Catching Floats for Continental Knitters

Floats Shown on Wrong Side of Fabric

If you have knitted a Fair Isle or stranded color project, you have encountered the challenges of catching floats. Floats are the long strands of yarn that connect stitches between colors. The photo on the right is an example. Generally, you should catch floats about every five stitches or so.  

I knit using the continental method, so I always carry yarn in my left hand. When I knit Fair Isle, I carry all colors in my left hand. I once attended an online workshop and learned how to carry my yarn so that it does not tangle as I knit, and it upped my enjoyment for knitting stranded colorwork. If you are interested in this technique, I have included a link to Continental Stranded Knitting, by Kristin Lehrer.

Arrow Circle Scarf

This past week, I started a new stranded knitting project, the Arrow Circle Scarf by Hilary Grant (Orkney). The pattern is knitted flat, so the pattern is worked on the knit and purls sides of the fabric. I knitted a section of the pattern to see how I liked it. To knit using the continental technique and carry my yarn in my left hand, I had to hold the non-working color with my left hand in front of the work. I then switched yarn positions when the pattern changed. It was a bit awkward. With practice, however, I achieved some consistency in my tensions. Below is a tutorial, 2-Color Stranded Knitting –the Purl Side, by Cheryle Brunette. Cheryle carries her yarn in both hands, so her technique is different than mine, but just as effective.


Because the scarf that I am knitting is quite wide, I decided to knit it in the round. I didn't want the wrong side and floats to show. It was easy to join and knit in the round with no adjustment to the pattern needed. I just needed to remember to always read my pattern from right to left on every row.

There are several rows where there are ten stitches between color changes, so I need to catch the floats. Normally, I carry both the main color (MC) and contrasting color (CC) in my left hand, keeping the MC on top or closest to my fingertip and the CC lower on my finger. As I knit, I reach over the top of the CC to knit with the MC and under the MC to knit the CC. The exception is when I want to catch a float. When I need to catch a float, I just reach over my MC to catch the float. If this is pard to picture, Kristin Lehrer demonstrates the technique beautifully in the tutorial below.

I have only just begun the scarf with just a few inches knitted. The colorwork is interesting and so far, the tension looks good. I try to check it several times each row to make sure that I am not pulling my floats tight. Next week, I hope to have a large section to share.