Sunday, February 26, 2012

Colorwork 5 - Intarsia

If Fair Isle is prom king and Slip stitch is prom queen in popularity, Intarsia is the wallflower who turns out to be a surprisingly phenomenal dancer.  It is everywhere, working along behind the scenes, but most people don't want to admit that they're friends with it.  Although not "popular" with knitters, it is beautiful, and simple to knit.

Intarsia is how you get an island of color in a field of another color.  In the sweater at right from Knitty, Spring 2006, the cheerful sleeves are stripes, but the focal point of the sweater is the ice cream cone. Assuming the project was knit from the bottom up on straight needles, how did they get the cone in there?

Right side of intarsia work
Here's how.  Pick up your colorwork swatch and do it with me.  (Go get it.  I'll wait here.)  If you've left off on a solid color row, great.  If not, do so, and start this exercise on a RS row.  (Don't do it on a cast-on row.  It's much easier on established knitting.)

OK, knit across your swatch to the middle (this is color A).  Drop your working yarn (do not cut).  Pick up a separate color yarn (B), and continue the knitting from where you stopped.  Finish your row. 

Turn your work.

Purl back towards the middle, stopping at the last stitch of B.  Drop your working yarn (do not cut.)  Right now, facing you on the back of your work, you should have a loose end of B,  a strand of B attached to a ball, and a strand of A attached to a ball.  If you have this, you're all set.  If not, rip back and start again. 

Pick up yarn A again, and before starting to purl with it, wrap it under loose strand of B, then, with loose B trapped in that little wrap, begin purling with A.  (This twist should have the same tension to it as the rest of your knitting!)  Purl across.
Wrong side of intarsia work
You should now have two rows of knitting in which the right side is A color, and the left side is B color.  If you don't, rip back and give it another shot.

Now we're back to a knit row, knit across until you reach color B.  Drop A without cutting, and pick up B from under A.  Again, mind your tension as you twist the yarns and keep it even with the rest of the work.  Finish knitting across. 

Continue from where it says "turn your work" above for another dozen rows or so. If the front of your work looks like the Right Side photo above, and the back of your work looks like the Wrong Side photo, you've got it!  If not, keep practicing, and you'll get it soon.

Every time you work intarsia, you'll be working in separate columns of color.  That means that in the Ice Cream Cone sweater above, there were three balls of yarn working during the knitting of the cone - one cream, one cone-colored, and another one cream.  No yarns are carried behind stitches.  If there are several islands of color, each one will represent its own ball of yarn.  You may want to start with patterns containing only two or three columns at a time until you're comfortable managing several working yarns at once.
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Sharon said...

you need a like button on your blog!

Elisabeth Marino said...

You're welcome to +1 me or share with Google, Facebook, Twitter, or just keep commenting! Thanks!

f1bercat said...

Thank you so much for these tutorials. I have never tried any type of color work, but I now know where to go if I have questions. Also, you have made me think that I CAN do it.