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Everybody has their little tips ’n’ tricks for knitting intarsia, so today I hope you’ll share tidbits that work for you. Here are my latest discoveries, now that I am what would be called an early intermediate intarsiaist.

Tip No. 1: Get a Decent Setup for Your Yarn

One of the major components of intarsia knitting is yarn management. With a lot of colors at work, I craved a way to keep keep my yarn tidy and visible. At first, I had a basket going with all my colors, but I found that life really pepped up once I stuck all my Felted Tweed into a flat tray.

Because I’m making up my own color pattern as I go, Yarn TrayTM lets me look at all the colors at a glance and scheme up new combinations.

I’m not anti-basket, don’t get me wrong. I am in fact pro-basket, bucket, tote, whatever. This is just what’s working for me right now.

Tip No. 2: Stop Worrying about Your Back Side

When I began my journey into this new kind of knitting, I cared a whole lot about the back side of my intarsia—more than the front, even. I worried that I wasn’t going to be able to weave in the ends tidily.

Once I saw Jen Arnall-Culliford’s video tutorial on this hot topic, I let go of my fears. Her little needle-wiggle weave-in really speeds things up—you’re going along the intarsia junctions for the most part.

It doesn’t require a ton of fiddling to crank through a bunch of ends. And I have grown to love the back side of my work. It’s textured. It shows that it was made by a person, not a machine. I am an artisan is what my back side is telling me.

Tip No. 3: Stow Ends at the Edge in Your I-cord

I can’t wait to finish my scarf and attach the I-cord edging. It is going to be the perfect place to stow a bunch of ends that have landed at the edge of my work.

This is not the I-cord edging—it’s just the supercurly edge. When I finish knitting, I’ll create the I-cord edging. (Instructions for this technique appear in Field Guide No. 13: Master Class and Field Guide No. 14: Painterly.) The tubular structure of attached I-cord means you can slide a tapestry needle into the tube and wow: your end has been slurped into an excellent container, no weaving required. Stay tuned for more coverage of this stupendous maneuver.

Tip No. 4: Increase the Length of Your Strands

Once I found peace with the tangle (see “The Full Ball Fallacy and Other Tangle Tips” for Kay’s exhortation on this topic), I started experimenting with longer and longer strands. I started with 1-meter strands, then 2, then 3. Now I’ll just spool out 5-meter strands and let it all pool on the floor.

I haven’t yet had a problem with this, because I periodically do a loosification of the tangle before it gets tight. Longer strands mean longer stretches of knitting: bonanza!

Tip No. 5: Don’t Worry about the Curly Edges

If you’re making a scarf, the curliness of stockinette may seem like a problem.

What I found with the Kites scarf I made a couple of months ago is that Felted Tweed blocks into a fluid, uncurly fabric. Maybe it’s the viscose? I don’t know. But I do know that the before and after on blocking Felted Tweed is one of the satisfying moments in one’s blocking journey. The garter stitch edging definitely helps.

For more on my Kites scarf project, it’s all right here.

For details on this latest project (the squares and triangles), here you go.

Come Zoom with Us on Monday!

Kay and I will be hosting a Zoom hangout on this coming Monday, January 11, at 4 pm Central time. We’ll be watching Jen Arnall-Culliford’s latest video tutorial and talking intarsia. Bring your knitting! We’ll have a link to the Zoom in Monday’s post, so we hope you’ll join us for conversation and show and tell.

Leave a Comment


  • Yes – embrace the strand. I also use reverse knitting so I am always knitting on the front.

    • OK Kathe, that’s completely next-level stuff right there. Wow.

  • For the record, I always worry abut my backside.

    • This applies to more than knitting.

    • Crying laughing emoji.

    • Yes, I wondered about that too!! 😀

    • Hahahaaaaaaa

  • Interesting to knit just from the front, I find I’m liking the purl side because I can see the yarns more easily!
    Tip- I’m knitting a pillow of cottages, needing several arm long strands. Those adorable windows!
    My basket has a handle, so I’m looping the strands over the handle to be visible as I need the next one.
    As with the Yarn Tray- visibility helps!

    • I’m finding the purl side easier too! I never thought I’d type those words but there you go.

    • As a newbie intarsiaist, I love reading all your great tips. I have finally embraced the longer strands, longer knitting tip on my watercolor cowl. I find 30” strands perfect for the little squares and 120” strands for the 16 row triangles. Approximately 1” per stitch. Complete game changer for me.

      • Thank you so much!!! I am excited to start this soon with two of my friends!

      • Ooohhhhh, love this data.

  • The word “loosification” is why I keep coming back.

    • Me, three.

