Monday, July 16, 2012

Time for a Little Intarsia

I must admit that I do not have any warm and cozy feelings about working in intarsia.  For someone who loves working with color, perhaps it is surprising that I have mostly managed to avoid it in my knitting.

My Mom made an extremely cute little sweater for my fantastic little son when he was in preschool.  It had a dinosaur on front and another on the back.  She choose to work the dino's in duplicate stitch to avoid working in intarsia.  I wish that I still had that little sweater, but I passed it down to a nephew, and you know how that goes.  I still have this colorful little hat that my Mom made for my equally fantastic daughter when she was in first grade.

For this project she did work in itarsia, and I even found the bobbins that she had used in a bag with her remaining Tahki Cotton Classic.

I have recently pulled out those bobbins and have spent a little time working on my own intarsia project... I have concluded that there are two trying things about this technique...

The first is yarn management while knitting.  The work will have two or three, or sometimes countless numbers of strands of yarn being worked.  They can be in balls, or on bobbins (you often need to wind some of a color to be used in more than one area onto a bobbin).  Since each time you change colors you do need to twist them together, all your balls and bobbins repeatedly get tangled.  It is necessary, periodically, to pause to untwist them.  (Sorry that I did not take any photos of the knitting in progress... I was traveling by car... and it was all over my lap... not to mention that any photo I shot would have just looked like one 'hot' mess.)  I soon found it beneficial to do the untangling at the start of every wrong side row, since that is when all of the ends were facing.

This is what my project looks like now.

The anchor does not look so bad from a distance.  But there is a certain amount of unevenness that I will have to try to tame as I weave in the ends.

And true to intarsisa, there are a large number of ends.

The second trying thing about working in intarsia happens after all of the knitting is done.  Somehow this seems more trying to me than the knitting itself.  (Did I ever mention that I am a bit of a perfectionist?)  The second trying thing about intarsia is adjusting the tensions so that the stitches are perfectly are close to perfectly even.
For some reason, I have a strong feeling that adjusting the tension and hiding the ends will be best accomplished after the first blocking.  My plan: Wet block the piece... Hide the ends, while at the same time, adjusting loose tension as much as possible... Wet or steam block again...

Finally, I will assemble the piece as the top panel of a floor cushion cover.  (I am taking my chances here, as the planned recipient of this cushion occasionally reads this blog.)  I will be working on this over the next week, and I will let you know how my plan unfolds.  (Details on the pattern and yarn will be included in the FO post.)

I would welcome advice from any experienced intarsia knitters.
Is there anyone out there that loves working in intarsia?


  1. I haven't done any intarsia but I know I hate having lots of after work like weaving in ends. Your pillow top looks lovely!

  2. I am not a big fan of doing intarsia. I have no problems with OTHERS doing intarsia. LOL

  3. I was trying out a dog motif just the other day on a swatch. It doesn't look too bad but I'm not sure if I want to incorporate it just yet into a cardigan. It looks a little pinched. But I'd like to try it out the way you did with bobbins. Stranding the unworked yarn at the back was causing the pinch I guess.

    Nidhi from Rav

  4. Hi, Nidhi!
    As I knit my Anchor Cushion, several times I examined sections where I had used 'stranding' to carry an unused color behind up to three or four stitches... And I was not satisfied with how it came out...(a little pinched, like you said)... I would then rip down my work and try again adding yet another bobbin. The results were that I had a lot more ends to tighten and weave in, but I was a bit more satisfied.
    I do believe intarsia in knitting can never be totally perfect!