There are two main ways that you can create wonderful works when knitting – the use of textures and the use of color. Since we have mostly looked at texture variations to this point, it is time to look at what we can do with color. The good thing is that even though you can create an almost infinite number of patterns with various numbers of colors, there are only a few techniques needed to create them. Today we are going to look at striping and intarsia and next time we’ll tackle stranding.
Striping – Using stripes or changing colors in new rows is a great way to add color to your knitting and a visual pop to your garment. It can be a multi-striped sweater like the designs of Missoni, or it can be a simple 2color sweater of your own making. Whatever your decision, making a striped garment is as easy as changing colors when the whim strikes you. When changing colors in a striped garment, all you have to do is pretend that you’re joining a new ball of yarn at the end of the row. Leave a tail (this will be sewn in after) and start knitting with the new color. If you are changing colors frequently you can carry the colors up the side of the work until they are needed. This will reduce the number of ends you have to darn in later on.
If striping while working in the round, you can literally change colors every row. If you’re knitting more than 2 rows before your color change, you’ll want to learn a technique to prevent the slanted jog or dogleg that you’ll get between rows. This jog is created because you’re knitting in a spiral and the end of the row you’re on is actually higher than the beginning of that same row. There are a few ways to avoid this jog and you may want to research them and use the one that best suits you. This is one such method:
Knit 1 round of the new color.
When faced with the first stitch of the second round: pick up a loop of the first color from the preceding row and place it on the left needle. Knit together both the first stitch of the new color *and* the picked up stitch of the previous row. Continue knitting around. The jog should be virtually invisible.
Intarsia: If you’re alternating between colors in a row where you have “blocks” of color, you’ll want to knit those colors using the intarsia technique. Some people refer to this as “picture” knitting, because you could literally knit a picture into your garment using this technique. For intarsia, you will need to have a separate ball or bobbin of yarn for where you change colors. This is because you will knit with a new ball or bobbin of yarn each time the color changes and twist the yarn in the back to prevent gaps. You may recognize this as the technique you use when you’re changing colors at the edge of the row, but here you’re doing it in the middle. Don’t worry, it’s quite alright, as long as you twist the yarn on the back there won’t be a hole.
To do work in intarsia, knit with your first color for as many stitches as described in the pattern. When you get to the next color, drop the first color and knit with the next. continue to do this to the end of the row. Turn your work and start to purl on the reverse side. When you get to the color change, To do this, when you’re on the reverse (purl) side of your work, pick up the new color from underneath the color you were working with. This will cause the new color to lift the old color and it will become twisted with it when it gets knit again on the knit side of the work. Once you try it you’ll see what I mean. Continue in this manner, remembering to always lift the previous color with the new on the reverse side. You’ll see a string forming where you have the border of colors on the reverse side. If you notice a hole or gap where the colors change, you’re not lifting the colors right. Try practicing making simple squares within squares until you get the knack of it. Once you’re comfortable with this technique, there’s no limit to how many colors you can have on a row (well, except for the number of stitches you have, of course). Remember though, the more colors you have the more bobbins you’ll have and you’ll need to devise a system for keeping them tangle free!
Yarn over and out!