Tutorial Tuesday: Duplicate stitch

Ok, so I have had this post in the oven for months now, and I really need to get it out. It is already Wednesday in New Zealand, but it is still Tuesday in some parts of the world, so I figured I can get away with it. You can see this is old, since I used the same pink Beiroa swatch from the post on lifelines from November. That said, let’s get to business.

So, what is duplicate stitch?

duplicate stitcha colourwork technique or the type of stitch applied in said technique, which allows to decorate knit fabric with a motive. It consists of embroidering stitches over the already existing knit stitches, which remain hidden behind the contrasting colour yarn used.

Although this somewhat improvised Knitionary definition may give the impression that duplicate stitch is complicated, to me it is the easiest way of adding colour to one’s knitting. This makes it the ideal technique for beginners to create their first colourwork project. Of course, having some previous experience in embroidery techniques, especially cross-stitch is an advantage.

Here is how it goes:

You’ll need 1)  a blunt yarn needle – the same you use for weaving in yarn ends should do – 2) contrasting colour yarn in the same or heavier weight than that of the knit fabric, 3) a design on your mind, and – preferably – on graph paper.

Also, if you’ve just finished knitting, it’s best to block your piece first (wash/dampen it and allow to dry).

Ready? Now, study your knit fabric. Notice the V shaped stitches that make up stockinette. These are what you’ll have to “duplicate”.

What is especially cool about duplicate stitch  is that it allows you to decorate a piece which is already finished, so in a way you can use this for afterthought personalization or simply to spice up a somewhat boring object. Note that contrasting colour duplicate stitches create a double thickness for the fabric, so they don’t blend into your work as Fair Isle proper. For this reason, I think it is best to use the technique to add smaller or compact motives, keeping in mind that the thicker your yarn, the more it will stand out. Oh, and if you don’t like the result, you can always simply remove your duplicate stitch motive.

duplicate stitch2.jpg

This image shows the way your needle and yarn has to travel to duplicate a knit stitch

And now, let’s see how it works:

  1. Starting from the wrong side pull the needle through the bottom of the first stitch you want to duplicate
  2. Insert the needle from right to left through both loops of the stitch above
  3. Pull the yarn through gently – now you’ll have the right “leg” of the stitch covered by the contrasting yarn
  4. Bring the needle through the same place you started the stitch, only, this time you go from the right side to the wrong side of the fabric – one stitch done!
  5. Pop the needle out through the bottom of the next stitch you want to cover
  6. Repeat 1-4 until finished

That easy!

duplicate tutorial.jpg

Now, in advancing with the motive to be embroidered on the knit fabric it is generally advised to go from left to right, and from the bottom to the top. However, depending on your motive, you might find that it is not necessarily straightforward to go in these directions. Don’t worry. Just keep duplicating stitches, and aim for your duplicates to stay even – don’t pull on the yarn too much.

In sum:

For horizontal stitches aim to go from left to right, i.e. once a stitch is finished, pull your needle through the bottom of the next stitch to the right.

For vertical stitches aim to go bottom up, i.e. once a you’ve finished a stitch, pull the needle through the bottom of the stitch right above.

And finally, some motivation:


On the right: Warm winter mitts by Anna and Heidi Pickles (free pattern)

On the left: The all so popular Giles Eek Hat by WTG also uses duplicate stitch!

Tutorial Tuesday: Lifeline

I don’t know how ridiculous it sounds, but I only learnt about what a lifeline is in knitting quite recently. We all dread the moment of discovering a mistake in our work, and I dreaded it even more so, since I’d never been able thread my needles back into the little yarn loops after having ripped several precious rows or rounds. My rather rudimentary solution had been to unknit or tink whatever was necessary stitch by stitch… this resulting in that “ripping” out a few rows of knitting could easily turn into hours of very unrewarding work. I guess this is the price one has to pay for not learning the wooly art through reading a beginners’ knitting book from cover to cover…

So, lifeline is the thing that once you learn about, you just go, ‘oh, why did this not occur to me before?’

lifeline a piece of waste yarn threaded through a row or round of stitches in a way that it holds the stitches safely when the work has to be ripped back to correct a mistake. Once the piece has been ripped to the lifeline, the stitches are placed the knitting needles again.

There are several methods to place a lifeline in your work. Wiser or more patient knitters thread waste yarn in as they go, leaving several lifelines that prevent dropped stitches to work their way deep down, or to allow ripping back the work to correct unnoticed errors.

  • One way to do this is to draw the waste yarn through the stitches on your knitting needles using a tapestry needle. When doing this, be  careful not to thread the waste yarn through your non-removable stitch markers, as they would have to stay in place until you pull out the lifeline.
  • Some swear by threading the waste yarn through the small hole on the interchangeable needles they are working with. As you knit on, the waste yarn threads itself through he stitches while you work through a row. Be aware that in order to do this, you need a rather fine thread. I’ve seen people suggest to use dental floss, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea, as it is rather sturdy.

As I’ve said, especially when working complicated patterns, it might be convenient to leave several lifelines in place as you work.

Ok, so the theory is nice, but what happens if you are a lazy knitter as myself?

  • Then clearly, the afterthought lifeline is for you. This consists of threading the waste yarn in a row below the error you discovered, or at the point until which you want to rip back. To be honest, if the piece you are working on is not overly complicated, it might not be worth the hassle going into the trouble of placing multiple lifelines, as it is not likely that you would need them.

So how do you do this? If you are working in stockinette stitch, all you have to do is to thread the waste yarn through the right leg of each stitch in the desired row.


Once you understand the trick, it is not that difficult to place an afterthought lifeline in different stitch patterns, all you have to do is give it some thought and study your stitches. If you are working in garter stitch, just thread the waste yarn through the stockinette row between two purl rows; if you are doing lace, aim pick a row with no yarnovers, as it will be easier to work. I’ve used this method when having to undo couple of rows of my Carpino, and after some trial and error, managed to place the lifeline in the lace section, so it is all doable.


Tutorial Tuesday: Knitter Talk 101

Even if you are not entirely new to knitting, you might remember the first times when you were exposed to the language used by the forever expanding online knitting community. What on earth is a LYS? Or you frogged what? You made some cakes on Sunday afternoon – so you might own a bakery as well as running a knitting blog…

As a linguist and having been involved in research related to lexicography I find the use and evolution of these knitting specific terms fascinating. It might even be possible to create a Knitionary that describes the meanings and use of these, together with other expressions referring to specific knitting techniques. So, where do we start? What would you include in a Knitionary?

knitionary v01

Knitionary v.0.1

Download here: Knitionary v01