    • Ditto

  • Your use of language makes everything you teach seem possible rather than problematic. I LOVED “slurped” to describe solving the problem of lose ends and the word looseification to relieve the dreaded thought of tangled yarn. If we allow ourselves a freedom in teaching or instruction our business is s more than a job it is more than a vocation it actually can become a ministry. You’re able to do just that. Bravo

  • I swatch to find minimum length of each strand needed for the repeat. I like to calculate totals 🙂

    • Love it. Nothing so annoying as having to bring in a new strand of a given color because the old one fell short of the last few stitches of an intarsia section.

      • You guys are so orderly! RESPECT!

  • For a scarf would one do garter stitch edging and then I cord, or will I cord alone keep the curling at bay?

    • Oh wow I didn’t think about doing both garter stitch edging AND I-cord! I was just going to do I-cord by itself. But there’s a whole nother color moment possible if you do both.

      • Kind of like borders on a quilt!

  • Excellent tips, and an amazing backside.

    • My backside thanks you.

  • I’m making an Icushion and I calculated each triangle takes about 272 stitches. I started with 1 meter long strands, then 2-3 meters to finish the first set. I’ll go to 4 meters for the next set. I’m loving these colors.

    • You’re going to love it when you can do a whole triangle without adding more yarn!

  • I have been using a “Yarn Tray”. for my Kites It’s not only practical, it inspires….the colours are so beautiful! I have discovered that I am a knitter, not a splicer, so I am using 5.3 m strands! It gets pretty messy about a third of the way up a colour block row, so I take a few minutes and pull each of the 24 strands free of the tangle….sort of a refresh. Makes a big difference! And coming to the end of the colour block row, having created order out of all that tangle chaos, is so satisfying!

    • Where can I purchase a yarn tray? Is a yarn tray improvised or an official purchase?

    • Order out of chaos! I know what you mean.

  • I am also new to the intarsia technique. It’s been an interesting journey so far. Thank you for all the tips, techniques and encouragement.

    • So glad you’re giving it a go, Sue. I’m pretty hooked at this point. My cushion project is on the horizon, and I can’t wait to get to it.

  • If you can’t lay hands on a Yarn Tray(TM), Shoe Box(TM) can save the day.

    • Shoe Box TM is even better. Shoe Tray TM sometimes erupts when I yank out a ball too fast.

  • Thank you for all the tips. I can’t wait to cast on my intarsia blanket today. You mention that felted tweed responds well to blocking. How are you blocking your felted tweed– wet blocking or steaming?

    • I’ll answer from my experience–Felted Tweed responds beautifully to steam or wet-blocking, but as a hard-core blocking enthusiast, I always wet-block at the end of a project; it’s transformative. You thought it looked great before blocking, and now it’s somehow even better.

      • I absolutely love everything about this dive into colorwork….the yarn, the colors, Kaffe’s patterns, your inspirational adaptations, and all the helpful videos. What fun it has been to learn stranded colorwork and now to venture into intarsia! With Field Guide 13, I finished the coin scarf (which I did wet block and it came out beautifully), am halfway through the garter stripe shawl and am finishing the borders of a coin blanket inspired by Kay’s coin blanket. Now I have everything to start the intarsia kites blanket from Field Guide 16 and am debating on Kaffe’s cool colorway or to use the colors of the watercolor cowl and make my own color chart. Exciting either way and I want to thank you both for joy all this knitting has brought me during these troubling times. Thanks again.

      • Yes, I am a fan of a soak in the sink using Soak. Sometimes I forget it’s there and it soaks for a long time. The yarn fluffs up in such a lovely way when it has time to really expand.

  • I have just added LOOSIFICATION to my vocabulary!

  • Does Kermit have no interest in your tangle pool? Biscuit wants to chew my yarn when it waves at her.

    • Same problem here with Sunshine, the giant cat. The older dogs leave the yarn tangle alone but Charlie, the puppy, also chews yarn (along with everything else in the house). I spend as much time whacking fur babies out of the way as I do knitting!

      • Our lovely Marlowe the cat once sat in my lap while I intarsia-ed long ago in the time of bobbins. I turned the work and she had bitten off all the dangling mice-looking things for me. I didn’t think it was so helpful at the time, but maybe she knew something I didn’t?

  • Do you ever do presentations for knitting groups? I am with the Front Range knitting guild and would live to have you via Zoom be a presenter at one of our Guild meetings in the future

  • Wow. Back sides (a sore point). Pulling from the tangle (more about that in a minute). Kathe Fox’s knitting backward. I learned how once and it was easy once I got the hang of it (there is more than one way, try both or all). But always forget how. Now a good practice opportunity! As many times as I’ve heard Kaffe’s learning to knit on a train story, he never mentioned pulling from the tangle. I wonder if he learned that instinctively or someone taught him along the way. I will have to try it it, Ann! You and Kay are great cheerleaders.

  • Thanks for the tips about the backside. I’m knitting the kites throw, my first intarsia, and loving it. I’m embracing the pull-from-the tangle, but the backside is a mess! Especially where the four colors meet up. Good to know it all cleans up nicely at the finish.

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