As a maker / designer, I'm not really big on embellishment unless we're talking Christmas, which I love to cover with sequins, beads and glitter at every opportunity. I do knit and crochet with sparkly yarn too, but I wouldn't normally dream of embroidering a piece of knitwear. Sometimes though, things are just too plain – like the little silver coloured baby jumper I made recently:
Whilst I love the simple clean look of the mini boat neck sweater, it was just crying out for a little fun to be injected, so I thought it was a good time to learn Swiss darning or 'duplicate stitch', which involves stitching on the knit side of stockinette stitch (there's a piece over on Mollie Makes that explains all).
From what I've gathered so far, duplicate stitch can be used in lots of different ways in knitting. You can use it to make a simple decorative edging (there's a step by step at the source for this picture):
Or perhaps an all over pattern? This is actually called 'thrummed knitting' where you create the 'duplicate' stitch with wool roving, which makes for a very messy looking, but supremely warm wrong side (check out this free pattern):
Duplicate stitch also looks great when used as an integral part of the design – especially if you choose a colour that really stands out from the background, as the Purl Bee have with this Friendly Fair Isle sweater (pattern link here):
It does seem to be a technique that lends itself to making it up as you go along too, as with this very simple but effective design on a child's cardigan:
The way it seems to be most commonly done though is to create a motif from a chart. I actually bought a little collection of charts for my motif, but you could easily use any other kind of free chart available on the internet, and I reckon cross stitch charts would be great for this too. You can also create your own charts of course, there's a useful piece about that on 'Knitty'.
Here's my little sweater with its foxy motif:
I do like the look of the final result, although it wasn't without challenges… The back of the motif can be rather messy if you're working with several colours – it's an awful lot of yarn ends to have to weave into a small space when you think that you not only have to weave in the start of each piece of thread to anchor it, as well as the end. If covering a large area, you'll also need to use several pieces of thread for each colour, if you're to avoid unwieldy lengths of yarn to stitch with. For my motif, I used yarn of the same aran weight as the sweater, but I stupidly chose to use cotton, which meant that it didn't have enough body to entirely cover the 'v' of the knit stitch underneath and it feels a bit stiff (cotton, just ain't stretchy like wool!). I think what I'd do next time is to use exactly the same yarn for the stitching that I used for the knitting below or, if I couldn't get the colours I needed in that yarn, make sure the replacement is as close a fibre match as possible. All in all though, I will definitely use the technique again – at least until I master knitting intarsia with enough speed to avoid making it feel like torture!