Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Intarsia In The Round

Knitting intarsia in the round is very much the same as knitting it flat.   If you're not familiar with knitting intarsia flat, click here for an earlier tutorial.  Both of these lessons are from my Intro to Colorwork class, available at Rhinebeck, Toronto's Creativ, and other festivals this summer and fall.

The best way to do this is to just do it.  We're going to make a quick swatch.  You'll need two circs of the same size, and three colors of yarn in a corresponding weight.  Cast on 15 stitches in color A on one circular needle.  Cast on 15 stitches of color B on another circular needle.  Now, holding the needles together with A in front so the working yarns both come from the right side,* twist the 2 yarns together.  Knit across A with A.  Do not turn.  Purl across B with B.  Turn.  Twist the yarns together once.  Purl across A with A.  Do not turn.  Knit across B with B. Turn.*   Repeat these two rounds.

As you can see, essentially you’re working  each color as you would on straight needles.  The only change is that you need to twist the yarns together at the end of each row, just like you did in intarsia.  Several rounds of this process produces a tube which is one color on one side and a different one on the other.  The same basic technique can be used to achieve simple intarsia patterns in the round that don't end at the end of a needle.  You just work the same technique one color at a time.

Now let’s introduce a third color.  On the A color side, let’s knit every second stitch in color C, and keep everything else the same.  When we turn the work to purl, we’ll work the A stitches with C, and the C stitches with A.  You are building a tiny checkerboard pattern, which will be a little tighter, and twice as thick, as the fabric on the other needle.  This technique can be a practical benefit when done on only one of the two needles.

This type of color combining creates a beautiful effect in socks, mittens, hats, sleeves, and any other knitting in the round.  Spice up a single colored pattern, or reinforce palms and soles of the feet.  By adding a second yarn to the “wear” side of a garment, you’re adding life by adding durability.  And it’s always nice to do it in color.

Of course, if you wish, you can perform this two color technique on each needle.  When working in this way, each color needs to stay on its own needle, so even if you wanted to use color C on the front and back of the work, you would need to be working from two separate balls of C, just like you would in flat intarsia. 

Work this swatch until you create neat, firm, closed seams between colors that do not pucker.  The only way to even out your tension at the color changes is to practice.  Once you have it, it's like riding a bike - you'll never forget it!


duni said...

very helpful- thank you! i am looking forward to trying this.

Unknown said...

‘Stranded intarsia’ method

Knit in the round until you’ve done the last row before the intarsia starts.
Start working the contrast colour, but: instead of using a separate strand of yarn every time you change from contrast colour to main colour, use only one strand per colour. When you’re not using the second colour, carry it around in the back every two or three stitches, as you would for stranded knitting.
Note: Don’t pull your yarn too tight, it’ll take the stretch out of your work. Don’t leave it too loose either, or you’ll create holes in your work. To maintain a nice stretch, make sure that you can still spread your stitches on your needles as you would when working with one colour only. It may take some practice, but you’ll get there.
When you’ve reached the end of your row, cut the contrast colour yarn if you haven’t done so already. Make sure to leave a long enough tail to weave it in once you’re finished.
Continue knitting in the round, adding the contrast colour to each row when you need it, carrying it along the back of your work until you’ve reached the last stitch on that row.
Repeat steps 3 to 4 until the whole intarsia part is done.
Continue knitting in the round as you would normally do.