Knitting with two strands of yarn - mohair and merino

Interested in knitting with two strands of yarn? There are two ways to knit with two strands of yarn. The first would be holding the two strands together as if they were one, called "double stranding" or double-stranded knitting. The other way would be alternating knit rows with the different types of yarn, switching yarn within the project.

I've recently seen lots of knitwear pop up with both of these methods of knitting with two yarn types, and especially yarn of different weights. I'm loving the look of mohair knit together with a merino wool, seen in lots of patterns lately for sweaters that look extra fuzzy and soft but still have structure and warmth. (Check out this balloon sweater from Petit Knit using mohair and merino wool knit two strands together). I've also seen the yarn knit separately in different parts of a project, such as mohair for light fluffy sleeves on a structured merino wool bodice. See the beautiful shawl below that combines different sections of mohair and merino knit separately for lovely changes in texture. 

             
   Haight Ashbury Dream shawl by Jen Peck                                          Balloon Sweater by Petit Knit

Texture of Mohair vs. Merino Wool

I felt inspired to try knitting with the different weight yarns so I picked up some merino wool and baby suri alpaca (similar to mohair) from my local yarn shop. I have been experimenting with knitting the different fibers both together and separately and have some observation notes I'll share below. This is a fun way to change up your knitting and create your own textures and colors from two different yarns!
                      
On the left I knit with the two separately for about 1" sections on size US 6 needles. On the right I knit double stranded on the same size needles. The merino wool is rather stiff and scratchy on its own but when knit together with the baby alpaca it is so soft. The baby alpaca when knit has a squishy fluffy airy feel, it is so luxurious! It's very delicate on its own and has a beautiful lace effect. Here is more info on each of these yarns.

Merino wool: Sock/Fingering weight, 90% washable merino wool 10% nylon, 510 yds/465 m and 4.8 oz/136 g. Recommended needle size US 2. My yarn is Sprout Sock by The Fiber Seed in raspberry.

Baby Suri Alpaca: Fingering/Lace weight, 74% baby suri alpaca 26% mulberry silk, 164 yds/150 m and 25 g. Recommended needle size US 5. My yarn is Cumulus by fyperspates in ruby red.

How to do double-stranded knitting

When doing double stranded knitting, you will hold the two strands of yarn together and knit with them as if they are one single strand. Pay attention when inserting your needles to go through both strands! It's that simple. The question I ran into was what needle size to use? In general, if you were to double strand knit with the SAME yarn, you would simply double your needle size. Normally with sock weight I would knit with size 3 needles, so if I double it I should use size 6 needles for two strands. I know the baby alpaca is lighter weight than the sock yarn, so size 6 might be too large...

What needle size do I use when double stranding yarn of different weights?

When searching for answers to this question of needle size for different yarn weights, I came across this great post by talvi knits explaining some complex math about Knitting with Yarn Held Double. She suggests a formula based on meterage of the yarn per 100g. You can certainly use this and I think it helps think about how much of each yarn you will need for a project. But it will be important to knit a swatch to determine your gauge anyway, so use it as a starting point for needle size and you can adjust up or down based on feel or whatever gauge you are trying to achieve. In general I found that you can use a yarn weight chart and for yarns held double, go to the yarn weight in the chart and move UP TWO WEIGHTS for suggested needle size. For my example, the yarn weights are both in the size 1 category of super fine so by moving up two weights the yarn will behave like size 3 light and suggested needle size 5-7. I started with size 5 but felt the stitches were a bit to tight together so I bumped up to a size 6 which was perfect!

Let's say you were knitting a blanket using some soft sport weight yarn but wanted it to knit up faster so you will hold two strands together. Sport weight is size 2 fine so if you go up two weights to size 4 it will behave like a worsted weight yarn and you should use 7-9 needles. (Remember my other method of doubling needle size - I often knit sport weight on size 4 needles so size 8 would be a great starting point.) But let's say you like knitting sport weight on size 5 needles so doubled would be size 10, well that sounds large but there is nothing wrong with that! Honestly you should do some guess and check work to find what works best for YOU.

Ultimately you should knit a swatch! You will see if the stitches are too loose or too tight and depending on your project you could go up or down a needle size to have a more structured, dense garment or one that is airy and drapes.

If you want to learn more about the importance of knitting a swatch and how to get a good gauge, see A swatch guide.



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