The How-To’s of Intarsia

Intarsia (Kaffe Fassett – Glorious Knits, 1985)

Intarsia is a method for knitting areas of color, pictorial or graphic designs. Blocks of color are worked with small separate balls of yarn, lengths of yarn, or bobbins. Unlike Fair Isle knitting, when working Intarsia, the yarn isn’t carried across the back of the work between color changes. Rather, the yarns are twisted around each other at each color change to prevent holes in the work. Like Fair Isle, wool and other resilient fibers are best to minimize tension variations.

How to Change Colors

For vertical lines (broad bands of color areas):

  • one yarn is dropped and the next one picked up from underneath it, crossing the yarns or twisting.
  • one a knit side, drop the old color, then pick up new color from under the old color and knit across to next color change.
  • on a purl side, drop the old color and pick up the new color from under the old color and purl across.
  • repeat the same process for all areas of color.
  • twist yarns on every row for this type of color change.

For diagonal lines:

  • for a right diagonal on a knit side, bring new color over top old color and knit to next color change. On a purl side, pick up new color from under old color and purl across.
  • for left diagonal on a knit side, bring new color from under old color and knit across. On the purl side, bring new color over top old color and purl across.
  • when changing colors on the diagonal, the yarns are twisted on every other row. If the diagonal slants to the right, only twist yarn on the knit rows. If the diagonal slants to the left, only twist yarn on purl rows.

The key point to remember when knitting Intarsia is that the yarns are twisted around each other at each color change to prevent holes in the work. There are slight variations to the technique, depending on the type of color area.