When blocks of colors are utilized in a pattern, a technique known
as intarsia is used. It’s a simple technique that allows you to knit
with multiple colors across a row without carrying the yarn along the
back of the work (as you would in stranded knitting). Instead, a
separate ball of yarn—or bobbin of yarn to avoid the balls becoming all
tangled—is used for each block of color. The more color blocks you are
knitting, the more helpful bobbins will be.
What does intarsia allow you to do? By changing colors at the same
point in every row, you could knit vertical stripes or create blocks of
color, but intarsia can be used for much more complex designs as well.
There are many geometric designs that use this technique such as the
Essentially, intarsia is good for patterns where large sections of
the design are various colors, as opposed to stranded knitting or
tapestry crochet, which are often used for smaller, more detailed
Now that you understand the basic concept of intarsia, perhaps you
want to try one of the patterns above. For this, you’ll want to
purchase or make your own bobbins. Bobbins can be found in any yarn
store; in lieu of them, you can use a piece of cardboard with slits cut
in both ends. Wind each color yarn around the bobbin, using one bobbin
for each color. The bobbins hang freely from the back of your work and
as you need to use a color, unwind a small amount at a time. This keeps
them from getting tangled. If you are knitting a section that requires
only a few stitches, you can use unwound strands instead; it’s
generally best to keep them shorter than about 36”.
When it’s time to change colors, be sure the new color you are about
to use is twisted around the old color. Pick up the new color from
under the old color. If you skip this step, you’ll have a hole where
the colors change. It will be readily seen within two sts; rip back and
For more on intarsia, please click
here for our blog post.
For patterns featuring intarsia, click here.