The dreaded double yarnover

Published on August 9, 2019 4 min read

Yarnovers are a great arrow in the knitting quiver. We can create holes in our knitting for everything from a button hole to a complicated lace pattern, simply by counting accurately and throwing the yarn over the needle without stitching anything. The single yarnover is usually fairly easy; it is written into a pattern as “yf,” “yo,” or “yif.” Double yarnovers, however, are sometimes a bit of a challenge, but a fantastic technique to master.

What you would use a double yarnover (yoyo) for?

A great use for the double yoyo is a button hole. If you have toggle buttons that you just love, but your sweater pattern is calling for slit-style button holes, you can replace the slits with the double yoyo and have a much more malleable hole for the button.

Another great use? Drawstring loops! Have you ever made a bag that cinches with an i-cord tie? No? Well, now you can. Just make sure there are an even number of holes if you are knitting in the round. This way, the tie will come out on the same side of the knitting when it is threaded through the holes.

Double vs single yarnover

The reason for doing a double versus a single yarnover is to create a larger hole than a single yarnover can create. If you want the hole to be only slightly larger, or you do not want to see the teeny purl bump at the top of the hole, there is another way you can purl back on the dreaded double yoyo. Instead of purling the first yarnover and knitting the second one, you can purl the first one normally and purl through the back loop on the second yarnover. This will tighten the hole a bit, and it will cause the purl bump to disappear.

For comparison, the hole on the top is a single yarnover. The one on the left is purled and then knitted on the purl-back row, and the one on the right is purled and then purled-through-back-loop on that same purl-back row. See how they are equally pretty but have a slightly different size and look to them? Be sure to block the crumbs out of your gauge swatch so you can decide which of the yarnovers looks the best for your project.

How to make a double yarnover

1

Get started. To create a double yarnover, or a “yoyo” (yes, I will keep finding excuses to type that), on the knit side, bring the yarn forward. Then, wrap the yarn around the needle as if to knit a stitch, and bring the yarn forward a second time. If you are saying “yo” and “yo” to yourself, say it every time you bring the yarn forward. When you get ready to knit the next stitch, proceed to bring the yarn round the needle. Double yarnover almost complete!

Pro Tip

Normally, when you purl back and reach a yarnover, you would purl the yarnover like any other stitch. In the case of the dreaded yoyo, however, there are some dos and don’ts. The main “don’t” is that you cannot purl both loops, or knit both loops. If you try purling both strands, you end up with one super-elongated stitch. It is not a hole; it is more like a belly button. Not pretty.

2

Purl first, knit second. So you either have to knit the first strand and purl the second one, or purl the first strand and knit the second one. I chose purl first, knit second. Be careful after purling that first strand, because the rest of the yarnover will be just dying to jump off of your needle; keep your tips closer together. When you switch from purl to knit in this case, bring your yarn to the back and slip your right needle tip into the yarnover from left to right so it “catches,” or stays in position for you to knit. See how loosey-goosey that second yarnover loop has become? Now, you have to knit that sucker.

Pro Tip

Your knit stitch will be slightly loose, but that is normal; you are knitting into a double loop, after all.

3

Count your stitches. Do make sure you count your stitches. By doing the dreaded double yoyo, you are increasing your stitch count by two. A pretty and decorative way to keep your stitch count even is to knit two together, do your double yoyo, and then slip-slip-knit. This leans the stitches on either side of the yarnovers away from each other, so they look like a little flower bud, and it decreases your stitch count by two on that row.

Pro Tip

In some lace patterns, the stitch count will change from row to row. Do read ahead in the pattern, or count the number of stitches required versus the number of stitches you should have at the end of a row, to ensure that the double yoyo is not just being used as an increase. Some patterns use this stitch as a way of increasing the number of stitches per row in a stealth way, and your decreases will not pair with your increases in this case.

The main hurdle with the dreaded double yarnover is making sure you do not lose that second loop on the purl-back row. You can see the yarn clearly wrapped around the needle twice as you look at it, so you will be reminded to make two stitches when you reach it. Just know that the second loop will look like a saggy mess after you purl that first loop; trust it, swap your yarn, move your tip, and knit. You've got this!

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