Intarsia is actually a woodworking term, where it refers to inlaying different colours or types of wood to create a design.
From my perspective there are 4 types of intarsia knitting.
- 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.
- Create a geometric design over a whole garment such as tumbling blocks as per a Kaffe Fassett design.
- 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.
- 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.
The twisting and changing of yarns always occurs on the wrong side of the work.
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.
- When knitting a picture – to change the colour of a section of the design.
- If you missed a colour change add it when garment is completed.
- 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.
- Cast on 45 stitches with an appropriate needle for the cotton being used.
- Knit 15 st white, 15 st red, and 15 st white.
- Knit to the desired size.
- Cast off
- Knit 16 rows
- Reverse the colour sequence – knit 15 st red, 15 st white, and 15 st red
- Repeat 2 times more or till the wash cloth is the size you wish it to be
- 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!
I know from my experience and the experiences of knitters around me that color work has a lot of demons. All these fancy, demonic words, like Fair Isle and Intarsia can cloud a lot of really straightforward concepts. I know that even some veteran knitters don’t do color work, just because of how scary the prospect seems. Today, I just want to try to make it seem less scary. These tips are not advanced color knitting, just basic, beginner steps to the wonderful world of color.
Let’s start with my personal favorite, Fair Isle. Fair Isle knitting is not only beautiful to look at, but can be really fun to knit once you get the hang of it. It does require a little more concentration than knitting in one color, but the finished object will be well worth it. I started looking for videos on Youtube, like I always do when starting a new technique, but I soon discovered that no one was really explaining it well. Sure, they made it look impressive and flashy, but it’s difficult to see the technique through that. I’m going a step further, to show the process, rather than the flash.
When knitting in Fair Isle, you need to remember a few things. Firstly, you should always use the Stockinette Stitch when knitting Fair Isle. You will need a clear Right and Wrong side to your project. Secondly, you will need to remember that Fair Isle knitting should use no more than 3 colors, and, depending on yarn weight, only 2. Since the yarns are carried across the Wrong side, that side will become the back or inside of the object. If you have too many yarns carried across the back, the object will become heavy (and overly warm if it is a wearable object).
Before you cast on, you have to know how to read your pattern chart. This is very simple. Use the key on your pattern for less obvious marks, like you would on a map. If there is only a difference in color, and there are only two colors, there will not usually be any specific markings. You will need to reference your key for additional color and stitch information when necessary. Unless otherwise stated in your pattern, you should begin your chart in the bottom right corner. Reading from right to left, look at how your row is worked, taking note of both color and stitch changes. Go on to the next row, reading from left to right, noting the same information, and that’s all there is to it!
Now, cast on your project. Unless otherwise stated in your pattern, you will begin your chart on the row immediately following cast on. Follow your chart stitch by stitch. I have trouble sometimes remembering where I am on a chart, so I like to tick off every few stitches on my chart and sometimes, for short patterns, even right it out in numbers. For example:
“Row 4: knit 8 sts in white, 3 in black, 8 in white.
5:Purl 8 sts in white, 3 in black, 8 in white.
6:K6W, 7B, 6W.
7:P6W, 7B, 6W.”
“But how do you add the second color?” This is where most people get skittish. Do not cut the strand of yarn on the first color. When it comes time to add the second color, make sure you are on a WS row. Simply let go of the first color, take the second color, leave a short tail, and simply use the new strand to continue knitting or purling the row. That’s all there is to it! That’s not so hard, is it? Then, when you need the first color again, let go of the 2nd color and continue knitting with the 1st, carrying it along the WS. (Make sure you carry on the same side when doing the knit AND purl stitch.) It will come quite naturally once you get the hang of it.
Need something a little simpler? This next tip is just for you! Maybe you’re just looking to try some simple stripes, or even just starting a new ball of yarn. There are SO many different ways to do this- I’m about to tell you my favorite, and probably the most simple. Starting at the end of a row, leaving a short tail, snip off the first yarn. Make a slip-knot. (I like to do this by holding my left hand in front of me with my thumb up and index and middle fingers pointing to the right. Starting at the top, loop the yarn around your middle and index fingers once from back to front. Push the strand between your middle and index fingers inside the loop, pull off, and tighten. Voila, slip knot!) Slip the strand of the first yarn through the slip knot of the second yarn. Tighten. When tightening, make sure the knot goes all the way up to the needle, and that your new yarn is attached snugly.
Key points for Color Knitting;
- Pay good attention to the chart and pattern for color AND stitch information.
- Always make sure the new yarn is joined snugly.
- Always add new yarn on the WS.
- Be sure to weave in all ends. I like to make a small knot on the WS before weaving them in if the FO will be used a lot.
- Remember that color work is only as scary as you make it.
- It may take a few tries to get it right, so don’t be afraid to frog it. Just make sure the 2 colors don’t get tangled.
- When carrying a color, make sure the strand doesn’t have to go too far unsupported.
I hope this helps you! Be sure to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any additional questions!