GUESS what is being done!

    This is probably a stupid question, and I’m fairly sure I know the answer, but just to be sure, do you twist the yarns at the end of every row where you’re carrying up the color you’re not currently using?

    1. Oh, you’re so welcome! I’m happy with the large needles, too!

      And to answer your question: exactly right. Whenever you come to the side with the yarn hanging off it, twists the yarns there.


    I lost a contact last week; Eye Dr says it’s gonna be a couple MORE weeks before replacement pair is ready…. R U SRIOUS??? I can’t knit socks until I can see tiny st’s again!!!GAH!

    ‘XSCUZ THE TYPOS, my fingers are worn to bloody nubs hitting the back key!!!

    PS: I will be SOOOOOOOOo glad I’m on the backside of”I lost a contact”again. LOL!

    1. Hahaha you’re so welcome! I’m very pleased with the large needles and yarn for the videos – especially because it seems to have been a popular decision. :)

      1. I am knitting a red and white striped scarf. I liked your video, and it helped. However, I am still unsure of how to get the two colors onto the needles when I cast on. Can you help?

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