Tag Archives: intarsia

When to Fair Isle and When to Intarsia

side1 for pattern

Originally blogged by me in October 2009

Fair Isle and Intarsia are both techniques for knitting in more than one color. But that’s where their similarities end.

Use Fair Isle if…

The design repeats and runs along only a few rows (eg a line of Christmas trees around a hat or a celtic design around a sweater sleeve). Because Fair Isle allows you to carry the yarn along the row until it is needed, so you don’t have to rejoin a new piece of yarn every 10 stitches, which would leave a really uneven gauge with no room to adjust the tension by pulling through to neighbouring stitches in the row.

There would be a huge number of loose ends in a small space There is just no way that that 20 loose ends can be woven in neatly in a 2 inch square space.

The design calls for only a few stitches in a different colour (eg classic Fair Isle designs, like snowflakes or intricate patterns). Intarsia needs some space in which to weave in the yarn ends behind the colour of yarn used. You can’t hide two yarn ends behind a single stitch.

Use Intarsia if…

There are large blocks of colour (eg my skull and crossbones cushion cover design). There are some people who can carry the unused colour yarn behind the work, twisting every few stitches for 30/40 stitches and not have any effect show in the finished gauge. These people are brilliant and I doff my cap to them. However, most people and certainly beginners will struggle to keep the tension even enough over such a large area. This would mean that all your stitches in one colour will be one gauge and all your stitches in the other colour will be a different gauge.

You’re making anything for kids. Intarsia doesn’t leave any loops of yarn that can get stuck around small fingers.

You need to have stretch in the finished item. Intarsia work stretches just like ordinary knitting, Fair Isle does not.

Of course, in the real world, knitters very rarely restrict themselves to one technique. Within one design, you may use predominantly Intarsia technique, but switch to Fair Isle for some fiddly part of the design. The trick then is to remember which yarn is coming over and which is coming under and what happens if your Fair Isle is left leaning? But that’s a more complex discussion for another time.

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Advanced Intarsia Tips

Another blog entry from the NattyKnitter archives, this time from May 2009. I can honestly say that I am the master of most intarsia at this point. Fair Isle…now that’s a different story.

For the last few days, I’ve been working on an intarsia design and on my intarsia skills at the same time. I think I’ve finally cracked it, so here are some tips which might help you to crack that intarsia code too.

Intarsia Work

1. The yarn you’re knitting with needs wrapping together with the different color of yarn *only* if they’re in the same row. It sounds pretty obvious, but when you’re actually knitting, it can seem like a good idea to wrap the yarn around the loose end in the row below. This is not necessary. If you have a full row of one color, just knit right across, no matter what’s happening on the row below.

2. “Leave the Left Leaners”. If the line of the image is leaning left then don’t wrap the new color around the old color, of course when you turn the knitting, the left leaning line becomes a right leaning line. So you are only wrapping the yarn in every other row on a diagonal. This stops the knitting from looking pulled and pinched.

3. Avoid accidental wraps. Sometimes I find myself knowing that the yarn doesn’t need wrapping, but still reaching for the new color from underneath the old yarn. This is especially difficult to avoid when the color change is only needed for one stitch. Under these circumstances, I make a concerted effort to bring the new color over the old one.

and some other tips, reprinted from a previous blog entry

4. Learn how to make center pull bobbins, they are really easy and much more manageable than plastic bobbins or sprung wooden clothespins. Take the ball of yarn in your right hand but hold the end against your left palm with your left thumb. Now do the Vulcan salute or keep your little and ring fingers together and your middle and index fingers together (seriously this does work, just bear with me). Then wrap the yarn from the ball around these fingers in a figure of eight. When you have enough yarn on your fingers to make the bobbin, cut the yarn at the ball and slide the loops off your fingers. Fold the loops against one another and wrap the cut end tightly around the bobbin, tucking it under itself to secure. The end you knit with is the one you were holding with your thumb, it should pull out of the center of the bobbin really easily.

5. Don’t be frightened of knots. Knots are not usually a big part of knitting (ironically). Normally there should be enough tension in your work that you don’t need to knot a new ball onto an old ball, especially as you would only do this at the beginning of the row. However in intarsia, knotting in a new yarn color gives you something to pull against when you’re trying to establish tension.

6. Swallow your pride and admit that you’ll have to do some tension adjustment. I never have to do tension adjustment in ordinary stockinette stitch, but with intarsia you have to expect to be pulling on loose stitches to redistribute the excess yarn throughout the rest of the row.

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Garter Stitch Intarsia

The technique of intarsia is good for knitting blocks of colour and changing colour in mid row to knit pictures.  My Skull and Crossbones cushion cover uses intarsia, the pattern is free just click on the link to the right of this blog post.  Intarsia only works in stockinette stitch, because you need to carry the yarn along the same side of the work in every row. One side of intarsia work (the wrong side) will have all the messy yarn ends and the other side (the right side) will show the picture.

