Q for You: How do you join a new ball of yarn?

How to join a new ball of yarn when knitting

I have to tell you, I thought it was really funny that How do you weave in your ends was — by far — the quietest Q for You to date. The only Q that could even be described as quiet. Apparently everyone hates weaving in ends so much you don’t even want to talk about it! I had noted that the next Q was very closely related to that one, and it’s natural that it factored into some people’s responses, since it’s actually difficult to talk about one without talking about the other. That question is: How do you join a new ball of yarn?

Unless you always knit one-skein projects, or use yarn that comes in hanks as big as your head, sooner or later you have to learn to join a new ball of yarn to a work in progress. And there are nearly as many methods as there are knitters. My first time, I googled, and the consensus seemed to be to just drop the old yarn (leaving a long enough tail), start knitting with the new yarn, and weave both tails in later. In the two years since, I’ve picked up tips, watched videos and tried assorted other methods:

- Holding both yarns together for a few stitches
- Tying a half-square knot (don’t tell the no-knot purists!)
- Weaving as you go
- The Russian join (never actually tried this)
- Magic knot (nor this)

But for the past year, I’ve been a devotee of the Spit Splice. I loosen the plies at each end, as shown in that link, but I also tear off about two inches of one ply on each of the ends, to reduce the total number of plies being spliced together. Overlap the ends for two inches, spit (yep!), and rub together until they felt into one beautiful strand. This method only works with yarn that will felt — so 100% wool (not superwash), and the more rustic the better. Those happen to be my favorite kinds of yarns, so it works out well for me. I love this method because it’s truly invisible, it’s quick and easy, and it leaves zero ends to weave in later. (The only downside is if you’re on a plane while doing it — it does raise a neighbor’s eyebrows.) If I happen to be working with a yarn that won’t splice, I just revert to dropping the old end and picking up the new one.

So how about you: What’s your method of choice?

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you weave in your ends

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p.s. The large linen Bento Bag is now available in a beautiful shade of dark-chambray blue.

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48 thoughts on “Q for You: How do you join a new ball of yarn?

  1. I tried the split slice method out at the weekend on a fuzzy super chunky and it worked a treat. Usually I’m a knotter but I take care to hide the knot on the wrong side of my work and duplicate stitch to weave in ends later.

  2. You hit on my two favorite methods. I spit-splice hairy woolly yarns. For other, I drop the ends. I also tie them into a bow after a few stitches so that I don’t see a hole in the fabric every time I look at it. It can be undone and if you can tie a bow, you know the ends are long enough to be woven in. I use duplicate stitch on the wrong side – an art in itself that seems difficult until you understand how knit fabrics are constructed – stretch the fabric and take a good look at how everything connects.

  3. I try to avoid having to join yarn ends if at all possible. I’d rather cut off too much yarn at the end of a row etc, than have a join in the middle of a row or where it would be noticeable.

    • Oh yes. Me too. I avoid joining yarns in the middle. I wait until the end of a row if possible. (Not possible when working in the round, though. (But I DO try to save joining for a “back” or “side/underarm” of an in-the-round project if there is such a section on the project.)

  4. I’ve done the first three, but have not done the last two, although I have been meaning to try them. I tried your Spit Splice once, but I didn’t trust it. I also tend to over-weave in my ends. I never trust that the yarn will stay put.

  5. Hi! I almost always use the Russian join, unless I’m using a super-chunky yarn. In That case, I join at the new yarn at the beginning of a row and weave in the ends in the seam :)

  6. I just drop it off and start with a new ball. Honestly I never really knew there were other methods. I should have known though, with knitting there is always more than one way to skin a cat!

  7. I used to avoid joining too, but after working with some really short leftover yarn pieces that were not feltable, I started using the braided join. Opposite of MJ, I trust too much that the yarn will stay put!

