Which yarn weight is best to use?
The short answer is the yarn which works best for you.
The long answer involves me explaining the best method which has worked for me.
I like to use yarn which is slightly thinner than the yarn used to make the base knitting. So if I used 10ply/worsted for the knitting I will usually use 8ply/DK yarn for the embellishing. This seems counter-intuitive, but I have seen it work well on my own embellishments.
Here is some yarn swatched up in 10ply/worsted. On the left I have embroidered some duplicate stitch in 8ply/DK yarn, on the right in 10ply/worsted. You can see how the 10ply warps the knitting and looks chunky and messy, but the 8ply looks almost as though it is knitted in. It sits flatter and neater.
I usually knit with yarns which have a number of strands. (I am going to avoid using the word “plies” because the dual meaning of that word may cause confusion). For instance, Woolganics 8ply/DK yarn has 4 strands which make up the yarn. When I’m duplicate stitching I carefully remove one of those strands from a length of yarn, effectively making the yarn now ¾ of its original thickness.
To remove a strand of yarn it is usually necessary to hold the yarn taut while peeling off the excess strand. I glamourously hold the yarn taut between my teeth and one hand while using the other hand to peel off the strand. It is possible to be slightly more dignified if there is another willing participant nearby.
The removed strand can often be used in little details to be added at the end, so don’t throw it out or mourn the wasting of beautiful yarn.
Of course it is not necessary to use the same type of yarn to embellish with as you knitted your garment with. Often it is just as easy to find some yarn in your stash which feels a little thinner. Even within a yarn weight there can be a much variation in the way a yarn feels, so try some different yarns on different bases and see what works for you.
What do you need?
scraps of yarn
a knitted item to stitch on
Traditional Duplicate Stitch
This is how duplicate stitch usually looks:
Note the “v” shape of the stitches. The above duplicate stitching would usually be represented like this:
On a Watermellish chart, it would look like this:
This chart allows for half-stitches, which gives more design flexiblity and smoother edges to the picture.
Here you can see some possible stitch combinations involving half stitches:
How to Duplicate Stitch with Half Stitches
Bring the yarn out through the bottom of a \ / formation.
Take the yarn under the legs of the stitch above.
Now take the yarn through the legs of the two stitches below.
Now you are at the bottom of another \ / formation.
And start again, going under the legs of the stitch above.
And under the legs of the stitches below.
When you have the right amount of stitches complete you simply sink the needle into the bottom of the \/ formation, and the completed row will look like this:
That is where traditional duplicate stitch ends. But if you’re following a Watermellish chart and it has a half stitch on the end, you can continue like so:
And now that you’re familiar with duplicate stitch it is very easy to begin in the top of a /\ formation instead of the bottom of a \/ formation.
Work from the bottom of the chart, upwards, and from one side to the other along each row. Before changing rows, assess whether the first stitch is a /\ or \/ stitch so that you can plan where to take the needle to start the new stitch.
When working stitches diagonally it is important to pay attention to your tension, leaving a nice amount of slack and pulling gently and slowly. Similarly to kitchener stitch, it is safer to err on the side of slightly loose than too tight. It is easy to pull up a bit of slack a few stitches on when you stop to review your progress. The first stitch on a new line is prone to being pulled out of shape, and even more so if it is positioned diagonally from the previous stitch. Pay special attention to these stitches, and don’t be afraid to pull one out and try again. Before you start the new row, check which way the new row’s first stitch is sitting so you can put the needle in at the top of a /\ or the bottom of a \/ as appropriate.
Try not to stretch the yarn more than a stitch width across the back to get to a new stitch. You won’t want a web of threads across the back, and it can begin to look pulled like too-tight fairisle. Run your thread upwards as far as possible and then start a new thread for a new column of stitches.
Please let me know if you have any trouble with this tutorial or if there are other aspects of this technique you would like to see covered with a photo tutorial. If there is a demand for a downloadable pdf version of this tutorial then I will put one together.