Intarsia is commonly known as “picture” knitting.
It can take on a geometric, tartan, collage or pictorial form. This technique is used when working solid blocks of color. Any number of colors can be worked within a row. Each color uses its own ball or tail of yarn. This can be a ball, bobbin, yarn butterfly or simply a long strand depending on the size of the color block. As colors are changed, yarns must be twisted or crossed to lock into place when working this method. These twists will show on the back side.
When changing colors in a vertical line, the yarn must be twisted or crossed on every row. When changing colors in a diagonal line, the yarns need to be twisted on every other row. In stockinette stitch, if the diagonal slants to the right, the yarn should be twisted on the knit rows. If the diagonal slants to the left, the yarn should be twisted on the purl rows.
Considerations for Intarsia Knitting
- There is no limit to the number of colors possible in one row, although the level of difficulty increases because bobbins will be necessary for each color change.
- Charts are essential if following a preconceived pattern.
- This method does not work well in circular knitting as the yarn will be on the wrong side of the work.
- Stockinette and garter stitch are the most popular stitch patterns used with intarsia. Others may be used, but experimentation and swatching will be necessary.
- There is a definite right and wrong side to Intarsia.
- Unless otherwise stated, charts are generally worked in stockinette stitch (knit on the front or right side, purl on the back or wrong side).
- For the purpose of this practice piece, we will work in garter stitch (knit on both sides). This will create a flat piece that can later be used as a coaster if desired.
- Charts are worked from right to left on right side rows and left to right on wrong side rows.
A Basic Intarsia Block
We will be using two colors for this block. You will need two colors of yarn the same weight.
Cast on 25 stitches with your main color and a needle size recommended for your yarn.
Work the chart from right to left beginning with row 1 at the bottom of the chart and working upwards. For row 2, you will read the chart from left to right.
Rows are numbered along the sides: odd numbered rows are right side, even numbered are wrong side.
When the colors change in the chart, you will add your contrast color.
Note that the rows shown are only the right side rows. You will repeat the previous right side row for the wrong side. Charts are read right to left for right side rows and left to right for wrong side rows.