Saturday, 21 June 2014

And now we're knitting... intarsia!

I've finished my daughter's mittens and started a new knitting project.

It's going to be a jacket called Metro from the book Swing Swagger Drape by Jane Slicer-Smith. You can see images of the coat here. The yarn is a variegated wool called Murano from Bendigo Woollen Mills.

The jacket is knitted with intarsia, so each section has a different ball of yarn. You'd think this would be incredibly fiddly. In fact, most guides say to use butterflies of yarn, so you don't get tangled. That doesn't work so well with variegated yarn, because you lose yarn colour every time you join the butterflies. And anyway, I hate fiddling around joining yarn.

Instead, I use a two-basket system. I start out with all the balls of yarn in one basket, on my left, as I'm ready to start a right-side row. I pick up the first ball, knit that section and place it in the right hand basket, with the yarn at the back, which is where it wants to be anyway. I pick up the next ball from the left, twist it round the last yarn and knit the next section. It goes into the right hand basket, in front of the last ball. As you go, the balls are basically ready for their next turn. So far, so easy.

Then comes the turn. Turning right side to wrong side is easy - all the yarns are on the right, and you turn the work so they aren't tangling. This is the easy turn.

Use the same technique as you knit the wrong side row, but each time, as you finish a section, put the ball over the needles and into the left hand basket. Take the next ball from the right and loop around the yarn you just used and knit onwards. At the end, put it over the knitting too, and so on until the end.

This bit makes your head hurt. Keep the last ball on your lap. Pick up the bottom of the knitting and upend it, keeping all the yarns on the left hand side. Now turn the work. You can see immediately which way you need to turn, because you can see the strands of yarn leading into the basket. You may need to put the last ball you used around the knitting, ready to start, but you get good at working out where it needs to be to start again on the right side row.

And if you do find you've turned the wrong way, you can always rotate the basket until you're untangled again. Now how easy is that?

The only hassle with this method is if you need to take the yarn off the needles and unravel for some reason (hey, it happens to us all!). Untangling intarsia knitting is a pain, anyway, because you have to untangle all those yarns twisted around each other at the joins. The trick with this is to take every second inside ball - the ones that have knitting on either side - and put them on your lap. You have to be careful to unravel whole rows and not accidentally go back in the wrong direction at a turn. Unravel section one, find the first inside ball and untwist it, unravel it and untwist again around the next yarn. Unravel the next section, take the second inside ball and untwist, unravel, untwist. It's way easier than untwisting each ball.

Most of all, never ever leave your knitting with a row partly knitted, stopped at a change of yarn. When you come back, it can be very hard to remember which way you were going and, unless the pattern gives you a clue, you can't tell without counting rows. Guess how I know this?

Happy knitting!


epocktextiles said...

My head hurts, and i'm only reading about it! I look forward to seeing it finished.

Jennifer said...

It is indeed a lovely design......but I haven't knit intarsia for many years and it scrambled my somewhat younger brain then, so I don't think I would attempt it now!

Nola said...

It actually makes sense when you do it. And it isn't that hard - just remembering to twist the yarns around each other whenever you change balls. I have done harder intarsia than this, when I had much younger brain cells! I'll put another progress photo up soon - it's about the only "progress" I have to share!

Nola said...

Jennie, it's about as hard as that scarf you showed me how to knit last year, with the short rows...