Posted by: christinelaennec | March 7, 2012

Knitting tutorial: “Russian seams” for colour stripes

Apologies to regular readers who – quite understandably – have no interest whatsoever in arcane knitting techniques.  It’s just that I wanted to share what I’ve recently learned with others, and I thought my blog was the best way to have this available.  So if you’d like to see a cute picture of Tilly, scroll down, or if not, see you again soon I hope!

I’ve been knitting my Hopeful Stripy Cardigan (Wentworth, by Kaffe Fassett) where nearly every single row uses a new colour.   I saw that “caknits” on Ravelry mentioned using “Russian seams” (aka “Russian joins” or “Eastern European seams”).  She kindly explained it to me, and I’ve used it on the sleeves.  It results in a neat selvedge with absolutely no sewing-in of loose ends required.  Most of the online tutorials I found show the technique being used to splice two ends of the same wool, whereas “caknits” had used it to join two separate colours, and make the join appear at the selvedge.  If interested, read on:

1.  Knit until you reach the last four stitches of your row:

1: Knit until four stitches before the end of your row.

2.  Break off a tail of the yarn that you’re currently using, and line up a tail of the yarn you’ll use on the next row:

2. Break yarn to leave a tail, and line up a tail from the yarn for the next row.

3.  Cross the two yarns, and make two interlocking loops.  With a bit of experimentation, you will see how long the loop to finish your current row needs to be:

3. Make two interlocking loops.

4.  Holding the yarn in place, knit the last four stitches of the row with the loop you’ve made.  The yarn is therefore double, and there is a tail on the wrong side, four stitches in from the edge.

Knit to the end of your row with the loop you've made. The last four stitches are therefore with double yarn.

It doesn’t matter if you calculate your loop exactly, since the last stitch will be part of your seam anyway.

5.  At the end of the row, turn your knitting and start your next row with the loop of the new colour:

5. Turn your knitting and start the next row with the loop of new yarn.

6.  Knit the first four stitches with your yarn doubled.  Then drop the tail after the fourth stitch:

6. After you've knitted four stitches with your doubled yarn, leave the tail hanging at the back of the work.

And continue knitting with the single strand of yarn:

7. Continue knitting with the single strand of yarn.

Then, make room for the cat on your lap, as she doesn’t see why all this photography palaver should keep her away from the primary purpose of her owner’s knitting, namely for both cat and owner to have some cuddles and warmth:

Tilly on my lap. She is the ideal knitting companion and never interferes!

8.  After you’ve continued like this for a while, you will have a lot of tails (of yarn, not of cats) hanging at four stitches from the end, on the wrong side of your work:

7. Wrong side, with tails streaming.

8.  Carefully clip them off with scissors:

8. With some of the tails clipped. Hey presto!

I’ve been really pleased with how well this has worked.  I was a little worried that the double thickness of the four-stitch selvedge would be noticeable, but at least with this fine yarn it isn’t.  I think it would work well with thicker yarns as well, and it gives a really strong edge.

Thanks to “caknits,” and Happy Knitting!



  1. Beautiful result but you leave me speechless with your dedication to knitting. I can barely do knit one, purl one.

  2. Ooh, clever! Thanks for the great tutorial! xx

  3. very clever. And those colors, I can’t wait to see the finished result!

  4. Wow and doublely wow!!! How amazing is that…I will have to keep this post marked so that I can refer back to it. One reason I am reluctant to knit lots of stripes is the sewing in, so this is the way to go. Now I have something new to share during my workshops..thank you Christine.
    Is it spring yet in Aberdeen?

    PS: Kaffee of course never sews in any ends 😉

  5. Thank you for that Christine. Well explained and pictured (I cant do it without pics!). However, I am just blown away with your needle size. So narrow, it must take forever?
    Beautiful of course.

  6. What a beautiful sweater that’s going to be – I love the colors! I’m still at the scarf/dishcloth knitting stage!

  7. Brilliant! Thankyou very much for this.
    And what an excellent cat, to co-operate with your knitting. I don’t think either of our two would put up with that, although they do facilitate reading..

  8. What a great idea and even though I don’t knit, I do crochet and I think this will work equally well for that. I do love your yummy yarn and I think your sweater will be very cozy, summer or winter. Isn’t it unusual to have Tilly just sit there without wanting to attack all those yarn ends! She must be very sweet natured and she is certainly very pretty. I can’t wait to see your finished sweater! xx

  9. that is brilliant! i also am hesitant to do the different colors because of the all the sewing in at the end.

    this is fantastic, especially with the photos. that helps a lot. thank for cutting off the end bits so we could see what it looks like.

  10. Christine, love the photos. The finished product is really going to be lovely. An aside: I met a mother and her three children on the train yesterday when I was returning to Newcastle from Edinburgh. They were on their way to Leeds from Aberdeen, where they recently moved. I said, ‘I have a friend in Aberdeen! I hope to visit on my next trip.’ They were off to their auntie’s wedding; the two little girls were to be bridesmaids. They certainly livened up the ride, in a good way!

  11. Dear All,

    Gosh, I’m amazed so many of you were interested enough to read past the first sentence. Thanks for your interest and I’m glad if this was useful to you.

    Heike, I am honoured to have taught YOU something for a change! Yes I know that Kaffe will never be doing a Finishing Techniques workshop…

    Lorna and Jill, what you have to understand is that I have a very high knitting dependency (the new word for addiction?), so the more stitches the better. I have been known to be TWITCHING after a long flight without my knitting. Also, Continental knitting – which Heike taught me – makes it all go faster.

    Flora and Karen, our cat Tilly really is the most absolutely perfect cat for us in many, many ways – being a brilliant knitting companion is only one of her many merits.

    Karen, I hadn’t thought this could apply to crochet. You’ll have to do your own tutorial for that – cool!

    Ellen, I’m so glad you’ve had a good trip to the UK. Your travelling companions sound like good fun. You absolutely must venture further north next time you’re over!

  12. I’m no where near needing to attempt this, but will tuck it away for when I do. It looks very tidy. Actually I am sidetracked by the beauty of your sweater to be, if I’m honest. It is going to be such a gorgeous positive colour giving warm thing ….

  13. Oh crumbs – I think I am even more in awe after seeing it in action than when I just heard the rumours! Very clever indeed! 🙂

  14. This looks like a great technique, which I will remember for the next time, thanks for posting it, all hints and knitting tips very useful and what a beautiful Tilly!


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