How to knit helical stripes

Jen Bartlett explains how to work barberpole stripes in the round and avoid jogs when you change yarns.

How to work barberpole stripes

One of the problems with knitting stripes in the round is that each colour’s start and end points don’t meet up, as the end of the round is higher than the beginning – making a stair-step effect or ‘jog’. When you knit in the round, you are knitting in a spiral, so that each round is layered on top of the one before. This isn’t really noticeable when knitting with just one colour yarn, but the colour changes in striped fabric make it hard to miss.

Colour jogs in the round
Colour ‘jogs’ appear when knitting stripes in the round.

Helical, or helix, stripes take advantage of this spiral construction, with the colours following each other around, creating a barberpole effect. You don’t need to twist the yarns together or indeed do anything except knit one colour and then the next!

This tutorial will outline helix knitting with two colours in single row stripes – but don’t let that stop you from considering this method for three or more colours, as the concept is basically the same.

We are starting our stocking stitch stripes after a section of rib worked in yarn A, as you might for a sock cuff or hat brim. Placing equal numbers of stitches on each of your four DPNs will help keep things clear as you work.


Step 1

Knit across needles 1, 2 and 3 with yarn A.

Step 2

Go back to the start of the round and attach yarn B.

Helical knitting step 2

Step 3

Work across needles 1 and 2 with yarn B.

Helical knitting step 3

Step 4

Return to yarn A and work across needles 4 and 1.

Helical knitting step 4

Step 5

Return to yarn B and work across needles 3 and 4.

Helical knitting step 5

Continue in this manner and you’ll see your stripes swirling around in perfect unbroken stripes.

Be sure to keep your tension even and don’t twist your yarns together. Also, bear in mind that pulling on the new colour you’ve picked up, in order to tighten it, will cause distortion in the fabric, making the changeover more obvious. You’re aiming for a smooth, uninterrupted spiral.