Knit Intarsia (by Connie Johnston)

March 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Colorwork

Knit Intarsia:

Intarsia is actually a woodworking term, where it refers to inlaying different colours or types of wood to create a design.

Intarsia is also a knitting technique used to create patterns or designs with more than one colour in a block or section. The intarsia sections can be any shape or design you like.

From my perspective there are 4 types of intarsia knitting.

  1. Knit a picture as you knit the garment – such as a truck on the front of a boys sweater, or a heart on a girls sweater. The pattern is provided on a graph.
  2. Create a geometric design over a whole garment such as tumbling blocks as per a Kaffe Fassett design.
  3. Let your mind take over and knit in a freeform way using many colours as I do on all or part of your garment or art piece.
  4. Icelandic Intarsia – where all the work is completed in garter stitch only.

Unlike Fair Isle knitting, in intarsia the yarn is not carried across the back of the work. You knit with a separate length of yarn for each block or section of colour

Knit Intarsia – basics:

Straight vertical stripes are the simplest intarsia design to create. After the first row, the pattern is continued by always knitting each stitch in the same colour as the previous row, changing colours at the exact same point in each row.

When you wish to change the colour bring the new colour up under the old, and trap the old yarn between the new yarn and the knitting which reduces the risk of a hole at ajunction of two colours.

The twisting and changing of yarns always occurs on the wrong side of the work.

Getting this right reduces the risk of holes at the colour changes and is the most important technique to master.  

Do try to keep your tension consistent as you switch colours and to not knit too tightly or too loosely with a new colour although blocking will improve slight uneven tension in the knitting.

Learn to manage many yarns in one row without too much tangling. The yarns will tangle, so it is a matter of working out the best way for you to manage them. You can use bobbins or use lengths that are more manageable. Run your fingers through the yarns as you do to reduce the problem works well if using many short lengths of yarn.

Weave in the ends of the yarn as you go where possible.

Swiss darning can be used to change a section if you wish.

  1. When knitting a picture – to change the colour of a section of the design.
  2. If you missed a colour change add it when garment is completed.
  3. Embellish an intarsia knit

Knit Intarsia – work a simple design:

Create a washcloth using the intarsia technique:

Knit a wash cloth in cotton in two colours with a stripe knitted up the centre 15 stitches using the intarsia method.

  1. Cast on 45 stitches with an appropriate needle for the cotton being used.
  2. Knit 15 st white, 15 st red, and 15 st white.
  3. Knit to the desired size.
  4. Cast off


  1. Knit 16 rows
  2. Reverse the colour sequence – knit 15 st red, 15 st white, and 15 st red
  3. Repeat 2 times more or till the wash cloth is the size you wish it to be
  4. Cast off

Create a scarf using the intarsia technique:

Knit as above with wool or mohair yarns and an appropriate needle size and continue with the 16 rows of each sequence until you have the right length for a scarf.

Knit Intarsia – work a simple charted design: coming next!


One Response to “Knit Intarsia (by Connie Johnston)”
  1. Sugel says:

    ..If it is intarsia..You will need to put the yarns you will be using on 2 little bobbins. ..The main thing when doing intarsia is to make sure that you weave the yarns around each other so as not to create a gap between the main color and the secondary color.

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