« Out of Sight ... | Main | Wire Knitting »

January 09, 2006

Yarn Dominance

Yarn Dominance may sound a bit aggressive and overly pushy, but get to know it and you'll think there's nothing sweeter.  I first heard about yarn dominance from Beth Brown-Reinsel at a workshop I attended last November.  This tid-bit -- along with the life changing skill of learning to knit with 2 colors in the same hand -- made the workshop worth its weight in gold.

When knitting with two colors -- think fair-isle knitting -- one of the colors appears more pronounced and is called the dominant color or yarn.  Typically the foreground color is made the dominant yarn, causing the pattern to appear crisp and clean.  Here's an example:

In this example the same pattern was knit twice.  In the bottom half the orange is dominant over the purple, while in the top half the purple is dominant.  The effect is subtle, but especially noticeable in the checkerboard center of each motif -- can you see it?  Doesn't the motif in the bottom half look crisper than that in the top half?

So, how do you control which yarn is dominant?  When knitting with two yarns one of the yarns will sit below the other -- coming from underneath.  It is this yarn -- picked up from under the other -- that is the dominant yarn.

For example, when I knit with two colors I hold both colors in my right hand.  On the the knit side, the yarn held farther away from the knitting needle will come from underneath and is the dominant yarn.  While on the purl side, the yarn held closer to the knitting needles comes from underneath and is dominant.

Why not experiment a bit and see if you can control yarn dominance.  It's these little details that elevate the craftsmanship of a knit item.

Additional References
For more information on yarn dominance please see:

  • The Art of Fair Isle Knitting by Ann Feitelson
  • "Working With Two Yarns" by Beth Brown-Reinsel published in Interweave Knits Summer 2004
  • Take one of Beth Brown-Reinsel's fabulous workshops!


January 9, 2006 in Tips and Techniques | Permalink


and here I thought you were goint to talk about showing your yarn who's boss : ) interesting concept, it's one of those things you don't think about but is so obvious when someone mentions it. Ill have to be more concious of this

ps are you ready for some jack bauer dominance?

Posted by: yahaira | Jan 9, 2006 10:45:12 PM

I like the term "yarn dominance."

I'm a two-handed color knitter and the yarn in my left hand is always held lower, therefore prominent. Oddly enough in Latvian Dreams, Joyce Williams says that isn't always the case (i.e., yarns from the left hand being prominent) with two-handed color knitters. I'm not sure why though.

Here are some more photos showing this phenomenon:


Posted by: Nanette | Jan 9, 2006 11:22:41 PM

Thanks so much for this info!! I'm dreaming about a pair of Swedish mittens as my next project and this is something I'm going to try. Thanks for sharing!!

Posted by: Kimberly | Jan 9, 2006 11:52:06 PM

Hmm, very interesting...I'll have to experiment with this as I actually hold both yarns in my left hand.

Posted by: Laura | Jan 10, 2006 1:36:31 AM

This is so interesting. I thinking of yarns for a 2 color project and had landed on the yarn dominance issue without knowing it had a name. Or why it happened. Thanks!

Posted by: gale (she shoots sheep shots) | Jan 10, 2006 3:52:46 AM

... and to think I was finally ready to try 2-color knitting! This sounds much too deep for my early morning brain to comprehend.

Nona -- We've been re-watching last season's "24" on DVD -- only six more days til JACK IS BACK!

Posted by: me, Mavis | Jan 10, 2006 4:17:29 AM

Wow, how perfect your post. I just saw an episode of Knitty Gritty that had fair isle as the subject and it really got me wanting to do some. Thanks for this. Can't wait to try it.

Posted by: Kelly | Jan 10, 2006 9:13:21 AM

And what happens when you consistently twist your yarns? Actually, I know the answer to this since that's how I usually do 2-color knitting. I haven't done a lot of fair isle, mainly just borders and bands, but your bag is sure tempting my little knitterly heart!

Posted by: Daphne | Jan 10, 2006 9:30:19 AM

Oh, Nona, I love these informative posts of yours. Mary Heather gave me that wonderful Ann Feitelson book as a going away present when I left California and I read that thing cover to cover in a weekend. It's a classic, isn't it? I've been meaning to do a book review, especially since I think it's one of those books that gets sadly passed over. Thanks so much for this reminder on yarn dominance. I'm really looking forward to my class with Beth Brown-Reisel!

