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Published on December 31st, 2014 | by Amy Kaspar


Ombré stripes

We love stashbusters!   Dig into your stash and knit some ombré stripes with Amy Kaspar!

Do you need to make room in your stash for all of that yarn you received as gifts these past couple weeks? One way to blow through a large quantity of yarn is to use ombré stripes on your next project. The premise behind ombré stripes is that they are gradual instead of harsh, gradient instead of stark. You can blend two strands of yarn at the same time to get a good ombré-stripe effect, and you can knit your projects faster this way as well!

How to knit an ombre stripe - LoveKnitting tutorial

For the demonstration, I am using three different colours of worsted-weight, 100% acrylic yarn. You can use any weight of yarn you want, and they do not even have to be the same weight between them. Keep in mind, though, that you will be multiplying the number of strands throughout the project, so doing yarns in the same weight will keep the stripes consistent in stitch size and fabric density.

Ombre stripes - LoveKnitting blog

When doubling yarn, there is a rule of thumb which will help you determine your general needle size and gauge. It is literally a general rule, and not an excuse to not do a gauge swatch, but doubling yarn of one weight gets you the next yarn weight. In other words, two strands of lace weight gets you a fingering gauge, two strands of fingering gets you a DK gauge, and so on. I doubled worsted, so I should be getting a bulky gauge. Because of this, I chose size 6.5mm/US10.5 needles.

This rule of thumb also means, by the way, that four strands of fingering gets you a worsted-weight gauge. Just remember that it is not necessarily that easy to knit with four strands at once. Especially for newer knitters, two should be the limit.

Determine how you want the stripes to lie – I decided to go from light to dark, but ombré stripes do not need to be in any particular order. They are just the gradual blending of yarn, so I could have gone dark to light as well. To do this, I am doing one stripe with the lightest colour doubled, the next stripe with the light and medium colour, the next one with two strands of medium, the next stripe with a medium and a dark, and the last one with two darks.

Ombre stripes - LoveKnitting blog

If you want to make stripes that don’t gradually change but you still want to have variations in your colours using two different shades of yarn, then mix it up! To do a true ombré, you need to do them in order of shade-level, but if your goal is to make pretty things and get rid of yarn at the same time, make the stripes in any order your heart desires.

To start an ombré stripe pattern, I took two strands of the lightest colour, and cast on with them. Then I knit knit knit. How thick do you want your stripes? I knew I wanted my niece’s poncho to have two panels that were eleven inches by 22 inches, so I figured out my gauge, and determined the number of rows I would need for 22 inches. When it was time for the next stripe…or when it is time for your next stripe, clip only one of the two strands and tie on the next colour.

Ombre stripes - LoveKnitting blog

The next stripe is the light and medium colour together, and the stripe after that is two strands of medium. The word “ombré” means shaded or graduated, so you can do this by substituting one strand at a time instead of using a different solid colour for each stripe.

Ombre stripes - LoveKnitting blog

This technique is great for items such as baby sweaters, which pretty much look cute no matter what colour yarn is used. It is also excellent for afghans and other home decor items, since the density of the fabric is easily changed by the needle size (go smaller for a denser fabric, and larger for a more loose and drapey fabric) and the items can be made to match a wide variety of other items in the home.

A caveat:  If you want to use this technique for socks, it is not advised to use two strands of laceweight yarn unless it is plied, or it has a fibre content including nylon, silk, or another more stablizing fibre besides wool. If you use 100% wool laceweight yarn doubled for socks, they will not be quite as strong and long-lasting as socks made with that nylon or silk fibre.

Other ideas:  Cast on enough for a side-to-side (meaning the long way, and not the wide way) scarf, and ombré-stripe three different colours at one inch apiece. Use this technique for a top-down sweater and ombré-stripe the yoke. Gorgeous!

