It’s a little gross, but it works

If you knit a lot of large projects – or projects involving more than one skein of yarn, you have encountered the step of switching from one skein of yarn to another mid-project. This is called a ‘join’ or a ‘tie-on’ in knitting lingo, and there are a lot of different ways to do it. You might know twelve different ways. It’s also entirely possible that you’ve been sort of Macguyver-ing this step and are convinced there is a better way to do it than your way. If you’re happy with the results you’ve been getting, by all means keep doing it.

Truthfully, you’ve got many fun options available to you, including simply dropping the old yarn and picking up the new one and returning later on to weave in the ends. There’s also the tried-and-true method of overlapping the incoming and exiting yarns with each other (holding them both yarns together and knitting a few stitches with both), or the approach of tying a square knot between the exiting and incoming tails of yarn, proceeding by knitting with the new yarn. I’ve used both of these options before, and they work just fine. The main downside with both of these options is that they  involve coming back later to deal with the ends.

Splice1

If you’re working with 100% wool, more methods are available to you – in particular, the spit splice. Strands of wool (and it must be 100% regular wool, not superwash wool or wool blended with other things) have the ability to get fuzzy and friendly with other strands of wool. The same qualities, incidentally, that allow wool to felt – the planned and purposeful version of shrinking a piece of knitting – allow you to execute a spit splice.  Just as any kind of wool felting involves three steps: moisture, heat, and friction, a spit splice also needs all of these things! If you’re not familiar with this join, here’s how it goes:

Splice2

(I grabbed this yarn from my leftovers bin, but in case you’ve fallen in love with it, it’s Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, in ‘amethyst.’)

1. First, separate the plies of your wool yarn at the ends (as pictured above). The yarn pictured is 4-ply which means I could actually go in and tease out all 4 individual plies on each of the two ends, but as you’ll see, separating the plies into 2 sections each does just fine. And, if you had a 2-ply yarn, you’d only be able to separate it out into 2 individual plies anyway.

Splice3

2. Next, arrange these unwoven plies so that they are overlapping and getting friendly with each other. Again, you can be as meticulous or non-meticulous as you want. Mostly you just want the plies from one end to intermingle with the plies from the other end.

Splice4

3. Apply the moisture required for the felting step – yes, this is the step where you actually spit on the yarn! If you’d prefer not to get quite that personal with your wool, you can apply water or run it under the tap, but I have no shame in admitting my splices are happily infused with my own spit. (I really put as much of myself into my knitting work as I can.) You can also just lick the whole thing in your mouth if you want – it doesn’t take long and is quite effective, although you do of course risk getting a fuzzy tongue.

(God I can’t wait to see the search strings that result from this post. I’m so sorry, blog.)

4. Finally, you’re going to apply the friction and heat at the same time, by rubbing the splice vigorously between your hands. This is going to take vigorous motion (i.e. more briskly than rolling a rolling pin), but will not take you very long. I bet this must look really fun to kids. Heck, grown-ups have fun with this part. Possibly after the first go you might have a few bunched-up portions, so go back a second or third time to rub those smoothly if you like.

Splice5

Ta-da! A  successful join. The nice thing about this is that you have no ends to weave in afterwards. Once the work is finished you’re not likely to notice it, but it’s still prudent to place this somewhere other than front-and-centre across the middle of your sweater, say. As you might imagine, this kind of join is especially useful on a project where a simple overlap or knotted join might be either very obvious (on a piece of lace knitting, for example), or when you’ve already got a lot to deal with and you don’t want to have to worry about two more ends (such as a colour-work project). It does, however, only work when you are joining the same colour to itself.

So there you have the spit-splice, folks. Is this already one of the tools in your knitting toolbox? What’s your favourite method of joining yarn ends?

Happy Wednesday!
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42 Comments

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42 responses to “It’s a little gross, but it works

  1. Yuriko

    Actually… this looks like a nicer way than any of the other joins I’ve seen yet! I thought I liked the Russian join, but it was still bulky :( I’ll be trying this next time!

  2. Sam Varty

    Weaving in the ends of a Dale of Norway sweater took me almost as long as knitting the sweater itself. (well, not quite, but it felt like it!)

  3. I sometimes break off a ply or two from each end so that the join is even more seamless/less bulky. Also, this was awesome “I have no shame in admitting my splices are happily infused with my own spit. (I really put as much of myself into my knitting work as I can.)” :-D

  4. I’ve seen this mentioned before but never really ‘got’ it, hadn’t realised you needed the friction and, erm ‘moisture’ to get it to work – great guide, thanks! Hate weaving ends in and will give this a go next time.

  5. I’ve tried to splice without any success….now I see that I was just missing the spit!

  6. This is something new to try, I hate sewing I the ends! (> <)

  7. Elsa Louise

    I’ve used it before & it works great, you can’t see the join at all :-)

  8. Karen Shannon

    I love the spit splice. Joining the new yarn as part of the old still seems like magic to me. Just now, however, I am knitting with cotton. Do you have any insight how to get a decent join with that?
    Btw, love your blog and your designs.

  9. Laura s.

    Thanks for the info. What a neat trick

  10. I’ve done a fair bit of spit-splicing but lately, I just prefer to weave in the ends. Sometimes it works great (like with Noro or other single plies) but often the spit-splice ends up looking a little bulky in the finished knitting. i’m not always confident mine will hold up anyway!

