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Are you team intarsi-yes, or team intarsi-no?!

I was a card-carrying member of team intarsi-not-over-my-dead-body for more years that I would care to admit. I had a bad experience with intarsia in my fifth knitting project (I was ambitious to learn new things right from the start, what can I say?), and I totally blamed intarsia.

But it turns out it wasn’t intarsia’s fault, and since then I’ve had a radical conversion. I am here to tell you that you too can join me in team intarsi-yes.


It’s a wonderful place to be! The colors! The shapes! No stranding! Just fabulous knitting. Come and join us, I’ll show you the way!

If you’re already an intarsi-fan, then have at it! Field Guide No. 16: Painterly is full of glorious projects to work on, and do watch my video tutorials below, as there’s always something new to learn, and maybe I have a tip you’ve not seen before.

If you are previously intarsi-scarred, or feeling a bit wary of the technique, I recommend stacking your chances of intarsi-success as high as possible. (I’ll ease on the intarsi-puns in a minute.) Here are my three utterly straightforward Intarsia 101 tips.

Go for Sticky

Tip Number 1: Use a yarn that will help keep your intarsia looking neat. A little bit sticky, and a little bit springy: Rowan Felted Tweed is a fabulous option. Its wool and alpaca content means that it will block beautifully, and your stitches will even up magnificently. Slippery yarns are best avoided, as they make it harder to keep things even.

Go Vertical

Tip Number 2: Choose a design where the color changes happen in vertical lines and the blocks of color are larger. My first pattern of choice is the Cityscape Scarf from Field Guide No. 16: Painterly. Kaffe Fassett has designed this with nice and sturdy blocks of color for you to build your intarsi-skills. (I’m making myself weep here!)

The Fewer the Merrier

And Tip Number 3: Keep the number of different colors in each row manageable for your first project. The Cityscape Scarf uses three or four colors on each row, which means that you aren’t juggling too many colors. Once you’ve got the hang of things, it’s very straightforward to progress to lots of colors on each row, but just to get going, I’d say a lower number is better.

With those choices in hand, you can dive in to the knitting …

Neat Joins

Intarsia is just a way of joining sections of color. That’s all. It’s no big deal. Patterns usually use the mystical words, “Twist yarns around each other at the join,” or something similar. As a new knitter I had zero idea what that meant. I decided that I would make sure that they were well twisted, and of course that made a terrible mess. Really, it’s just a case of how you put down the old yarn and then pick up the new yarn. I’ve made a video tutorial to show you how to do it, so that you get a satisfyingly neat join:

As you move from one yarn to the next, you pass the old yarn counter-clockwise, over the new yarn, which you pick up in the counter-clockwise direction too.

Look at those joins! The wrong side of the work is just as GORGEOUS as the right side is. Where you change from one yarn to the next, you get these nubbly loops of yarn linking arms with each other, and it’s ever so pleasing.

At this point it’s all sounding do-able, right? I hope so! 

Neat Ends

What happens next is that you grab your needles and pattern, and you cast on. You work a few inches (or centimeters, although you’ll need to work more of them) and then you take a long hard look at your knitting, and you mutter a few choice words directed at me.

Your knitting isn’t looking as neat as you would like it to?! It’s all straggly and loosey-goosey where you’ve started and ended each section of color?

Don’t panic! This is TOTALLY normal. You need to weave in your ends, and in doing so you will transform that loosey-goosey-ness into tidy and pleasing, joy-filled knitting.

Every time I start an intarsia project I get that sense of panic after I finish a repeat and it’s not looking up to scratch. It’s part of the process—like starting a run and your legs saying nooooooo. (That still happens to me every time I put on my trainers and I’ve been running since March!)

Have a word with yourself, rummage in your notions bag for a tapestry needle and weave in your ends. You’ll be stunned at the difference weaving-in makes.

Always try to weave in your ends to stitches of the same color as the end you are weaving. That way, if the yarn peeps through slightly it won’t be visible.

Ta da! Doesn’t your knitting look better now? It’s an intarsi-trick!