If you want to get rid of some yarn, make something pretty out of the colour combinations you aleady have, or just knit something at a thicker gauge than you would normally knit that yarn, then it’s time to ombré. By the way, I showed this poncho to my eight-year-old niece at Christmas so I could make sure it fit her. She originally asked for it to be blue. Upon seeing it, she asked if I could put some pink in it if it is not too much trouble. She’s eight…and she will get pink fringe on her blue ombré-striped poncho.

What are your favourite stashbusting tips?  Share them with us in the comments!

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About the Author

Amy lives in Chicago and can either be found knitting, writing about knitting, designing knitted things, or watching professional hockey while knitting. There is also a necessary cup of coffee nearby at all times, Follow her on Twitter @thefiberfriend for more yarny bits.

Last updated: February 19th, 2015.

17 Responses to Ombré stripes

  1. khistina leetham says:

    Thank you had heard of ombre but had no idea what it is. Now i know will have to give it a try .

  2. Myriam says:

    Great article, Amy; it sparks our creative plugs!

  3. Deryl says:

    To reduce my stash, I love to make toys. You know, stuffed animals are really fun to make and children love them. It sure helps cut down your left over balls of yarn.

  4. tamarque says:

    So you are saying Ombre means bleeding colors into each other in stripes. How is this different than color ways with several colors that seque into each other with long color runs? Are you saying this is all called ombre? Two yarns that I am thinking of is Patons Lace and a Poems yarn which is similar to the Patons.

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Tamarque…Amy here…Ombre means gradual. It’s not a designation for self-striping yarns, but rather a designation for the type of stripes presented. Ombre stripes gradually change from either lighter to darker, or darker to lighter. Hope this helps!

  5. Pat Kroll says:

    Nice idea but there is a better way to attach a new color than making knots….

    • Amy Kaspar says:

      Pat…Amy here…you’re right! There are several different ways to attach a new yarn, including weaving in the ends as you go (that’s my new favorite way). Usually when I am on the go, I make a quick, loose knot and then undo it when I weave in the ends later. What is your favorite way to join a new yarn?

  6. Elaine says:

    Now I’ve learned another tequnique! I will have to live to 100 to try all the new things I have learned. Thanks for keeping my needles clicking.

  7. Lena says:

    Thank you so much for the clear tutorial. I have to try this!! Such a beautiful technique.

  8. susan says:

    Ombre stripes just the thing to make a scarf to match my lovely new gloves

  9. Janet says:

    Thanks, Amy, I have been using that method for awhile now using up bits of wool knitting hats for Operation Cover Up, but didn’t know it actually had a name. Thanks for the tutorial.

  10. MJ says:

    Amy, I have a question about ‘sport’ weight and using two strands. What final weight would that make?

    Thank you for the ‘doubling’ information and the very cool Ombre Stripes instructions. I have three shades of blue that look good together, all leftovers from past projects. I think they will make a really nice scarf or shawlette.

    As always, this is another good article from you.

    Happy New Year and Happy Knitting and Writing!


    • Amy Kaspar says:

      MJ…Amy here…first, thanks so much for the kind words! The answer to your question is that it depends on two things: what terminology is used where you live, and where on the spectrum your yarn falls. The Craft Yarn Council designates seven weights of yarn (lace, superfine, fine, light, medium, bulky, and super bulky). Doubling yarn of one size brings you to the next yarn size, but a baby yarn in the United States may be different than a baby yarn in England. In general, two strands of sport brings you a DK or light-worsted weight, but since there are an infinite number of true yarn weights, just know there may be slight variation. Their rule-of-thumb list can be found at Hope this helps!

  11. MJ says:

    Thank you so much for your answer and for the Craft Yarn Council link. That was so thoughtful of you to share.

    So often I find PERFECT colors of yarn in the wrong weights. If the price is a good enough deal, I will increase the yardage I need and satisfy my color requirements. Works for me!

    Thank you again, and have a great day!


  12. Pat D says:

    Thx. Great and helpful article

  13. T says:

    Hi, I’m a beginner but I love the look of your scarf..could you provide us with a clear pattern with steps? I would really appreciate that. Thanks!

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