Duplicate stitch or Swiss darning is a quick and easy way to add a bit of extra color and pizazz to a finished knitting project. If you've knit something in plain Stockinette and it's come out a little, well, plain, adding some duplicate stitching is a great way to fix it.
Before You Stitch
Before you get started covering up all that plain knitting, however, it's important to know that duplicate stitch doesn't work equally well in all applications. It's best used over relatively small areas of knitting because you're literally duplicating the stitches, which makes them twice as thick as before.
This can make your fabric really heavy, stiff and not as drapey as the portions of the project that don't have duplicate stitch applied to them. Sometimes this might not make much of a difference (as on a bag, blanket, or project you're going to felt, for example), but it can make a garment less attractive and comfortable to wear.
Ways to Use Duplicate Stitch
Having said that, there are still a lot of possiblities when it comes to using Swiss darning on a finished knitting project, such as:
- adding initials, a monogram or a short word or phrase to a piece of knitting
- adding a few small motifs scattered across the fabric
- adding a larger but relatively simple, outline design (as opposed to a design that's going to cover a large amount of the knit base)
- outlining or further embellishing other colorwork already in the project, such as adding another color to a Fair Isle or intarsia motif, or even adding another color to stripes (or a narrow vertical or diagonal stripe on top of horizontal stripes)
- to make a face, as on the bunny hat and dog hat
Duplicate Stitch Tips
The most important thing when it comes to duplicate stitch is to try to keep the tension of your sewing consistent, and the same as the tension used in the knitting. You want to actually cover up the stitches you knit, so don't pull the yarn so tight or leave it so loose that you can easily see the stitch behind it.
As much as possible, weave ends into the area where you stitched the duplicate stitch so the new color doesn't show through the original knitting. Likewise if you're stitching multiple motifs that are more than a couple of stitches apart, cut your yarn and start over in the new place to avoid big messy strands on the back of the work.