  8. I’ve tried them all, but usually I just drop the old and start with the new. While I prefer to do it at the edge, I’m often knitting in the round. In that case I make a temporary knot that I will take out when I weave in the ends. The knot helps keep my tension in the area consistent. I’ve tried braiding the ends together, but in my opinion its very noticeable. Maybe because I know its there? I’ve also tried knitting with both strands for 5 or 6 stitches, but again too noticeable IMHO unless I’m knitting in garter stitch. I do split splice with some yarns but find sometimes it changes the look of the yarn too much if I am knitting with a multi-ply tightly twisted yarn. All of this is why I love 100 and 200 gram balls of yarn. Also like knitting with cones as the yardage is always more than balls or skeins. 50 gram balls make me crazy and don’t even talk to me about 25 gram balls.

  9. I like holding both together for a few stitches. It’s the one I trust the best. True it doesn’t blend in the best with some yarns, but for most your really have to be looking for it to see. Also depends on the project. If it’s a lacy project I don’t think you could get away with it.

  10. I LOVE a good spit splice! That’s my go-to method for joining ends of wool yarns. If I’m working with a non-feltable yarn, I’ll just start working with a new strand at the beginning of a row or round. I’ve tried the knitting a few stitches with both yarns method, but I find those stitches are too bulky and noticeable for my taste.

  11. Prefer to knit with both strands for several stitches. However, IF I WERE working with feltable wool, yep, I too would be spitting…. ;-)

  12. If I’ve got a feltable yarn, often single ply, I’ll just do a quick felt. All it takes to look neat is a lot of friction. Otherwise, I just knit the two together for about 6 stitches with nice long tails to sew in on both sides.

  13. Oh, you guys — I mean to mention. When I took that colorwork class with Mary Jane Mucklestone a few weeks ago, she said that in a lot of the old garments she’s seen in museums and stuff, in all her research, very often the ends weren’t joined/woven in at all. They’d just tie the ends in a knot and leave them dangling on the inside of the garment, an inch or two long, where they’d felt together over time.

    So now I totally feel I have permission to do that! Especially with colorwork.

  14. For me, this post is similar to the one on dealing with ends in that it just all depends on the project, which means a full answer gets kind of long.

    If I am working on something with seams, I always try to start and end there. If not, then again, it depends on the yarn and project. I have used every one of the methods you list.

    The one I most often use, especially for garments in the round, is carrying the two yarns together for several stitches and then trimming the ends. I always try to put this in an unobtrusive spot. But there are some yarns for which this isn’t the best solution, especially bulkier ones. I’ve used Russian join, which can be a delightful solution when it works (much like split splice) and I have toyed with the magic knot, but only found it works well with very few yarns. I am not really sure of what language distinguishes those other than less slippery. (sticky yarn? yarn with teeth?) Honestly, I don’t have much confidence in it though I know many swear by it. I only use classic knots in projects like my crochet blankets, when I want to join in the middle of a row. I leave tails which I then hide separately within the stitches on each side.

    I have seen some projects that use yarn ends in a creative way, little bows and knots and such (kind of sounds like what you mentioned in your last comment, Karen). I experimented on a cowl in which I was stranding yarns, by braiding the ends and then knotting them tightly leaving a little tassle on the end. It was a quirky, neat solution that was kind of a nice surprise when you could see it. I’d like to toy with this some more, maybe on a striped scarf where the little tassels become a real design feature…

  15. well just now I joined a new ball in my sweater doing one stitch with the 2 yarns, and I don’t now exactly how but I managed to increase a stitch right at that point. I realized many rows later so I hope I can close the hole later weaving in ends. And I though I had this “joining a new ball thing” under control!

    • It’s easy to do. The trick there is remembering that those two strands are one stitch on the next row, and knitting them as one. If you knit them separately, you’ll have increased your stitch count.

  16. I’ve always just let them hang and woven in at the end (and struggled with projects in the round, where the join is never invisible!). I’m going to try some of these out!

    For the spit splice in particular: do you think this would work with 100% wool unspun roving? A dear friend of mine is getting married next year and I’m braving this blanket (http://www.ravelry.com/projects/amaliachimera/giganto-blanket) upon her request. The idea of weaving in all those chubby ends, though…

  17. I’ve been weaving in yarn ends after I’m done but looking for other methods to use. Great post! I want to try the Russian method – that looks like it will satisfy my “paranoia” about ends working out (like the other MJ.) I can see where it really depends on the yarn and the project (dah!) but now I know that I have many options!

