Intarsia in the Round: The Cube Socks
Intarsia is a method for working blocks of color without carrying the unused color(s) across the back of the work (as you would for stranded knitting). With intarsia, you can only work in a certain direction, because the yarn is left at the end of the block (Figure 1). Intarsia is usually worked back and forth in rows because the yarn for each color block is waiting at the correct place on the next row. When working in the round, the yarn for any given color block is at the far end of the block, where it was left at the end of the previous round.
These socks could have been worked using flat intarsia, but that would require a seam, which would probably be uncomfortable. Instead, a method for working intarsia in the round was used.
There are a variety of methods for working intarsia in the round. In fact, although the methods are referred to as “intarsia in the round,” they are actually worked back and forth in rows, but the rows are connected so that the finished piece is seamless. Many of these methods require a special maneuver at the end of the round before turning, such as wrapping the next stitch (as you would for a wrap and turn short-row), working a yarnover, etc.
For the method used for the Cube Socks, work the right side row in the round, interlocking the yarns at the color change (Figure 2). After finishing a right-side row and turning the piece, rather than working the same block of color that you just finished working (which would leave a hole), slip stitches until you arrive at the next block of color (for this example, slip the light green stitches to arrive at the pink block). In Figure 1, the pink yarn is hanging at the near edge of the block, waiting for you to work the block on the wrong side. After working that block, you’ll encounter the yarn for the following block and can do the standard intarsia interlock (so that the blocks will be connected) and continue working on the wrong side.
One advantage of this method over other intarsia in the round techniques is that there is no “glitch” at the beginning of the round where the turn occurs.
For these socks, the two blocks of color each use half of the stitches of the round. Rather than slipping stitches to get to the correct color block, if you use the two circulars method for working in the round, you can arrange the stitches so that there is one block’s worth of stitches on each needle. Then, starting with the correct color block is simply a matter of picking up the correct needle and working those stitches. This way, you can avoid slipping the stitches after every round. Similarly, if working with double-pointed needles, each color block could be distributed over two needles (if you use four needles in the work and knit with a fifth).
This article originally appeared in knitscene Summer 2018. Get the full issue to round out your summer knitting queue. Not ready to commit? Our lookbook gives you a fully rounded preview of every design. Dig in and cast-on.