If you knit a lot of large projects – or projects involving more than one skein of yarn, you have encountered the step of switching from one skein of yarn to another mid-project. This is called a ‘join’ or a ‘tie-on’ in knitting lingo, and there are a lot of different ways to do it. You might know twelve different ways. It’s also entirely possible that you’ve been sort of Macguyver-ing this step and are convinced there is a better way to do it than your way. If you’re happy with the results you’ve been getting, by all means keep doing it.
Truthfully, you’ve got many fun options available to you, including simply dropping the old yarn and picking up the new one and returning later on to weave in the ends. There’s also the tried-and-true method of overlapping the incoming and exiting yarns with each other (holding them both yarns together and knitting a few stitches with both), or the approach of tying a square knot between the exiting and incoming tails of yarn, proceeding by knitting with the new yarn. I’ve used both of these options before, and they work just fine. The main downside with both of these options is that they involve coming back later to deal with the ends.
If you’re working with 100% wool, more methods are available to you – in particular, the spit splice. Strands of wool (and it must be 100% regular wool, not superwash wool or wool blended with other things) have the ability to get fuzzy and friendly with other strands of wool. The same qualities, incidentally, that allow wool to felt – the planned and purposeful version of shrinking a piece of knitting – allow you to execute a spit splice. Just as any kind of wool felting involves three steps: moisture, heat, and friction, a spit splice also needs all of these things! If you’re not familiar with this join, here’s how it goes:
(I grabbed this yarn from my leftovers bin, but in case you’ve fallen in love with it, it’s Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, in ‘amethyst.’)
1. First, separate the plies of your wool yarn at the ends (as pictured above). The yarn pictured is 4-ply which means I could actually go in and tease out all 4 individual plies on each of the two ends, but as you’ll see, separating the plies into 2 sections each does just fine. And, if you had a 2-ply yarn, you’d only be able to separate it out into 2 individual plies anyway.
2. Next, arrange these unwoven plies so that they are overlapping and getting friendly with each other. Again, you can be as meticulous or non-meticulous as you want. Mostly you just want the plies from one end to intermingle with the plies from the other end.
3. Apply the moisture required for the felting step – yes, this is the step where you actually spit on the yarn! If you’d prefer not to get quite that personal with your wool, you can apply water or run it under the tap, but I have no shame in admitting my splices are happily infused with my own spit. (I really put as much of myself into my knitting work as I can.) You can also just lick the whole thing in your mouth if you want – it doesn’t take long and is quite effective, although you do of course risk getting a fuzzy tongue.
(God I can’t wait to see the search strings that result from this post. I’m so sorry, blog.)
4. Finally, you’re going to apply the friction and heat at the same time, by rubbing the splice vigorously between your hands. This is going to take vigorous motion (i.e. more briskly than rolling a rolling pin), but will not take you very long. I bet this must look really fun to kids. Heck, grown-ups have fun with this part. Possibly after the first go you might have a few bunched-up portions, so go back a second or third time to rub those smoothly if you like.
Ta-da! A successful join. The nice thing about this is that you have no ends to weave in afterwards. Once the work is finished you’re not likely to notice it, but it’s still prudent to place this somewhere other than front-and-centre across the middle of your sweater, say. As you might imagine, this kind of join is especially useful on a project where a simple overlap or knotted join might be either very obvious (on a piece of lace knitting, for example), or when you’ve already got a lot to deal with and you don’t want to have to worry about two more ends (such as a colour-work project). It does, however, only work when you are joining the same colour to itself.
So there you have the spit-splice, folks. Is this already one of the tools in your knitting toolbox? What’s your favourite method of joining yarn ends?