Flags Tradewind Knitwear Designs by Lucy Neatby

Intarsia Hints

Intarsia is knitting using a separate piece of yarn for each of the areas of colour, linking them together as you work across the row. It frequently leads to a vast number of pieces of yarn dangling from your work; this can be somewhat intimidating.

Charts are very commonly used with intarsia knitting, and it is very important to keep track of where you are. Intarsia is almost always worked back and forth (as opposed to in the round), which means that on WS rows the chart must be read from left to right. Some knitters prefer to knit back backwards (transferring the sts from the righthand needle to the left), which has the advantage that the RS of the work is always facing the knitter, which does help considerably in keeping the orientation of the pattern correct.

To link the sections of colour together, work along the row as usual until you come to the place where you wish to use the next colour. With your OLD colour yarn on the wrong side of the work (where it would naturally tend to be unless doing something fancy), place the OLD colour of yarn over the top of the NEW colour, before you pick up and start working with the new colour. Observe carefully as you work the first st of the NEW colour that the OLD should be trapped behind it. This trapping forms a series of little links that will eventually run up the back of your work. At every colour joint do the same, OLD over NEW.

It is very important to remember that Intarsia knitting looks rather like a bowl of Cheerios (full of holes) until it is properly darned in; this is especially so with a design that has many colour blocks that start with one stitch. Don't be disheartened.

Points to Follow:

1) Enlarge the pattern using a photocopier. Enlarge it into a series of overlapping horizonal chunks. It is not important to see what lies ahead, only what has gone before.

2) Examine the chart to see if any simplification can be made, and mark it accordingly. Isolated stitches and tiny patches will often be better Duplicate stitched ( Swiss darned) afterwards.

3) (Optional - Count the number of sts in the smaller colour blocks (less than 100 sts) and write it on the chart; yarn lengths can then be estimated, or may be calculated if desired, allowing you to cut the yarn in to pre-measured lengths ahead of time.)

Mount the enlarged, coloured, counted chart on a magnetic board and place on a music stand, in a well-lit position handy for the knitter. Keep a magnetic ruler above the row that you are working.

4) Use a separate small piece of yarn for each colour section, and avoid stranding across the back if possible, as it messes up the tension so easily. For larger quantities of background yarn, wind balls into centre pulls and pop them into a ziplock bag. To untangle, zip up the bags so no more yarn can escape and swizzle them around to your heart's content.

5) Throw away the plastic bobbins: they add weight, they are magnetically attracted to each other and their favourite pastime is making tangles. They are painful to unwind, and get lost easily (best place for them!!) Use centre pull yarn butterflies for some of the longer strands (wound on the fingers) or, best of all, for lengths of a metre or so just let them dangle. As you can see, I'm not keen on bobbins, but they do have a place with some mohair, chenille, beaded or fantasy yarns.

6) Untangle only when the mess impedes the work; the loose strands can easily be pulled through, instantly relieving the chaos.

7) Check whilst untangling for any freeloaders, yarns that are no longer working and haven't been detached, and, leaving a 3" tail, cut the yarn off.

8) Don't worry about the ends, darning can be done in idle moments when too tired to concentrate on the pattern, or in public places (your chance to show off). I like to darn in when a whole section of the knitting is complete and not leave it all until the end. I only darn in the ends in the middle of the piece of fabric. I leave anything sticking out at the edges until the seaming is complete and then hide those ends in the selvedge sts inside the work.

Next topic - Low Tech Knitting Aids!
Back to the Bosun's Locker and the full topic listing.

45 Dorothea Drive, Dartmouth, NS, B2W 5X4, Canada
All images and text Copyright © 2004; Lucy Neatby, Tradewind Knitwear Designs