  11. Diane S

    I always use the spit-splice method. My was husband was impressed and a little horrified since I put it in my mouth. Haha. But he understands now how felting works!

  12. Ha! I knew from the title what it was going to be about. It’s such a useful way to join, for when you can’t be bothered to go back to the ends, as you’ve said, but also when you’re worried about yardage, every inch counts!

  13. Julia

    This is a great trick! People on the bus look at me funny when I do it but it works so well. I figured out a method for joining two yarns of different colors: first, remove one ply of each end to be joined (leaving about a 2 or 3-inch tail that is thinner than the rest of the yarn). Next, overlap the two ends and fold each one back on itself so that they are like two interlocking bent fingers. Then twist each end back around the main part of its own color (adding a little counter-twist will help hold the twist in place). Finally, do the spit-felting to cement the join. The result looks as if one color just ends and the other begins.

  14. I bet future Google searches for “fuzzy tongue” will all lead to this post. Thanks for the photo tutorial and the enjoyable read as always. I knit mostly with superwash yarn as Dubai is not wool weather, but this is a good thing to know if ever I move somewhere cold.

  15. Yay, spit splice! LIke many others, I remove some of the plies before splicing. And I don’t spit on my yarn; I lick my palm and then add friction. TMI?

  16. this method seems wreird, but interesting. I will try when I have a suitable project where I can apply this method. Have a nice Wednesday, too! Bjmonitas

  17. Sue

    I never even thought of putting the yarn in my mouth. I have always just licked my palm, laid the two pieces down on it end to end, licked my other palm, and rubbed them together. I’m sure that this came about “back in the day” when people were not quite so germ phobic or worried about bodily fluids as we are these days. Considering the finished garment will be washed and blocked, I don’t see a problem with this.

  18. Rebecca ladd

    Never heard of this method. It makes me laugh! Since I only knit with wool I’ll try it next time. Thanks!

  19. Claudia

    I remember when I first learned this technique at my local yarn shop during a sweater class. I was so impressed. I use it all the time–and I love showing it to new knitters.

  20. I’ve been using this method for decades (ever since seeing EZ doing it on video), but I was super surprised when my daughter, age 20, showed me her first completed sweater (Maree from Twist Collective), knitted with no input from me, and when asked how she joined in new balls, responded, “Oh, I spit-spliced them.” Of course. And I thought she hadn’t been noticing what I was up to all those years!

  21. very nice reference!! thanks

  22. The spit-splice gives you a new level of compassion for your kitty and her furballs! :-)

  23. I’ve always been a bit afraid of knitting with wool (perhaps partly because I live in Florida) but you make it seem a lot less terrifying. Maybe I’ll give it a try some time, not sure what I’d knit off-hand, though. Any suggestions?

  24. Gail

    I love to use spit-splice when doing a large project like an afghan or when knitting from top down. I just keep a little water by my side while knitting.

  25. Amanda – I think the best thing would be to browse some wool yarns at your local shops (or when travelling), and choose the ones that you like the feel and colours of. You can knit just about anything with wool (hats, blankets, scarves, sweaters), so it should really be out of a wool that pleases you! ;)

    G

  26. Elizabeth – How brilliant! Both that you got to learn it from EZ on video and that your daughter picked up the know-how on her own ;)

    Glenna

  27. Does anyone ever knit wool washcloths? I usually use cotton but that might be an interesting way to get my feet wet if it wouldn’t lead to disaster. Or should I just try “cozy” things?

  28. I’ve seen other knitters using this method lately in my knitting group. I just don’t trust that it will stay together. And, you’re right….it is a little gross. lol I still tie a little knot each time and weave in my ends with a tapestry needle.

  29. MollyMay

    I tried this method once but couldn’t get it to work. How long are the sections that you overlap to join (i.e. pull apart and splice together?) maybe I used too small sections? The join wasn’t strong enough and kept pulling apart.

    Also, I really enjoy your blog. I usually read it in the morning with my coffee. The way write makes me feel like I’m just having a cuppa with a friend & talking knitting (if that makes any sense).

  30. MollyMay

    Errrr…..that should read “the way you write” not “the way write”. (I even proofread that comment before submitting), must need more coffee!

  31. Jen

    I love the spit splice & use it whenever I can. But just remember, if using white wool, don’t drink coffee or tea before splicing! Ask me how I know.

  32. I love this join. You have to be careful the yarn is not too thick or it may show. Enjoy your blog

  33. Hands-down my favourite join! I’ve also heard some people refer to it as the “felted” join. Perhaps a more appealing term…

  34. Perhaps we could call it the “lick it and stick it” method?

  35. This is BY FAR my favorite join. It works so well!

  36. Anthea Winterburn

    I’ve been using this method for years as my Mum used to do it as well. You can get them to combine with out the damping – you can use a bit of water from the tap! – you need to overlap it more but still unravel the plys.

  37. May

    I really like the spit splice and use it all the time. I was knitting in my doctor’s waiting room when I needed to join yarn — I tried to be as discrete as I could as non-knitters would have been grossed out!

  38. So what if it’s gross? This is a great idea!

  39. I’ve been wet splicing for about a year, my beginners sock book told me to do it, so I did! I also find it works well with wool content 75% and more.

    Brenda

  40. NottinghamKnitter

    Wow, I have never heard of this method before and it’s ingenious! Thank you so much for sharing!

  41. This has to be my favorite way to join ends. And a little spit won’t kill anyone so who cares?

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