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Intarsia is for everyone!

Oct 22, 2010

I just finished knitting a Breacan Swing Coat, designed by Gwen Bortner for our Interweave Knits Fall 2010 issue. I wanted to knit this jacket partly because I haven't really worked with intarsia much before, and I love challenging myself and expanding my knitting skills. You can read more about the process of knitting this jacket in my Project Diary (coming soon), but I wanted to share some tips with you about working the intarsia in this project.

While intarsia is fairly simple to execute, getting the fabric to have that smooth, finished feel that we all love about knitting can be a little tricky. The first few rows of my jacket are a little iffy—gaps in the fabric and stitches that look uneven (and no, I don't have a photo of those rows; I like to pretend they are just fine). But then I remembered something: Intarsia works best if you twist the yarns before you begin knitting with a new color.

By "twist the yarns," I mean wrapping the new yarn around the old yarn, then dropping the old yarn and knitting with the new yarn. This helps keep the old yarn tucked in nice and close to the new yarn, eliminating the ugly gaps and working to keep the stitches even.

At first, I tried to work with the yarns wrapped up into little bobbins, but this gave me some trouble. My bobbins kept getting twisted around one another, so I'd have to put down the work each time to untangle them before I could knit. Eunny suggested just using long lengths of yarn, and pulling each end through as I came to it, to keep them untangled. Here's a video of Eunny demonstrating keeping your yarns in control, using finger bobbins and long lengths of yarn (the intarsia-specific part starts around 2:30).

Intarsia is a great way to work different colors into your knitting. I love colorwork of all kinds, but intarsia can give you a different look than traditional stranded colorwork. In addition to the Breacan Swing Coat, there are some great Interweave Knits projects that utilize intarsia in fresh and exciting ways.

Pam Powers' Family Pillows, Interweave Knits Fall 2010

Stria Art Jacket, Interweave Knits Summer 2010

Nimbus Cardigan, Interweave Knits Weekend 2009

And you can practice intarsia with this free pattern from Vicki Square: Intarsia Box.

Happy knitting!

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Give into your longing for cozy plaid and heritage knits and check out Interweave Knits Fall 2010! Get to know Barbara Walker, and knit a hat while Meg Swansen leads you through twisted stitches.


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AmyPalmer wrote
on Nov 1, 2010 1:47 PM

@grape2trish, thank you!  I used the gray and silver that were used in the sample garment for the magazine, but I swapped out the red and orange yarns for sage (the green) and teal (blue). You can see photos of my color choices, and the other colors of Nimbus, at the Skacel site:

on Nov 1, 2010 8:03 AM

love the color choice - so what colors did you use?

AmyPalmer wrote
on Oct 26, 2010 11:42 AM

Thanks for the great feedback everyone!

@Kelleigh, I think black, tan, and cream would be awesome, but you'll need a 4th color! :D

@Kathleen, thank you! I love my buttons.

BeKKnits wrote
on Oct 23, 2010 11:11 AM

Love your coat! It looks like so much fun to knit!

I thought intarsia would be hard, but once my brother convinced me and I tried it, it was soo easy.

on Oct 22, 2010 4:31 PM

Nice job, Amy! I love your color choices and your buttons. Looks great on you, too.

Kelleigh wrote
on Oct 22, 2010 4:22 PM

Wow!  What a great looking coat!  

I fell in love with this the first time I saw it but have yet to lay down the fear and try it.  Think I'll wait for your Project Diary before I take this on.  Thank you for writing about this coat.  

Thinking of Black, tan, and cream for the colors though.  What do you think?