Intarsia Knitting Tips

We can probably all agree that color knitting is frustrating. You spend half your time untangling yarn in the back, and you leave holes if you forget to twist the colors. The good news is that intarsia is the lesser evil of all the other color knitting (we’re looking at you, fair isle!)

Intarsia, sometimes called “picture knitting,” is the technique you’ll use if you want to knit, say, a heart onto a dress. The goal of intarsia is to make the color change look completely seamless, as if you knitted the heart with the same strand of yarn as the rest of the dress.

little heart dress Photo via Littleheart Dress

Here are a few things to keep in mind when conquering intarsia:

The magic is in the twist. When you’re switching colors, you’ll need to twist the colors together in the back so that there’s no hole. Remember that the twist must go all the way around the new piece of yarn; you can’t simply place it on top of the old yarn.

When you’re switching colors, look out for your tension. If your tension is too tight, the picture will have tons of bumps in it. (Trust me; I know from experience!) If the tension is too loose, there may be gaps. The picture needs to look like it’s one and the same as the main piece.

Don’t unravel a lot of yarn to work with, otherwise all those twists are gonna turn into a big ole mess. Keep the yarn as close to the project as possible. (I keep my yarn in my lap.) Some knitters even like separating their yarn onto bobbins for easier untangling — which is especially useful for the secondary color, since you probably won’t need a large amount of it.

Leave long tails of yarn from your picture when you cut the yarn, because you’re going to have to weave those babies in when you’re finished.

And speaking of weaving in, it’s best to weave colors in where they appear on the knitting. So, for example, if you’re knitting a purple heart in the middle of a red sweater, weave those purple ends into the purple heart area. If you weave the purple ends into the red part of the sweater, the purple yarn might show through the red.

If the edges of your picture look a little weird, like they’re sinking in on the sides, you can use the pointed tip of a knitting needle to pull on the stitch and make it uniform with the other stitches.

Blocking your intarsia is always a great idea. It will set all the stitches — including those on the edges that you may have tightened with your needle’s tip.

Ready to take your colorwork skills to a level of super awesome insanity? Take Amy Detjen’s Custom Yoke Sweater class and let her walk you through stranded colorwork in the round.

Love knitting intarsia? What’s your best tip?

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