Duplicate stitch is a technique that allows you to go back over your knitted fabric and create matching stitches over the knit stitches. Usually, you will do this with a contrasting yarn, but you can of course use a matching color as well.
In fact, this is a great way to personalise your knitting projects and it is often referred to as Swiss darning. Furthermore, it is usually only used when knitting stockinette.
In this tutorial we will take a closer look 2 different techniques for making the duplicate stich on the knit side of your project:
- How to make horizontal duplicate stitches
- How to make vertical duplicate stitches
Why Use Duplicate Stitches?
Knowing how to make duplicate stitches is a great skill to acquire as they have many uses, including:
- Adding design features to your knitting project
- Cover mistakes in your knitted fabric
- Avoiding long floats in stranded or fair isle knitting.
Using Duplicate Stitches as a Design Feature
Duplicate stitches are a quick and easy way to add some panache to your knitted fabric. By simply covering existing stitches with a contrasting yarn, you can create pictures, monograms, or words.
One of the benefits of using this technique is that you do not have to plan ahead. Instead, once your knitted project is finished, you can “play around” with different ideas before you settle on one.
This design approach works really well for small designs or motifs.
Using Duplicate Stitches to Fix Knitting Mistakes
When knitting stranded knitting or fair isle, it can be easy to make a mistake, especially when knitting complex patterns. For instance, you may forget to knit one or two stitches in a particular color.
This is when the duplicate stitch becomes really handy. Just stitch over the mistake with the correct color yarn, and voila, nobody will ever notice that you made a mistake.
Avoiding Long Floats in Stranded Knitting
In traditional Fair Isle knitting there are rules for how many stitches it should be between color changes. These rules are there so you will avoid long floats at the back of your work.
However, sometimes, when designing or knitting colorwork you want to just have a dash of color at longer intervals.
Of course, you can catch the floats every so often, but it can be a lot of hassle for just a few stitches. Actually, it might just as easy, and probably quicker, to use duplicate stitches instead.
Deciding on Your Duplicate Stitch Pattern
Before you start applying your duplicate stitches, you need to decide on the motif you want to add to your project.
There are numerous sources you can use as inspiration for your design. Pinterest can be a great place to visit. Cross stitch sites can also be great for getting the creative juices flowing.
However, wherever you get your inspiration from, you should sketch it out on a knitting graph paper.
Knit stitches are wider than they are tall, and this type of graph paper has been especially designed to reflect this.
If you chart out your design on a standard, square graph paper, you will end up with a motif that is distorted.
Before You Start Duplicate Stitching
It is easier to work the stitches if your knitted fabric lies flat. Therefore, your knitting project might benefit from being blocked first.
Ensure that the yarn you are using is suitable, i.e., it should be at least of an equal yarn weight to the main fabric.
It is recommended that you do not exceed 24 inches (approx. 60 cm) in length when cutting your yarn. If your yarn is too long, it might wear and snap after a while.
Likewise, when using lighter weight or delicate yarns, you may want to work with shorter lengths as these yarns can snap easily.
You can of course wing it and just read off your sketch or diagram as you are sewing.
However, if you want to make sure that your motif is correctly placed and balanced on your fabric, you may want to use an erasable fabric pen to transfer your pattern onto your fabric.
Just make sure you use the right type of pen for your project as they come in different variations.
If you do not use a fabric pen, you can of course just count your stitches to ensure the correct placement.
Start by finding the center point of your design and then mark this center point on your knitted fabric. This will make it easier to count out the stitches in your design. You can use a stitch marker or a piece of thread to mark the mid-point.
When stitching horizontally, most people find it easier to work the design from the bottom up. In addition, if you are right-handed, you will probably find it easier to work from right to left.
Conversely, if you are left-handed, it might be easier for you to work from left to right.
- Blunt yarn needle
- Pattern design
- Yarn in same yarn weight
How to Make Horizontal Duplicate Stitches on the Knit Side
Use this method to work across a row.
The horizontal duplicate stitch is a great technique for either hiding mistakes or adding embellishment.
Right-handed knitters may prefer to work from right to left when using this technique. On the other hand, left-handed knitters would probably like to work from left to right.
Thread the needle with a length of yarn.
Either weave in the yarn end at the back now or leave it till later. You can find a step-by-step tutorial on how to weave in ends here: Learn How to Weave in Yarn Ends
With your needle, come through the knitted fabric at the bottom of the first stitch you want to work with.
Push your needle behind the V that is right above the stitch you are working with (i.e., the two strands along the top of the stitch).
Push your needle back through the bottom of the stitch. If you are making another stitch, push the under the two strands at the bottom of the next stitch. Then bring the needle up again at the bottom of the neighbouring stitch.
Make sure to keep the yarn tension even, so the new stitch is not too loose nor too tight. The yarn should cover the stitch underneath properly. Adjust if necessary.
Continue like this until you have the desired number of duplicate stitches.
Bring the needle through to the back of your project and weave in the end.
If you have not already secured the initial yarn end, do that now.
How to Make Vertical Duplicate Stitches on the Knit Side
Use this method to work a column of stitches.
Just as the horizontal duplicate stitch, the vertical duplicate stitch is perfect for both hiding mistakes and adding embellishments to your project.
Thread your needle with a piece of yarn.
If you prefer, you can weave in the yarn end at the back now. Alternatively, you can leave this until you have finished stitching. We have a step-by-step tutorial on how to weave in ends that you can find here: Learn How to Weave in Yarn Ends
Start your vertical stitches from the top and work your way down.
Bring the point of the yarn needle up through the bottom of the first stitch.
Sew behind the two strands along the top of the stitch.
Push your needle back through the bottom of the stitch and pull the yarn through to the back of the fabric.
Bring the needle back up through the center of the next stitch below.
Bring the needle behind the legs of the stitch above. Your needle should be just under the two strands of duplicate stitch.
Sew back through the bottom of the stitch. Then pull the yarn through to the back of the fabric.
Repeat steps 7 to 9 until you have completed your vertical column.
Weave in the yarn you have been sewing with.
If the yarn end at the beginning of the motif has not been secure, you need to weave in this as well.
A Few Final Tips
Adding duplicate stitches to your project is like adding another layer to your knitting. Inevitably, this will make the knitted fabric a bit bulkier as well as stiffer. Be sure to take this into account when you plan your project.
You might be tempted to go for a thinner yarn to avoid any bulkiness. However, thinner yarn will not cover your knit stitches properly.
In fact, you should use a yarn that is either the same as the knitting yarn or thicker for your duplicate stitches.
If you have several rows of horizontal stitches on top of each other, use the technique demonstrated in the vertical duplicate stitch tutorial to move your yarn from one row to the next.
Remember that duplicate stitches can easily be removed if you would like to create a new design on your garment.
However, you should be aware that over time the color of your fabric may have faded. This may leave the stitches under the original motif looking darker.
Sometimes you would want a curve to be a bit smoother. When that is the case, you can cheat and just duplicate stitch half a stitch.