Twined knitting

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.

I have a new video for you today! It is a short demonstration of twined knitting. Don’t worry, there is some spinning in the video too. Twined knitting requires a special kind of yarn that is hard to find and therefore perfect to handspin!

Spin-off article and pattern

In the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine I wrote an article about twist analysis and spinning for twined knitting. The article also includes a brief history of twined knitting in Sweden. On top of that, I made a pattern for twined knitting mittens especially for this issue. It is my very first published pattern! All the beautiful pictures in the article and the pattern description are Dan’s. Go get your copy now!

About twined knitting

The oldest finding of a twined knitting textile dates back to around the mid 16th century to the early 17th century in county Dalarna in Sweden. There are many garments and accessories left in County Dalarna – mittens, socks and jackets. Usually the sleeves only were twined knit while the torso was sewn of vadmal.

A jacket with red knitted sleeves with a black pattern and a green vadmal torso with decorative stitching.
An antique traditional jacket with twined knitted sleeves and a vadmal torso. From the study collection at Sätergläntan.

Two strands for sturdiness

With twined knitting you use two strands of yarn. The passive strand is carried at the back of the project. You knit with the back strand. This means that after one stitch is made the two yarns are twined. Ridges of twined knitting cover the whole wrong side of a knitted section and makes a sturdy material.

Close-up of a person knitting with two strands of yarn. A city in the background.
Twined knitting is done with two strands of yarn. The ruin of Saint Nicolai in the background.

Even though twined knitting is done with fine needles, the twining makes the fabric strong, sturdy and windproof. It will last for generations. The yarn I use is a handspun light fingering weight yarn and I knit with 2 mm needles.

Basic technique

Set-up:

  • Hold the two strands in your right hand. I usually wrap them once around my pinkie for even tensioning.
  • “Steer” the strands with your index and middle fingers between the strands.

Knitting:

  • Insert the right needle in the first stitch of the left needle
  • Pick up the back strand with your index finger
  • Throw it over the needle
  • Make a knit stitch
  • Insert the needle in the next stitch

When I make a pair of something in twined knitting I always knit both at the same time. This way I will make sure I get the same size.

Two pieces of knitting on a pebble beach.
I knit my jacket sleeves with 2 mm needles. The material is still strong and sturdy. On the inside you can see the horizontal twined ridges.

For cast-on, more basic techniques and a mitten pattern, see my article and pattern in the fall 2019 issue of Spin-off Magazine. For more in-depth knowledge about twined knitting there are good books. Mainly in Swedish, but some also in English. Twined knitting by Birgitta Dandanell was the one I started out with. My current favourite, which also covers the beautiful history of the technique and its traditions is Tvåändsstickat by Birgitta Dandanell, Ulla Danielsson and Kerstin Ankert. This book is in Swedish only, but has lots of beautiful pictures of traditions, old garments and how-to descriptions.

Twining and untwining

The two yarn ends typically come from both ends of a center-pull ball. Since the strands are twined they will eventually have to be untwined. You do this by making a half-hitch around the ball and holding it up to untwine itself.

A woman standing by a medieval wall. She is holding up a ball of yarn and a knitting project.
Every now and then I need to untwine the ball of yarn.

A lady on the train

In the beginning of July when I was on the train back home from teaching at Sätergläntan, I was working on my current twined knitting project. When we had almost arrived in Stockholm an elderly lady approached me and asked me if I had been to Sätergläntan. She had seen me knit on the train. The lady had poor eye sight, but she instantly recognized my untwining of the yarn ball as twined knitting. She told me that she used to twine knit all the time when she was younger. I love the effect public crafting has on people – both crafters and the people around them.

Z-ply yarn

Twined knitting is done best with a Z-ply yarn. An S-ply yarn (which is the most common in commercial yarns) will get even more twined and result in a bulkier material. There are only two mills in Sweden that spin Z-ply yarns for twined knitting. As spinners we can make our own Z-ply yarn, though!

A woman spinning on a supported spindle by a window opening in a ruin.
Spinning for twined knitting at Drotten’s ruin.

For this project – a couple of jacket sleeves – I spin Dalapäls wool on a supported spindle. I have flick carded the individual locks and spin them from the back end. This way I get both undercoat and outercoat in the yarn.

Since I spin counter-clockwise I use my left hand as a spinning hand to pull the spindle towards the palm of my hand when I spin. When I ply I change hands so that my right hand is the spindle hand, pulling the spindle. In this blog post you can read more about my thoughts on spinning direction. You can also check out this webinar on spindle ergonomics.

The Z-plied yarn I twine knit with is the yarn I spin in my recent video Catch the light.

Slow

The fine needles and the twining method makes twined knitting a slow technique. I’m in no hurry, though. I also make it even slower by stopping every now and then to feel the sturdy material and enjoying the structure.

A woman sitting on a font, knitting
Knitting by the font in Saint Catherine’s ruin

Considering that a pair of twined knitted mittens lasts for generations, you only need to make one pair where other techniques would require lots of mending or replacement mittens. Twined knitting may even be faster in a lifetime perspective.

Location: The medieval city of Visby

In mid-July, the whole family took a two-day trip to the medieval city of Visby, Gotland. In Medieval times the city was protected from angry farmers with a sturdy city wall and the wall still stands. Inside the city there are around 10 church ruins from the 12th and 13th centuries. The whole city is a world heritage.

A woman knitting in a ruin. There is no roof in the ruin.
S:t Clement’s ruin was my favorite ruin to knit in.

These sites are perfect for making beautiful video shots (most of which were made by Dan)! I especially loved knitting in the ruins. The space, acoustics and light were all magic. The grass, flowers and ivy all added a touch of mystery to the scenery.

By the way, you can see a glimpse of our children in the video. Towards the end I stand in an opening in of one of the walls of the ruin of Saint Lars, looking down. The two teenagers walking around below, discovering the passageways of the ruin are my darlings. They are also responsible for the stone skipping by the pebble beach.

Challenge yourself and spin a Z-plied yarn. Perhaps you will have finished a pair of twined knitted mittens by the holidays.

Happy knitting!


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