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See How Easy Intarsia Can Be

Oct 1, 2010

My intarsia coaster!
Those of you who've been reading Knitting Daily for the last year or so know that intarsia is one of my knitting foes. I love how it looks, but the couple of times I've tried working it, it's been a mess of tangled bobbins, loose stitches, and holes where I didn't twist the yarn correctly to lock it in.

I even took a class a couple of years ago to try to overcome my fumble-fingered technique. At left is the resulting coaster (not exactly a masterpiece, but I think it's pretty cute). After the class was over, I did have more confidence and I took on a bigger project: a child's sweater with a dog on the front and a bone on the back. Yeah, well, that ended up a mess and a half! I had to cut the yarn because it got so tangled; there were too many color changes for this beginner to manage, and though my stitches were more even, I still had lots that were too loose and lots that were too tight.

So, when I got the new Knitting Daily Workshop, Inside Intarsia with Anne Berk, I was skeptical. I popped the DVD in the player and sat down with my knitting and my coffee. Soon I realized that I had put down my knitting and my coffee was getting cold. I was watching Inside Intarsia as if it were a blockbuster movie! Here are some of the a-ha moments I had while watching the video:

  • I realized I'd been putting too much yarn on the bobbins, making them too heavy so they were pulling on the stitches making them uneven at the joins. Anne demonstrates an easy technique for making yarn butterflies, which use less yarn and are very lightweight.
  • I learned how to manage yarns so that I don't get so many tangles (I also learned that a few tangles are no big deal!).
  • I learned how to fix several types of mistakes in intarsia, even how to replace an entire section of color!
  • Most fascinating, I learned about knitting intarsia in the round. This is something that had always interested me, but I thought it meant even more bobbins and more ends to weave in. Well it doesn't! Anne provides a technique in which you float lengths of yarn across sections of color so they're in place when you want to use them, and then you knit with the resulting loop of yarn when you reach the appropriate color. This ingenious technique paired with Anne's strategic turning of the work while working in the round is really revolutionary for intarsia knitting.

Here's a preview of Inside Intarsia for you, where our consulting editorial director Marilyn Murphy talks with Anne Berk about what makes her DVD so special.

I talked with my new idol Anne earlier this week and asked her some questions about her interest in intarsia.

Kathleen: What first drew you to the intarsia technique?
Anne: As a teacher, I found that this was a technique that students commonly found frustrating. Intarsia is intimidating to many knitters, but there is no substitute for the effects you can achieve with this technique. I was motivated to find ways to make it fun and efficient for knitters.

K: What's a favorite intarsia project you've knitted?
A: I knit the Map of the World blanket—a Vogue knitting design from several years ago. It was really fun to knit, and it always gets big reactions from people when they see it.  

K: Do you have a tip to share with us; something you think everyone should know to make the technique easier?
A: Use small amounts of yarn, so that when colors tangle you can just pull them free. Also, I recommend spit-splicable yarns whenever practical—you can almost eliminate weaving in ends!

K: What do you want your viewers to know about Inside Intarsia?
A: Video is a great forum for teaching this technique because knitters can work along with me and watch segments over and over as needed to be confident. I was able to cover an enormous amount of material and introduce my technique for knitting intarsia in the round, which I find very exciting. I hope that knitters will find it fun and useful, and be inspired to practice the technique and have fun working with color.

My hour spent with Anne was definitely some of the most informative and inspiring TV time I've had in a long time. I learned so much, and I know you will, too.


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KCharest wrote
on Feb 1, 2011 4:31 PM

The free patterns can be found at the link that is printed on your "Inside Intarsia" DVD.

Chelo wrote
on Nov 21, 2010 4:23 PM

i bought the inside intarasia dvd, i want to try to do two project but i can't found the pattern, it didn't came with the dvd  where i can locate the two pattern.......  please somebody can help me.   thank you.

AngeK wrote
on Oct 3, 2010 6:49 PM

I also wondered what spit-splicable meant,  I had an idea that it would be something to do with licking your finger to twist the yarn, such as when you want to thread a needle, but its a bit more than that I discovered!   This link shows how to do it, with good details:

looks like it works, though I don't think I could be encouraged to actually try this in public.  LOL

Becka@2 wrote
on Oct 2, 2010 11:44 AM

Hello Kathleen,

I really enjoy my daily messages from you - the are very encouraging.  Being fairly new to knitting, I would like to know what "spit-splicable yarns" are?  I have seen this term a couple of times and would like to know what it is referring to.  I hate weaving in ends - seriously hate - and it keeps me from trying things with lots of color changes.    I would like to find something to help me "get over it" - even having fewer ends would be great.  

Thanks for the info, Becka

on Oct 1, 2010 7:46 AM

I had to laugh a little when making butterflies were mentioned!  Sure, they work for lightweight yarns, but bulky?  My 2010 Knitting Olympics project was a Cowichan sweater with LOTS of intarsia (take a look at my journal of it at  It was made with BIG yarn (in 2 1/2 weeks, just in case anyone is wondering), so we're talking BALLS, not butterflies!  I partitioned a long box (in its previous life, it held CD wallets) and put one ball in each partition.  At the end of each row, I placed the growing sweater atop the box and turned both knitting and box to turn the work and reduce yarn tangles.  It wasn't failproof, but it helped!  Hope this helps someone out there.  And I might just buy this DVD!  Thanks, Interweave, for putting it out there.

ladytigger54 wrote
on Oct 1, 2010 7:41 AM

Hi Kathleen, I read your frustration with using more than once color when knitting. I too have a little trick I use when I am knitting. If I am knitting a knit side and a purl side then when knitting on the knit side I wrap the yarn one way, then when I am going back with the purl side I wrap the yarn the opposite way then when I am at the end most of the yarn is unwrapped by doing the opposite. I do the same if I am using more than two colors. I really hope this will help someone to not get frustrated and cutting the yarn. Have a great knitting day.