Friday, February 05, 2021

How to Work a Russian Join.

I’ve been knitting for over 40 years.  In that time, I’ve tried most of the usual methods for joining yarn - in the middle of a row, whether it’s weaving in the ends during or after knitting, spit splicing, or an invisible knot.   Most often though, I would just avoid changing yarn in the middle of a row and sew my ends into the side seams during finishing. 

In the last few years, however, I’ve developed a love for seamless construction, without any need for sewing up afterwards.  With this, I wanted to find the neatest method for joining yarn in the middle of a row.

I’ve tried the Russian join several times in the past, but I hadn’t managed to perfect it until recently.  My joins always seemed to turn out lumpy, with the cut ends slightly protruding.  Last year, however, I started a project that necessitated that I really got to grips with honing my Russian joining skills and I developed my own technique that I believe is about as invisible as a join can be.

Projects that are improved by working a Russian join -

I’ve been working on my ‘Blending a Spectrum’ project for quite a while.  You can see some of my progress on Instagram.  For my first set of blends, I decided to knit each set of 24 colours into a single heart.  I had lots of short lengths of handspun yarn, that were only useful for knitting very small amounts and I wanted to see how the colours transitioned together.

These were my first two attempts at knitting a 24 coloured heart, and the reason I decided to master the Russian join.  The first heart shows how weaving in ends can sometimes distort the knitted stitches and the second... well the knitting is neater, but you can see how far I got before I decided to give up!  

Russian joining all your yarn for a project into one ‘magic ball’ before you start can create a beautiful self-striping yarn.  For the hearts, I spent quite a while Russian joining 24 x 60cm lengths of handspun yarn together before I started.  The joining was a little tedious, but it did give me an uninterrupted session of satisfying striped knitting.  Working over 150 Russian joins in quite a short period of time allowed me to explore the best methods for threading and cutting a Russian join.

'Magic Ball' made by joining together 24 graduating colours.

I’ve seen several talented knitters that have designed their own self-striping socks by Russian joining together matching ‘magic balls’ so that they can have an identical pair of striped socks that are not only unique, but stash busting too - finishing off all those ball ends of precious handspun yarn that are too small to do anything else with must be very satisfying.

Bead Knitting 

I also find a smooth Russian join to be invaluable when I’m bead knitting.  The beading technique I prefer requires me to thread the beads on prior to knitting. If a project uses 2000 beads, it is much more manageable (and less frustrating) to thread on enough beads for about 10 rows, work those beads, break off the yarn and thread on more beads, (joining with a Russian join) than it is to thread on 2000 beads from the beginning and have to keep repeatedly pushing those beads down your yarn.  A good Russian join is smooth enough to pass beads over and, on handspun yarn, it is practically invisible as it just mimics the naturally slubby nature of most handspun yarn.

I’ve made a video of my technique for working a Russian join which you can find here -

If, like me, you prefer to learn by photo tutorial, I’ve taken all the pertinent frames from the video and broken it down into a step by step tutorial.

Materials I use to work a Russian join


Photo Tutorial of how to work a Russian Join

Thread one end of yarn through a big eye needle and lay the second yarn that you want to join it to at right angles over it.

Bring the threaded big eye needle over the overlapping yarn...

... and insert it into the middle of the yarn

I find slightly untwisting and pushing the yarn towards the needle helps to open up the centre of the yarn so that you can pass the needle through.

Thread the needle through about 6 to 7 cm of yarn. (You can see here that I didn’t manage to keep the needle completely inside the yarn for a small section. This is fine, it’s really only the last couple of centimetres that this is important.)

Pull the needle and yarn through...

... and then remove the needle from the yarn.

Thread the other yarn end through the big eye needle.

Repeat threading the needle through the second section of yarn, inserting it as close as possible to the overlapping point...

... and trying to keep the needle inside the strands as much as possible.

Pull the threaded needle through the yarn.

Pull the loose yarn ends so that the areas where the needle entered meet in the middle.

Tug the yarn ends tightly so that the inner yarn is taut.

Gather the outer yarn down towards the overlap point to reveal a large section of the inner yarn. With the blade of a scalpel, craft knife or sharp scissors, stroke the inner yarn up and down to fray and taper the end.

Fraying and tapering the cut like this helps the inner yarn to grip the outer yarn, while helping to minimise and hide the cut end.

Repeat by fraying and cutting the second yarn end.

Pull the two yarns apart to let the frayed ends go inside the yarn.

And it’s done! One finished Russian join that looks just like a slightly thicker section in handspun yarn.

I do hope you’ve found this useful.  If you have, please pin it to Pinterest, it makes a big difference!

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to work the Russian join. If you click through and purchase anything from Amazon, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.


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