Posted by: Julia | Jan 10, 2006 10:37:49 AM

Very interesting! I'm going to have to look into this further.

Posted by: Purly Whites | Jan 10, 2006 11:33:12 AM

Another informative and thought-provoking post from nona - thanks!

Posted by: Vicki | Jan 10, 2006 12:12:48 PM

Thanks for the tips Nona!! I haven't done much 2-color knitting so far, but the next time I do i will put this into practice.

Posted by: jillian | Jan 10, 2006 2:28:39 PM

ever informative. Thanks nona. explained well. I'll give it a try.

Posted by: kathy b | Jan 10, 2006 3:19:36 PM

The top and bottom half look the same to me.

Posted by: Nona Mom | Jan 13, 2006 7:14:31 AM

Thank you! I caught up with this a few days ago, a couple of inches into my first fair isle project. I should have frogged and re-knit those inches, as my yarns were just the opposite of what I wished, but at least I was able to re-tool for the rest of the hat. (I had already frogged and re-knit same inches once for tension challenges. I don't believe the hat recipient (husband) has a subtle enough eye to see the difference, but I can. However, it's my first fair isle and I'm willing to regard it as a learning experience.) Why didn't Montse Stanley warn me about this while I was studying "Knitter's Handbook" for options for two-color yarn holds? I never would have come so far with knitting in the past year if not for knitbloggers. Hurray for the information age!

Posted by: Fern | Jan 24, 2006 10:05:40 AM

That's so cool! I can feel my bravery growing to try it =)

Posted by: April | Feb 28, 2006 6:25:32 AM

Okay, this is SO helpful. I couldn't figure out why one of the colors on the mittens I just finished was receding into the yarny abyss. As usual, thanks for the great technique info!

Posted by: pamela wynne | Jan 3, 2007 1:58:26 PM

Thank you for posting this! I took one of Beth Brown-Reinsel's classes where I learned this (in fact that was the first time I'd ever heard of the concept) but couldn't for the life of me remember which was the dominant color.

Posted by: Michelle | Nov 16, 2007 1:58:50 PM

This is the first time I have seen this...as I am finishing my first pair of fancy fair isle mittens...and now I have to decide if I want to go back andr eknit them because this does make such a difference! Honestly I think I am going to err on the side of just knitting a different pair later...but I am so glad to know for the future.

Posted by: jenny | Oct 17, 2008 10:16:06 AM

get what ever colors you want just remember that you will have those colors for a whole month. when there was a holiday in a month i would get colors that went with the holiday. christmas i would get red and green, 4th of july red, white and blue. so on and so forth. but it is really up to you.

Posted by: cialis online | Apr 23, 2010 8:17:17 AM

I loved this post. I really like the ideas they provide and as the subject development. thank you very much!

Posted by: foreplay games | Apr 30, 2010 7:02:51 AM

ich kam durch Zufall auf diese Seite und möchte einen netten Gruß hinterlassen. Ich würde mich freuen, wenn ihr auf meiner Homepage auch einmal vorbei schauen würdet! Vielleicht wollt ihr einmal auf Sylt Westerland oder an der Ostsee Urlaub machen?! Wir haben dort sehr schöne Meerblickwohnungen. Vielleicht bis bald einmal!
Herzliche Grüße

Posted by: Werner | May 26, 2010 11:06:25 AM

Grüße from Freiburg

Posted by: Küchen Freiburg | Jun 17, 2010 8:40:46 AM

Very nice example you provided I agree with author what "Yarn Dominance" sounds aggressive.

Posted by: tadalafil for sale cheap | Jun 21, 2010 5:46:18 AM

In the bottom half the orange is dominant over the purple, while in the top half the purple is dominant. The effect is subtle, but especially noticeable in the checkerboard center of each motif -- can you see it?

Posted by: ClubPenguinCheats | Aug 7, 2010 1:16:19 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

All patterns, designs, content, and photographs Copyright 2004-2010 nonaKnits and Carolyn Quill Steele. All rights reserved. If you have any copyright questions or request, please ask -- nonaKnits at gmail dot com.