I’ve previously done some complicated and unsuccessful experiments with colour knitting in garter stitch . However,  last week I needed to make a simple intarsia colour change in garter stitch and this time I was much more pleased with the results.

The photo above is a close up of a parrot I knitted last week whilst working on the Big Crow pattern. As you can see, the yarn colour changes from orange to white in the middle of the row.  Here’s how I did it:

Join the new yarn colour by knotting it onto the existing yarn colour, as you normally would for intarsia knitting in stockinette stitch.

In a row with right side facing, knit to the colour change and bring the new yarn colour underneath the old yarn colour at the back of the work, this is also like intarsia knitting in stockinette stitch.

In a row with wrong side facing, knit to the colour change, bring the yarn you are knitting with forward between the needles, then take the yarn you are about to knit with back between the needles. Make sure the yarns link together, like this:

And that’s it!

Remember, this works well with blocks of colour in straight lines. Look at the parrot photo above and see that where the colour change happens it looks as though two stitches (one orange and one white) are trying to fit into the same space where only one stitch should be. It looks like this because the yarns are linked in the middle of the fabric. This uneven stitch pattern would unbalance the knitting if you tried to make the colour changes not in a straight line.

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Garter Stitch Colourwork

This slightly uncomfortable looking mess is the result of my experiments in colour work in garter stitch.

My sleek and vicious looking shark design is being tested so I thought I’d take a break from knitting killing machines and try something more peaceful, like a giraffe or a cow. But this presented me with a problem. Cows and especially giraffes need some colour work to really identify them. Garter stitch is great for short rows and terrible for colour work. I’d like the cow design to use short rows and garter stitch so she could match the Round Pig, Round Sheep and Round Duck.

So is it possible?

Traditional Intarsia work in garter stitch is impossible because you are always knitting with the yarn at the back of your work. When you join the second colour on the back of the right side of the work, you will tun and find that when you knit the wrong side, the first colour yarn you dropped will be forward of the work, so you can’t wrap it with the yarn in the back.

If you search the internet hard enough you will find knitters who claim that the answer to this problem is simply to swap the yarns over, put the front yarn in the back and the back yarn in the front, this will certainly link the yarns to connect the line of knitting, but it also creates a problem. You can see from this photo that doing this switch results in what looks like an extra stitch:

Instead of the familiar alternate above and below stitches of garter stitch, the colour change creates two below stitches. It looks ok if you’re just making vertical lines, but it won’t stand up to a complicated design. I’ve used this technique before for this robin’s red breast, I hid the colour change under his beak because  it looked a little clumsy.

So I tried working the colour changes in stockinette stitch patches. That was also very ugly and of course it didn’t work because stockinette stitches are slightly taller and slightly narrower than garter stitches. Another messy experiment:

I even tried knitting every other row in the alternate colour. This solution, looks OK but, because you’re only working across the alternate colour every other row, the alternate colour yarn end is not there for you to work with when you start the third row of the colour bloc; it’s still at the other end of the block. I tried to overcome this with some fair isle style carrying the yarn along the back side of the work, but where I twisted it together with the working yarn it made a very obvious line:

This may be the best way I can find of doing colour work in garter stitch. This technique of knitting every other row in the alternate colour could lose the line in the middle if you started a new length of yarn in each row although that would mean a lot of woven in ends.

Having exhausted all the possible ways I could think of for knitting in colour I started to think about embroidery.

Oversewing or Duplicate Stitch simply doesn’t work with garter stitch. Because all the stitches are raised, you can’t simply embroider over the existing stitch, the colour you’re embroidering with simply slides off and you’re left with a confusing mess.

I had much more success with simply sewing a circle onto the knitting in running stitch.

Although it still needs some imagination and perhaps more sewing skill than I have.

I’m still working on this, so if you have any other ideas, please let me know. The design of a cow might depend on your information!

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When to Fair Isle and When to Intarsia

 

fairislefinal

Fair Isle

 

 

intarsiafinal

Intarsia

 

Fair Isle and Intarsia are both techniques for knitting in more than one colour. But that’s where their similarities end.

I’ve recently been working on some colourwork designs and I thought I’d share a few tips for distinguishing which technique should be used for which type of design.

Use Fair Isle if…

The design repeats and runs along only a few rows (eg a line of Christmas trees around a hat or a celtic design around a sweater sleeve). Because Fair Isle allows you to carry the yarn along the row until it is needed, so you don’t have to rejoin a new piece of yarn every 10 stitches, which would leave a really uneven gauge with no room to adjust the tension by pulling through to neighbouring stitches in the row.