Cityscape scarf GOALZ

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting started with intarsia. It’s such a fun technique for playing with color. And do let me know if you join me in team intarsi-yes!


A Note on Color:  Jen’s swatch uses Felted Tweed in these colors: Clay, Barbara, Iris, Vaseline Green, Turquoise, Zinnia, Pine, and Electric Green.

This Could Come in Handy

Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click. And find Jen’s follow-up Little Lesson on intarsia here.

About The Author

We think Jen Arnall-Culliford is flat-out brilliant. Jen is one of the knitting world’s superb technical editors and teachers, and the star of the tutorial videos.

Cheerful. Cool headed. Supersmart. To take lessons from Jen ups our knitting game, every time.


  • When I first read Painterly I went “eek! Intarsia”. I didn’t know the word existed, but now that Jen Arnold-Culliford created it I have definitely been in the intarsia-no camp forever. So I knew it was inevitable we would have a fairy godmother sprinkle some fairy dust – and Jen, thanks to your lovely little Intro I can be nudged into the intarsi-yes camp.

    • Wonderful video. Would Jen be able to explain how to add in a new color yarn not used before and not leave a hole?

      • There are a few possible ways to avoid that hole… First would be to attach the yarn in some way to the knitted fabric – either by weaving in the end before you start to work with it, or by knitting the end in. I don’t think that this is the best solution since you are then joining the yarn in behind a different colour yarn, and this can lead to the different colour peeping through. Alternatively you could do a felted join so that the old colour yarn joins seamlessly to the new colour yarn – but that also wouldn’t work here, since you need to leave the old colour yarn to use on subsequent rows. I’ve got a video to come where you’ll see how I join in the new yarn, leaving a tail to weave in later, and I hope you’ll find that helpful.

        • Thanks. I am eager to learn how to start a new color without a hole, and am struggling with this on Kaffe’s zig zag shawl. Looking forward to the new video.

        • Thank you Kay and Jen for your answers. I look forward to your next video.

      • I bet Jen will have an idea here but in my experience the only way to get rid of that hole is when you weave in the end—and that closes it up perfectly. So this doesn’t trouble me any more.

  • Fabulous post and video. I’m ready to give intarsia a try.

    • I’ve always stayed away from patterns that mentioned fair isle and intarsia, but watching Jen made me think MAYBE I can do this. Thank you.

  • I don’t seem to have the icon on my account to save articles

    • You need to log back in. This happens to me too occasionally and I have no idea why— I’m guessing my network but who knows!

  • Yes!!!

  • You make it look so easy! I might just give it a try.

  • I like to weave my ends in as I’m knitting and do a sort of pseudowrap when adding a new yarn

  • This really makes it sound so easy that I can’t wait to try it. Many, many thanks for the tips and videos.

  • I am so in love with the Village Scarf I can hardly stand it! I’m thinking the fam will pony up a new stash of felted tweed for an early Christmas present so I can build those houses! These videos are invaluable, Jen in calming down the nerves for using soooo many colors. You have a gift.

  • Jen’s how to videos are priceless. She is the master at explaining knitting techniques and this is not an exception. Even if you know how to do a technique, she offers a better way to do it every time.

  • Really well done, Teacher Jen! I seriously feel I could sit down and do intarsia right now. Thank you so much.

  • MDK delivers again!

  • You are using different colors than the ones included in your kit. I really like the colors you chose. Are these bright colors listed in the book? If not, could you list the colors you used?

    • Jen’s swatch uses Felted Tweed in these colors: Clay, Barbara, Iris, Vaseline Green, Turquoise, Zinnia, Pine, and Electric Green.

  • I think my cityscape kit is coming today. The videos were extremely helpful. Looking forward to incorporating these techniques.

    • When will Cityscape kit be back in stock? I can’t wait!

  • I had the privilege of taking an intarsia class with Sylvia Watts-Cherry (the amazing designer known as @withcherriesontoptoo) and she made it seem so easy, which as Jen says, it really is.

