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Intarsia and Stranded Knitting: Two Ways To Add Color To Your Knitting
Creating Pattern Through Color
One of the most effective ways to add interest to your knitting is through the use of color. But, many new knitters don't know where to start when it comes to changing yarns or reading color charts.
In this lens we'll explore the two most common ways to change color, intarsia and stranded colorwork. Intarsia is used for large areas of color, like the heart in this picture. Stranded knitting (also called stranded colorwork) creates more intricate patterns, like the pink band below the heart.
(photo by Brian Sawyer)
If you are going to change color in the middle of a row of knitting, I highly recommend using yarn bobbins. Bobbins hang off the back of your knitting, holding a small amount of yarn. They may seems scary at first, trust me. These are much easier to deal with than full sized sceins of yarn.
The first one demonstrates how to make your own bobbins from scrap cardboard. (It's a crochet-centered video, but the bobbin she makes can be used for either craft.)
The second video shows you how to make a butterfly. A butterfly is a way of making a bobbin without the plastic (or cardboard) bit. You wrap the yarn around itself in a specfic way so that it neatly hangs in the back of your work, while still being able to reel out new yarn to you as you knit.
Intarsia - Creating blocks of color
Did you ever get one of those knit sweaters with a Christmas tree or reindeer right smack dab in the middle of it? That charming motif was probably made using intarsia knitting. Named for the woodworking technique used to create mosaics, intarsia knitting creates large areas of different colors.
It's a fairly easy method of color knitting. Simply knit until you get to the place where you want to change color. Then drop your main color, and knit with the new color. No big scarriness. It's very much like adding in a new ball when you run out of yarn.
The only thing that's different is that you must twist the two yarns around each other when you change color. If you didn't do this, you would just be knitting two separate panels of fabric with no connection to each other.
This video shows the twisting very clearly. She changes color at the beginning of the row, but this technique will work just fine in the middle of one. Also, she carries the tail of the new color for the first three stitches. This can be a way to keep the back of your knitting from being too cluttered, but it can also make a lumpy spot in your knitting. Use this technique with caution.
Intarsia Inside-out - What the back of an intarsia piece looks like
Here's a good picture of the wrong side of a piece of intarsia knitting. Note the twisted yarns where the two colors meet.
(photo by Emily L.)
When working in the round (also called circular knitting) all lines of a color chart are read from right to left. Simply follow along as you knit across your needle.
When working flat (working one side, then turning to work the other) right side rows are read from right to left, and wrong side rows are read from left to right.
Back to Christmas sweaters. This time it's the ones with the snowflakes or little dots all over the top half and sleeves. This is stranded knitting.
Probably invented as a way to add extra warmth to a garmet, stranded knitting involves carrying two different yarns as you knit. The "live" yarn is actively knitted while the other is just hanging out behind the work. When you want to change colors, drop the live yarn and pick up the other. Now, this one becomes the live yarn and you are ready to knit with it.
Because stranded knitting is used for quick color changes, rather than blocks color, there is no need to twist the two yarns together. But, if you happen to knit more than five stitches before changing color consider "wrapping" your yarn. This is demonstrated in the video below.
Check out this video by KnitPicks for a good introduction to stranded knitting. It shows you how to knit holding a color in each hand, and gives you sneak peek at Fair Isle and chart reading, subjects also covered in this lens.
Another Way To Hold The Yarns
The video above shows how to perform stranded knitting by holding one yarn in each hand. But, if you are not comfortable holding yarn in your right hand you may want to try holding both yarns in the left. Here is a video showing how to do just that.
Floats - What the wrong side of stranded knitting looks like
This action of carrying two yarns throughout the whole garmet creates a double layer of fabric. Little strands of yarn, called floats, cover the wrong side of the work. These floats are created when the non-live yarn is dragged across the back of the work.
When using stranded knitting be sure to keep these floats at an even tension. Too loose, and your knitting looks like it's falling apart at the color change. Too tight, and your fabric will pucker.
(photo by Jessica)
Fair Isle Knitting
Wild and Crazy Stranded Knitting
Named after an island off the coast of Scotland, Fair Isle is multi colored stranded knitting. It peaked in popularity in the 1920s when the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) sported his collection of Fair Isle vests while golfing.
Fair Isle may look scary to knit, but it's really no different than stranded knitting. Each row still only uses two colors at a time. You simply change the colors at the beginning of a row to create the rainbow-ish effect.
(photo by Katherine)
Design Your Own
The knit stitch is rectangular, so normal graph paper doesn't give an accurate preview of what a charted color pattern will look like in your project. Click here to print graph paper that matches your stitch and row gauge.
Need further instruction? Check out these books about color knitting.
Chime in about your color knitting projects, leave a link to your favorite pattern, or blab on about your favorite tutorial. Got a question? I'll do my best to find the answer.
Thanks for reading my lens. Happy knitting! :)