Intarsia is sometimes referred to as “picture knitting” because it is used to work motifs into your project.
Compared to Fair Isle or stranded knitting, when working intarsia you are created isolated blocks of color.
Perhaps the most recognizable intarsia pattern is the diamond motif of the Argyle pattern. But you can also use this method for creating polka dots, squares, stars, and even animals.
You use a separate ball of yarn for each section of color. So in the Chadwick Argyle Cowl pattern seen above you would have four balls of red, two balls of white, and one ball of black. As you arrive at each section of the motif you drop the current color and pick up the new color.
The potential problem with all this dropping and switching is the potential for little holes at the color change. However, they are easily avoided by crossing the yarns so they twist together. The tension created by the twist pulls the holes closed.
To work the color cross you pick up the new yarn from the right and underneath the current yarn. Stated another way, when you get to the stitch where the color change happens pull the current yarn to the left, then grab the new yarn and pull it to the left and over the top of the old yarn.
In the picture above I’m about to work a red stitch after working a white stitch. I took the picture after I threw the red yarn around the needle but before I finished the stitch. You can see the red yarn hugging the white yarn.
Since all this might be a little hard to understand in text, I made a little video demonstrating the method. I filmed it while I was working the purl side since it seemed easier to see what is going on.
It probably looks a little awkward, but remember I was working around a camera and trying to use exaggerated gestures so you could see what is happening. LOL!
After all that crossing, the inside of your project should look like this. The little half-moons are your goal and the colors should be consistent on either the top or the bottom in each section.
If it still doesn’t make sense you can probably get a private lesson at your local yarn store where you can see the technique demonstrated in person. You’ll also get to ask questions as you try it out.
Intarsia is my favorite style of color work. I think it’s fun to be able to add pops of color here and here in projects. And argyle socks are fun to knit and wear.
Challenging ourselves with new knitting techniques helps keep our craft interesting and our minds sharp. What new technique will you try out?