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Introduction to Intarsia

by Laura Bain

Intarsia knitting is not all that different than Fair Isle, except that multiple colors can be used on one row (Fair Isle only uses 2 at a time). Also, separate balls of yarn are added into the row for each color block, rather than carrying all colors across the row. 

More intarsia patterns are at the end of the page, under the instructions.

Union Jack Pillow
Knit in Soft unionJack
Sweet Argyle Dress
Knit in Anne Geddes Baby argyle
Gifts Around The Tree Skirt
Knit in Super Saver treeSkirt

Reading a Chart

ArgyleChartMost Intarsia knitting patterns are accompanied by a chart.  The chart is a visual representation of a written pattern. On the chart, each square is one knit stitch. Each knit stitch will be color coded to show which color you should work with. You may find it helpful to write in the numbers for any rows that are not labeled (and the columns in the repeat, for that matter).

As mentioned above, in comparison to Fair Isle, which is usually worked in the round, intarsia is usually worked flat, so you would read the chart as if it shows the right side of the work facing you. Therefore on the first row you would read as you knit, from right to left. When working flat, the second row would be worked in purl from left to right.

Hint: You may find it helpful to use a sticky note to cover up the rows you’ve already worked.

Changing Color

To change color in the middle of a row, or at any point when knitting, you simply drop the old color and pick up the new. You can use this technique to create stripes (the most simple of intarsia patterns), or to create an integrated border on a blanket or sweater. There is one caveat to that simplicity, because you may be changing color at the same vertical point repeatedly you will need to make sure you grab the new yarn by going under the old yarn (so as not to create a hole).

Because you will knit each color block with a separate strand of yarn (instead of carrying any one color across) you will want to wind multiple intarsia bobbins with the colors you will use.

bobbin

Begin by casting on the number of stitches called for in with any weight yarn and a comfortable size needle for that yarn. In my example I’ve chosen Red Heart Soft Baby Steps in Aqua and Lavender and size 8 needles. For my example, I have cast on 40 stitches and will work 2 of the pattern repeats from the chart above.

When you come to the point in your knitting that you need to change colors simply drop the first color and pick up the second. Continue working like this across the row:

adding_color_sm

As you build the project, row by row, the design will appear:

INT_front_sm

The back of the work should not show any carried yarn:

INT_back_sm

Now that you know the basics for intarsia knitting, here are a few more patterns which use this wonderful technique:

LW4266

Child's Foxy Tunic

BearHoodie

Baby Bear Hoodie

Introduction to Intarsia

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