Knitter's Toolbox: Joining a New Ball

Today, we're putting another item in our Knitter's Toolbox. The Knitter’s Toolbox series will feature essential techniques for successful knitting projects.

Today’s post is about how to join a new ball of yarn. Such a simple, yet fundamental task. This post will go over different methods of starting a new ball of yarn and why some might be better than others.

Where to Change Balls

At first blush, one might answer, “When you run out of yarn, duh!” However, with a little bit of planning, that new join could become invisible!

When you’re working flat, the best time to change out balls of yarn is at the beginning of a new row. When working in the round, change to a new ball in an inconspicuous place, like the side “seam” of a sweater.

Different Methods of Changing Balls of Yarn

There is an inverse relationship between how easy a join is and how good it is. Meaning that the more complicated joins are (generally) going to be better for the integrity of the fabric that you’re making. You know what they say - “haste makes waste” so take your time and figure out what method works best for you!

Tie a knot

What it is:  Simply tying a square knot or a magic knot in your yarn and continuing to knit.

Pros - Super easy!

Cons - That knot disrupts your nice soft fabric, and it will have a tendency to pop to the outside of a work.

Drop your yarn and start a new ball

What it is: When you have 4-8” left of your yarn (or when you reach a good place to change), simply drop the yarn from your first ball and begin knitting with the new ball, leaving a tail to weave in later.

Pros - Very easy, can be truly seamless if you secure your ends properly.

Cons - This method can lead to a hole in your fabric or loose stitches if you don’t secure the tails. If you use this method, consider weaving in ends as you go to avoid those floppy stitches (plus it saves you some work later).

Left: Hole that is a result of joining a new ball without securing the ends.
Right: The same spot, but the ends have been properly woven in. 



Holding 2 strands together

What it is: When it comes time to change balls, hold the tail of the old yarn together with the working yarn and knit with the 2 strands together for a few stitches. On the next row, hold the tail of the new yarn with the working yarn and knit in the opposite direction for a few stitches.

Pros - Incredibly secure.

Cons - This join is very visible and it creates a noticeably thicker fabric. Be wary of this method when working lace or with any very drapey fibers, like silk blends.

Wet Splice

What is it: Using the principles of felting, wet your ends (some people lick them) then rub them together between your palms to create heat and friction, felting the two ends together. Tutorial link

Pros - Easy and durable, rather inconspicuous in the finished item.

Cons - Wet splicing only works on 100% wool or blends with high wool content.

Russian Join

What it is: Threading a loop of yarn around the new yarn, then between the plies of the old yarn. Tutorial here

Pros - Great for reversible pieces and quick color changes. This join does not leave any ends to be woven in, either!

Cons - Tricky to get just right, doesn’t work on single-ply yarns.

How do you change yarns?

Personally, I prefer the drop old yarn, start new yarn method combined with weaving in ends as I go. For me, it creates the least conspicuous join while also being the least amount of work. 

How do you like to join a new ball?

If you're looking for your next multi-skein project, Colorful Eclectic now has dyed-to-order skeins of Joyous Worsted, Delight DK, Elation Sock, and Sublime Sport available in the shop