Thursday, December 09, 2010

Technical Bits: Intarsia

Following on from last week's post about Fair Isle, this time we are looking at another colourwork technique: Intarsia. This method is used when blocks of colour are required, rather than a smaller repeating pattern. A good example of this are the reindeer on The Perfect Christmas Jumper, below.

The Perfect Christmas Jumper. Image copyright Arbour House Publishing.

Motifs are worked with separate balls or bobbins of yarn, producing a garment only one layer thick (rather than Fair Isle's double layer of wool. Before starting to knit, you will need to prepare by winding small balls or bobbins full of each colour to be used. Bobbins are often easier for this, as it makes it easier to untangle the inevitable twisting turning yarns.

As always, knit a swatch up first ...I'm sure that you always knit a tension square anyway, don't you ;) But seriously, knitting a swatch for colourwork knitting is particularly important in order to gauge the tension, and to have a practice of the techniques, if you haven't done it before.

Image by ActionHero on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

When changing from one colour to another it is best to bring the new colour over the colour you have just finished using. The twists will show up on the purl side of the work (intarsia works best with stocking stitch). Try not to twist the yarns too tightly around each other or the work will look rather pinched, but be careful not to do it too loosely either or you will be left with a hole. This is where the practice swatching really comes into its own.

On the vertical lines of your pattern, you will need to twist the yarns on each row, but on diagonal lines you'll need to only twist on the rows where the yarn colour changes at the same point as it did on the row beneath.

As with Fair Isle patterns, charts are really essential for Intarsia. It is very difficult to follow written-only instructions

Align CentreHearts and Bunnies Cardigan. Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

If you'd like to try out some Intarsia, you could try one of the following patterns:

The Perfect Christmas Jumper: Ravelry link and Knitonthenet Shop link to the pattern

Hearts and Bunnies Cardigan: Ravelry link and Knitonthenet Shop link to Vintage Gifts to Knit

Happy knitting!
Ingrid x

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