  18. I splice just as you do, minus the “spit” (not that I’m averse, just haven’t found it neccesary). I’ve found the trick to be heat. I rubbing the splice on denim jeans (which I’m almost always wearing) works perfectly, the friction creates enough heat to felt nicely. I give it a little tug to make sure it’s strong.

  19. usually, I just drop the old tail and start with the new one and weave in later, but, I just found out about spit splicing, and I tried on something I’m working on and it is sooo awesome (even though wet wool smells so weird, especially when you spit on it lol). So I’ll be spit splicing on all future wool projects! Also, it was only in reading your post that I realized felting was the reason spit splicing worked…. I hadn’t really thought about it and just chalked it up to the awesomeness of yarn ;)

  20. I personally love the Russian join. I hate weaving in ends and I feel like it is a sturdy, trustworthy option.

    Otherwise, I drop the old end and start one row with the new end. After two rows I knit the two together and adjust for tension so it is invisible. Ugh, then weave ends.

  21. Love the magic knot, however, it wasn’t working for me with Rowan Fine Lace… The knot kept coming undone, no matter how I made sure to do it properly…

  22. So interesting! I only spit splice when I have to but it would save me a lot of that dreaded weaving! I hold both yarns together for a stitch and then maybe I’ll knit the next stitch with the end of the old ball and new yarn together. I know that’s not proper but I don’t care! I love hearing what everyone else does. I should really change it up.

  23. 1. Spit felt/splice if I’m working with feltable wool
    2. Knit two stitches with both yarn ends if I’m adding the same color yarn and weave in end then the knitting is finished
    3. Knot the yarns together if I’m changing colors (for stripes–I don’t yet have the courage for serious color work; I’ve only been knitting for 10 years!), so my selvedge stays firm, then unknot them, wrap the yarns around each other and weave in. I know, it’s a lot of work. Which is why I prefer variegated yarn or single colors . . .

    I think I’ll have to try one of these other methods. . .

  24. Spit splice all the way. I’ve found that most superwash yarns WILL spit splice and rarely use anything that doesn’t work for this method. I have tried many others and find the only other one that is nearly invisible on fibres like cotton is the russian…but it is quite fussy.

  25. It all depends on the yarn and how it’s being used. :)

    Spit splice is my default. But if the yarn won’t felt and the doubled up yarn won’t show, holding the yarns together is my next choice. If the yarn is slick (like a mercerized cotton) and the gauge isn’t tight, I go with the Russian join. I haven’t tried any knotting, but the magic knot video was pretty intriguing.

  26. I’ve used the magic knot for years as a closure for quick cord necklaces, but never thought of using it for knitting. I’m going to try it. Thanks!

    Oh, and I’ve done all the others except for the square knot. I Just. Can’t. Not even for something that’s going to be felted. It’s probably somehow related to my tendency to “overweave” ends. I also tie a temporary bow of the old yarn with the new yarn for an in-the-round project.

  27. My favorite so far is the Russian Join. I haven’t tried spit splicing yet, but I’m often working with non-feltable fibers. I’ve found that knitting a few stitches with both yarns is really yarn and project dependent. It often leaves a very bulky portion of a row. I’ve also tried the magic knot, but on some yarns the knot had a tendency to slip through to the right side.

  28. Pingback: Q for You: What are your favorite knitting pattern books? | Fringe Association

  29. Going to try the Russian some day but I often use the Magic Knot. Only I thought I was clever because this is a weaker version of a fishing knot called the Double Uni used to join fishing lines together and it’s very dependable.

  30. Oh! I hadn’t come across ‘weave your ends as you go’ and I think it may be the answer to my ‘alternating skeins in the round’ prayer. Thanks for sharing!

  31. I hate weaving in all those ends! I just try to use wooly yarns and spit splice as much as possible. On the occasion where l’m using a yarn that’s unfeltable I just put down the old strand and attach a new ball of yarn.

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