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I was absolutely thrilled about Erika Knight’s use of entrelac in two! TWO! projects in Field Guide No. 20: Atlas.

Entrelac is huge amounts of fun to knit, and creates very cool fabrics, but it is a bit weird. It seems like you’re doing some very odd stuff.

THE BIGGEST TIP: Follow the instructions in the Scrap Tote pattern. It WILL work out. I promise. Erika promises! Kay and Ann promise! Keep my pics and tips handy to help you find your way with this fantastic technique.

Zooming out

This is modular knitting. Instead of working familiar rows that go all the way across all the stitches of the piece, you’re working in blocks, on individual sections of knitting, building the piece tier by tier.

The arrows indicate the direction each tier is worked. The base triangles and Tiers 1 and 3 are worked from right to left. Tier 2 and the top triangles are worked from left to right.

Above you see what one of the two tote pieces looks like, when finished. You’ve got a base of two triangles, a tier of triangles on either side of a center rectangle, a tier of two rectangles, a tier of triangles on either side of a center triangle, and the top made of two triangles. Each of these blocks is worked one-at-a-time. They’re worked separately, but connected so there’s no sewing together of blocks.

There’s remarkably little counting, and it’s really easy to keep track of where you are. (And bonus: because entrelac is worked in small sections, if something does go wrong, you’re never far away from the mistake.)

awwwwwww … My Mini sample

Top tips tier-by-tier

I found it helpful to use a removeable stitch marker to clip the sets of stitches together in the cast-on edge.

Cutting and rejoining yarns: Each block of the Scrap Tote is worked with a different color. When a block is finished, cut the yarn, leaving a 6 inch/15 cm tail. Erika provides a brilliant tip for joining the next color.

Because I’m a nervous sort, I like to add an extra layer of security: I always tie the new color around the tail of the old one, in a half-hitch knot.

Base Triangles/Foundation Tier

Let’s get started! The base begins with two triangles. Each triangle is worked separately.

Using the color the stitches were cast on with, you work back and forth in rows, starting with K2. Each WS row, you purl one stitch more than the previous row; on the RS row, you just knit back to the start of the block. No need to count rows or stitches! And you’re done the block when you’ve purled all the stitches of that color.

Slipping tip: Slip the first stitch of the WS rows, purlwise with yarn held to the front of the work.

And when the first block is done, move to the next one, working the same process, with the yarn attached to those stitches.

Tier 1

You’re working this tier from right to left and the increases and decreases are always worked on the right side/knit rows. The wrong side/purl rows are simple, no counting needed, you always just work back to the start of the block.

Tidier edges tip: For the rectangles and the second triangle, slip the first stitch of the WS rows, purlwise with the yarn held to the front.

Pick up and knit tips: For the pick up and knit, poke the tip of your needle under both legs of the edge stitch, the full stitch, from front to back, wrap the yarn around as if to knit, and pull the new loop back through.

In position to start the first pick-up and knit, both yarns held together.
Poke the tip of the needle under the full stitch, both strands, at the very edge. Then wrap both yarns around the needle as if for a knit.
And pull through. The first stitch will have both colors coming out of it.
Work the rest of the pick-up-and-knits with only the one color.

I find that I always seem to have to fudge one at the end, either picking up one more or one less than I expect. As long as you get the number the pattern tells you for the block—24 stitches, for the tote—you’re good!

Tier 2

You can consider Tier 2 to be a “wrong side” tier, because you’re working blocks from left to right, and the picking up of stitches and the increases and decreases are worked on the wrong side/purl rows. The RS rows are simple, no counting needed, you always just work back to the start of the block.

Tidier edges tip: For the rectangles, slip the first stitch of the WS rows purlwise with the yarn held to the front.

Pick up and purl: Because you’re working from the wrong side, you need to work a pick-up and purl for this tier. The first one is worked with both colors as demonstrated above, and the rest with the color for the block.

WS facing, ready for pick up and purl.
Poke the needle under both strands of the edge stitch, from back to front. The needle points towards you, just as it does when purling. Then wrap the yarn around the needle as if for purling.
Done. Working under both legs of the edge stitch gives you a tidy selvedge on the inside.

Tier 3

It’s a repeat! See Tier 1 tips above.

The Ending Triangles/Final Tier

The ending triangles are a “wrong side” tier because you’re working from left to right again, and the decreases (there are no increases in this part) are always worked on the wrong side/purl rows.

Ready for the ending triangles.

Follow the instructions as written in the Field Guide, and apply my Tier 2 pick up and purl tips, and Voilà!—you’re almost halfway to a sassy scrappy bag for toting projects or whatever you like!

The Scrap Tote is a great first entrelac project. And you can apply these techniques to the Stepping Stone Throw when you’re ready to tackle a larger piece of entrelac knitting.

Be scrappy.

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About The Author

Kate Atherley is a teacher, designer, author and technical editor. She’s also the publisher of Digits & Threads, a magazine all about Canadian fibre and textile arts.


  • Okay now I want to try it!

  • I love entrelac! it looks so hard but is really easy. My best tip is to avoid the turning by learning to knot backwards. So much easier and faster. Just checked and there are lots of tutorials and videos online.

  • I have had yarn for a ‘Lady Eleanor’ in stash for years … great explanation! as always. No ‘knitting backwards’ either. Here’s to new skills!

  • Here’s another little tip for working entrelac: once you have the basic pattern down, teach yourself to knit backwards. There are no doubt many how-to videos on Youtube, and it’s explained clearly in several knitting manuals like Vogue’s. Knitting backwards is very easy, and while it’s no faster than knitting forwards (though it may be faster than purling) the point is that it eliminates the constant turning of the work back and forth – especially an advantage if you’re knitting a big piece like a blanket, or an entrelac pattern with small blocks. And it’s fun!

    • Sorry, I would delete the above comment if I could; a bunch of us were writing about knitting backwards at the same time.

      • But your comment tells me *why* I might want to learn to knit backwards.

  • I took Shaina Bilow’s entrelac class a few years ago and really enjoyed the technique. Like Jacqueline, I also found knitting backwards handy on the small pieces. One unexpected benefit of doing entrelac was I became much more comfortable with picking up stitches on giant projects after doing it so many times on small pieces of knitting.

  • Thank you for this article! I have started making the tote and I think I was making it harder than it actually is. I am much more likely to finish it now!

  • Thanks for the play-by-play description, Kate! Superhelpful to see how this magical thing happens.

  • Thank you (in advance). I know I will not fully understand entrelac until I start doing it. When I do, I know I will be relying on this as a guide.

  • That was really cool! I’m learning how to do entrelac and was wondering if you could make the triagles in ALL difrent colors and YOU had JUST what I was after BIG THANKS deborah Ps I can’t wait to try this!!!

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