By the simplest definition, stranded colorwork describes knitting a multicolor pattern and working each row with at least two colors at the same time. As you knit stitches with one color, the other colors are stranded along the wrong side of the work until needed.

There are a few conventions for stranded knitting: Usually each row or round is limited to two colors (though many more may appear in the work as a whole), the length over which a single color is stranded is often not longer than five to seven stitches, and the right side of the work is generally stockinette stitch. These “rules” are for ease of working; they can be broken without fear of arrest by knitting police, although breaking them may induce pearl clutching in certain individuals. If photos of the blasphemous work are publicly available, this can sometimes result in an onslaught of messages from the above-mentioned individuals, wondering if you have not, in fact, heard of the proper way to knit with two colors. Also, be aware that the term “Fair Isle” should be used with caution, as it refers to a specific regional style under the umbrella of stranded colorwork. If your peeries aren’t traditional and your yarn is from the wrong sheep, you’d better prepare yourself for some serious shunning! However, such harsh judgment is unlikely from the average knitting community, which is filled with needlework scofflaws such as ourselves. (I have magnanimously assumed that readers of this article are as prone to rule breaking as I am.)