Before You Knit: Intarsia Knitting Demystified

Ready to visually understand the basics of knitting intarsia? This informative intarsia knitting video download, Inside Intarsia with Anne Berk, will help knitters of all levels work through the ins and outs of how to knit intarsia. From managing yarns to knitting intarsia in the round, watch this video to get a deeper understanding of this technique. Discover intarsia and gain the confidence to take your colorwork to the next level.

Estimating Yardage for Each Color Section

Using the intarsia chart, count the number of overall stitches within one section of color, or motif. For example, the light blue circle motif at the lower right of the Wobbly Circles chart on page 86 contains 142 sts over 21 rows. Wind the yarn to be worked for this motif loosely around your needle 142 times (once for every stitch). Add another 8 to 10″ (20 to 25 cm) for tails before you cut the yarn. Wind the yarn onto a bobbin or into a butterfly. Repeat for each motif to be worked.

Managing the Strands of Yarn

There are several ways to manage the lengths of yarn that hang from the wrong side of your work that include winding the yarn onto a bobbin or into a butterfly, or letting the strands hang loose.

A bobbin is a small spool-like tool, usually made from plastic and available from most craft and yarn stores. It is meant for holding small amounts of yarn. When you work with the color on the bobbin, unwind several inches of yarn and knit the stitches in that color. Before moving on to the next color, wind the old color back onto its bobbin until it’s snug against the wrong side of the knitting to prevent tangled strands.

To make a yarn butterfly, leave a 4″ (10-cm) tail across your palm; wrap the other end of yarn around your thumb, little finger, and thumb in a figure-eight until all the yarn has been wound. Remove the figure-eight from your fingers and wrap the 4″ (10-cm) tail around the center of the butterfly several times before securing with a slipknot (Figures 1 and 2). Pull the other end from the center of the butterfly; knit with this end.

cluny 2

An alternative to winding the yarn is to cut strands 1 to 2 yards (1 to 2 meters) long and let them hang free on the wrong side of the work. This method is considerably faster, if less tidy, and you can just pull each end free from the tangle as you need it.

Whichever method you choose, the bobbins or strands still might tangle. Take a moment every few rows to sort out and untwist your yarns. You may want to flip the yarn strands or bobbins you are not working with over the top of your needle and let them lie on the other side of the work as they wait their turns.

Knitting patterns for beginners and favorite resources:

Art Deco Argyle Stockings Knitting Pattern
Top down, plus flat and in the round, sock lovers will truly enjoy this design! Art Deco Stockings, one of our favorite intarsia knitting patterns, shows rich color, precise geometry and unexpected whimsy, while showing off your skills.

Inca Knits eBook: Designs Inspired by South American Folk Tradition
Each included project has a striking feature, be it a clever stitch pattern, combination of yarns or unusual use of pattern motifs. Enjoy intarsia and many other stunning colorwork techniques when you order the Inca Knits eBook.

Knitting Daily Workshop: Intarsia InDepth, Advanced Techniques with Anne Berk Video Download
Perfect for the advanced knitter, this workshop goes beyond the basics to teach knitting intarsia in the round. Explore yarn management, motif design issues, the fundamentals of knitting motifs and their placement on knitwear, how to read intarsia charts and lots more. It even includes two free patterns to download so you can put your new skills to use.

Annetarsia Knits: A New Link to Intarsia
Filled with photographs and step-by-step instructions, this informative book covers basic intarsia knit patterns and comprehensive tutorials. Written by master knitter Anne Berk, this book also troubleshoots the most common intarsia knitting problems, suggests tools and tips to make knitting easier and more rewarding.

Knitting Lace in Intarsia: The Secrets of Olga Fedorova Video Download
Learn the secrets of one of the world’s most popular lace knitters — Olga Fedorova. Featuring master knitters, Galina Khmeleva and Lisa Shroyer, this video workshop guides you through the traditional Russian art of creating Orenburg lace. In this video, you will learn Olga’s special techniques to create two-color Orenburg lace in intarsia, as well as her secret tips and tricks that go into creating delicate Orenburg lace shawls. You’ll also receive Galina’s pattern for a beautiful shawl, designed for knitters new to the technique. The beauty of Orenburg lace knitting was almost lost during the early 20th century in Russia. Thankfully, a few talented knitters are helping to keep this technique alive.

— Kathleen Cubley

Posted November 1, 2016. Updated May 13, 2019.

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