Yarn Dominance

We each have a soap box upon which we expound, and this is mine.  Yarn Dominance occurs when one knits with two or more yarns in a round or row.  One yarn will show up more than the other and appear dominant in relation to the stitches made of the other yarn. It doesn’t matter if you are left-handed or right-handed, if you knit English or Continental or with one yarn in each hand.  It also doesn’t have to do with which yarn is used the most in that particular round.  The determining factor is which yarn strands on the bottom, below the other yarn.

I must admit that when I first read of this effect in Ann Feitelson’s book The Art of Fair Isle Knitting by Interweave Press, I was not convinced.  But a seed was planted in my brain and I started seeing my knitting in a new light.

Yarn Dominance appears more strongly in small geometric motifs of highly contrasting colors. In Fair Isle work, where the motifs and colors are changing with each new band of patterning, the effect is noticeable but not as jarring as in a two-color Scandinavian sweater, or my Norwegian Mittens below, for example.

On the left, the green yarn was held in the dominant position; on the right, the gold yarn was held in the dominant position.

Dominance on the Right Side/Wrong Side of the Work

This effect is most easily seen if you work a swatch of at least 2 sts of each color, such as k2 red, k2 white.  The effect is not clear if you work one stitch of each color.  I encourage you to look at your knitting on the wrong side to see how the yarns are stranding in relation to each other–don’t take my word for it!  Here are some general rules, but be aware that small deviations in knitting and purling style can alter the dominance.

When holding both yarns in the right hand: If you are working on the Right Side knitting, the far yarn is dominant.  If you are working on the Right Side purling, the far yarn is dominant.

If you are working on the Wrong Side knitting, the near yarn is dominant.  If you are working on the Wrong Side purling, the near yarn is dominant.

When holding a yarn in each hand: If you are working on the Right Side knitting, the left yarn in dominant.  If you are working on the Right Side purling, the left yarn is dominant.

If you are working on the Wrong Side knitting, the left yarn is dominant. If you are working on the Wrong Side purling, the right yarn is dominant if you hold your left yarn above the right needle as you purl.  The left yarn is dominant if you hold your left yarn below the right needle as you purl.

When holding both yarns in the left hand: If you are working on the Right Side knitting, the near yarn is dominant.  If you are working on the Right Side purling, the near yarn is dominant.

If you are working on the Wrong Side knitting, the far yarn is dominant.  If you are working on the Wrong Side purling, the near yarn is dominant, unless you are using the Norwegian Purl.  In that case the far yarn is dominant.

Hierarchies of Dominance What if you want to work with more than two yarns?  Well, dominance still plays a role.  In fact, I liken it to a fan-shape. If you want to get fancy, we could call it an arc of dominance. (Yes, I loved math at one time… How fortunate that I cornered Sandi Rosner while at Stitches West and conned her into drawing this picture for me, as I still haven’t figured out Illustrator!)

Here is an arc.  The “X” is the knitter.  The possible numbers of yarns radiating out from the knitter’s work is infinite and they are represented by lines originating at the knitter.  In this instance we have four yarns.  The further to the right the yarns are held, the less dominant they are.  The further to the left the yarns are held, the more dominant they are.  So, the dominance of the yarns, from highest to least, is green, yellow, blue, red.

It is up to you to decide how you want the dominance to play out by holding your yarns in the way that will achieve your goals.

Dominance in Corrugated Ribbing Whenever you work corrugated ribbing (the purls are one color and the knits are another), be certain to hold the yarn for the knits in the dominant position or the purls will bulge out unattractively.

There’s lots more to be said about Dominance.  I’ll address it more in depth in a later blog.

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