There would be a huge number of loose ends in a small space There is just no way that that 20 loose ends can be woven in neatly in a 2 inch square space.

The design calls for only a few stitches in a different colour (eg classic Fair Isle designs, like snowflakes or intricate patterns). Intarsia needs some space in which to weave in the yarn ends behind the colour of yarn used. You can’t hide two yarn ends behind a single stitch.

Use Intarsia if…

There are large blocks of colour (eg my skull and crossbones cushion cover design). There are some people who can carry the unused colour yarn behind the work, twisting every few stitches for 30/40 stitches and not have any effect show in the finished gauge. These people are brilliant and I doff my cap to them. However, most people and certainly beginners will struggle to keep the tension even enough over such a large area. This would mean that all your stitches in one colour will be one gauge and all your stitches in the other colour will be a different gauge.

You’re making anything for kids. Intarsia doesn’t leave any loops of yarn that can get stuck around small fingers.

You need to have stretch in the finished item. Intarsia work stretches just like ordinary knitting, Fair Isle does not.

Of course, in the real world, knitters very rarely restrict themselves to one technique. Within one design, you may use predominantly Intarsia technique, but switch to Fair Isle for some fiddly part of the design. The trick then is to remember which yarn is coming over and which is coming under and what happens if your Fair Isle is left leaning? But that’s a more complex discussion for another time.

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Free Pattern – Skull and Crossbones Cushion Cover

side1

Where Did the Idea Come From?

The Skull and Crossbones Cushion, possibly the longest running custom project ever. It was originally ordered in March 2009 and the path from then to now has been strewn with obstacles and distractions. I had to improve my intarsia technique, have my wisdom teeth removed, prepare for my first craft show, run Monster Big Brother and wait for there to be enough sunshine to get it blocked, but the cushion cover is finally ready and so are the photos for the pattern.

Is it Difficult to Knit?

The pattern is pretty simple if you’re good at intarsia/colour knitting. But even if you’re not so good, the design could just be knitted in relief in one colour and still look piratical. Instructions for how to do that are included in the pattern. Getting the zip sewn in might also cause some frustration, but you could always just stuff the cushion with batting and sew it up if you don’t want to mess around with the zip.

What Yarn Should I Use?

I used Debbie Bliss Como, because it comes in exactly the colours I was asked to find and it’s incredibly soft without being the most expensive. Good alternatives would be Plymouth Yukon, which is a bit scratchy because of the mohair, but otherwise considerably cheaper or if you have the money, try the Blue Sky Alpaca Super Chunky. Check if your LYS or regular online store has any discounted super bulky yarn.

Other Hints and Tips

Spare Needle?

In order to get the top seam on the cushion I recommend using a 3 needle bind off, however that does require 3 needles. Not many people have 3 size 10mm needles lying around. But if you have a pair of needles and a long circular needle that will work just as well, even better because there’s less chance that the stitches will slip off a circular needle whilst you knit the other side .

Side 1 and Side 2

The two sides of the cushion I knitted make the design in two different ways, intarsia and in relief. Of course you could knit your cushion in any combination of styles, including leaving one side blank.

Intarsia Tips

I’ve blogged about tips for intarsia before  https://nattyknitter.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/advanced-intarsia-tips/

I hope it’s helpful.

3 Needle Bind Off

The 3 Needle Bind Off is a great way of making a secure and neat seam, it works very well as a seaming method for the shoulders for sweaters. Although it is bulky and creates a ridge.. It’s very simple to master.
Take the two needles with stitches on them and hold them next to one another in your left hand, knit together two stitches, one from each needle and then when you have two stitches on the right hand needle cast off as you would normally by leapfrogging the first stitch over the second.
Here’s a really clear video tutorial from knittinghelp.com, scroll down to the bottom for the video of the 3 needle bind off
http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/casting-off

Blocking

This is the method I used to block the knitting for this cushion. The spray method explained here on the crochetme website:

http://www.crochetme.com/how-spray-block-crochet-or-knit-squares

Adding the Zipper

Unfortunately I am no expert at sewing, but this is how I sewed the zipper in. I did not fold back the bottom seam, but sewed the zip into the inside of the cushion. I kept it pinned to ensure it was straight and sewed it by hand using a backstitch.

As always, let me know if you have any trouble with the pattern and I’ll try my best to help you out. Happy knitting!

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Flying the Jolly Roger

Yarrr

I am very pleased with this latest test swatch for the custom project. I really feel that I’ve got a handle on the intarsia techniques now. Just one thing, the upper left tibia is a bit thinner than the others, that’s because I got a little overexcited with the tension redistribution. But I can avoid that when I do the real thing.

I also wanted to show you this:

ends

This is the 66 tails of yarn that I wove into the back of the swatch and then snipped the ends from. It’s not a small job.

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