    Kaffe’s patterns are sooooo GORGEOUS and I’m definitely going to knit at least a pillow and perhaps a scarf………….

  • In my late 20s, with no more experience than garter-stitch scarves as a teenager, I made an intarsia sweater from a kit – wanted the sweater & figured how hard can it be? I knew no knitters & there was no YouTube then, but got a great ‘teach yourself to knit’ pamphlet (a Leisure Arts pamphlet by Evie Rosen). Fortunately no one had ever told me intarsia was supposed to be hard so I just kept following he instructions in the pamphlet and the kit, which seemed logical, and found out knitting sure was fun. The sweater turned out beautifully – when people asked where I got it, no one believed I made it myself. I still wear it occasionally although it’s more, um, ‘fitted,’ now…
    Folks, if I as a rank beginner with only a knitting pamphlet for back up could make a lovely intarsia sweater, you definitely can do this! It really isn’t hard, twisting the new color quickly becomes second nature.

  • Love this technique…..just finished an angel stocking….knitted in two pieces…don’t enjoy that part of the project…enjoy trying different methods to achieve the same result….working on a hat…deb

  • I nearly swooned when I saw the Kites Throw kit. So I jumped in head first and ordered It. Then II watched Jen’s video and thought, I got this covered UNTIL I read that joining yarns on a diagonal in intarsia is a little more complicated than joining in rectangles. Jen, will you please do another video that covers this?

    • Hi Myra,

      I want to reassure you that it’s the exact same process to change colors, with the only difference being that you cross one extra stitch when you do the little switcharoo of the two colors.

      If you’re at all hesitant, I highly recommend that you cast on 1 repeat of the chart so you can practice it on a small format. I’ve just knit a bunch of diagonals on the Village Chart (where the roof slants) and following Jen’s directions in the video worked just fine.

      Kay (intarsia-mad in New York)

      • Thanks Kay. I can’t wait to try it.

  • I wonder why you haven’t mentioned weaving ends in as you knit?!? When KF’s first book came out I couldn’t wait to knit the cover sweater, the kind ladies at my LYS showed me this simple technique which not only kept me from going crazy but actually finishing the sweater :}}}

  • Thanks I never thought it would be that easy..

  • I had to laugh when Jen said “And all I need to do now is continue weaving in the rest of the ends.” I would add, “12,000 more times!” Still though, it doesn’t look difficult and something you could do while watching TV, unlike many things with knitting.

  • Great videos, thank you!

  • As brief as the instructions are for the cityscape scarf, I’m wondering in I am missing something.

    The special instructions state to work the first and last stitch as stockinette but the whole thing is stockinette, so why make the clarification? Makes me think I am missing something. The pattern is 50 st wide and the cast on is 52 – I’m assuming just add a k and p at beginning and end as appropriate?

    • That’s right. You’re not missing anything. You add two stitches so that you’ll have an extra stitch at each edge for later, when you pick up for the border. And those two stitches are in stockinette, the same as the rest of the knitting.

  • On the cityscape scarf, do you strand the yarn across the door and window or do you make a few more blocks with the house color?

    • I’ve just made a cityscape cushion cover and I stranded the doors and windows. But on a scarf the back will look neater if you you use intarsia.

    • Mary, did you figure out the answer? I’m having the same issue.

  • I’m very new to all of this, but I just feel like the term “counter-clockwise” does not represent what my eyes are seeing. She is passing the old yarn to the left and over the new yarn.

    • Yes – that IS counter-clockwise from where Jen and we are sitting. And the new yarn comes under. Try it and you’ll see that it is exactly as she describes.

  • Thank you for explaining so well

  • Hooked on Kaffe stranded but now have to try the intarsia. What I don’t get when making the scarf is does one line it or what? Not a fan of having the wrong side show when wearing. Lots of left over from my Coin project. Thank you

  • Bellísimo trabajo. Gracias por compartir y te seguiré quiero hacer un cardigan a dos agujas. Éxitos

  • Unequivocally, ideal answer

  • On mine the theme is rather interesting. Give with you we will communicate in PM.

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