About Woolly Wits

I am a hand-knitting designer and teacher. See and purchase my published designs on Ravelry.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mad for Plaid: Intarsia

Natalya by Grace Melville
from Rowan Magazine #48
The third of our techniques for creating a knitted plaid fabric is intarsia.  In intarsia knitting, multiple colors are used in a row, but each patch of color is worked from its own ball/bobbin/dangling end.  When switching from one color to the next, the yarns must be wrapped around each other to prevent a hole.  So, as you may imagine, it is slow, fussy and often a tangled mess.

The one benefit of intarsia plaid in contrast to pictorial intarsia designs, is that the pattern is composed of regular geometric shapes.  One the pattern is laid out in the few row or two, the knitter is not generally glued to the chart.
#24 Plaid Pullover by Norah Gaughan
from Vogue Knitting Winter 2014/15

When I think of intarsia plaid, I always think of Rowan.  Being a British company, they celebrate the traditional fabrics of the isles, and always have at least one plaid sweater in their fall/winter magazine.  And they do them so well; they are always gorgeous.

But I will never knit one.

Ailish by Brandon Mably
from Rowan Magazine #56
A complex and sophisticated plaid pattern invariably has one or two stitch wide vertical stripes.  And to make a one stitch vertical intarsia stripe is very slow and very fussy, and it is nearly impossible to work evenly sized stitches.  Ugh.

Narrow vertical stripes can be made easily and cleanly with a crochet hook after the knitting is complete.  This technique, applied crochet chain, will be covered later in our series.

Next up:  two-stranded intarsia.

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