A Year of Techniques is becoming my favorite excuse. “Sorry can’t fix dinner—I’m learning.” “Wish I could help, but I’m enriching my soul.” “I’m elevating.” “I am leaning in to intarsia.”
Oh, whatever—once you see Jen Arnall-Culliford’s seven-minute A Year of Techniques intarsia tutorial, you realize that intarsia is itself the tiniest of maneuvers. You change yarn colors in the middle of a row simply by throwing the old color over the new color, then knit with the new color. It’s a bit of weaving, that’s all.
An addicting bit of weaving.
I don’t mean to brag (totally bragging), but I’m on Row 274 of Bristol Ivy’s Brambling Shawl. That puts me almost halfway done, working three colors of this Fyberspates Cumulus at once, just about to add the fourth color.
I’m finding tricks and tips to share.
In the MDK Shop
Tips for a Better Brambling Shawl
Tip No. 1: Tug the new color. Beautiful intarsia happens when the magical join line is as smooth as possible, with stitches the same size along each side of the color change. I find that gently snugging up the new color stitch makes it a tidy, even size. It’s a tiny tug, not a big tug. But it’s definitely a tug. My early rows have balloony stitches along the color switch line, because I Failed To Tug.
Tip No. 2: Turn your work with care. Fear of Tangling is an issue with intarsia, and you have to accept at some point that your yarns will entwine to some degree. Here’s a great tip from dbukko on Ravelry that will minimize this:
After a knit row, turn your work to the right to start the next row.
After a purl row, turn your work to the left to start the next row.
Tip No. 3: Pointy needles. A dull tip makes the M1 stitches a pain.
I’m using size 8 needles rather than the size 6 specified. Looking for the airiness.
Tip No. 4: Knit the yarn, not the flurf. Fyberspates Cumulus is dreamy because of its halo. But sometimes the eager knitter will knit the halo and not the yarn itself.
Knitting the halo means you basically didn’t knit the stitch.
Tip No. 5: Hold your work up to the light. This is how you find the wayward dropped stitch, which with this velcroish yarn will sit patiently for a very long time without unraveling.
This dropped stitch may never have unraveled—but we don’t know this, do we?
Tip No. 6: Read and map out each section before knitting. This Brambling Shawl pattern does cool things, shifting blocks of colors while simultaneously building a triangle shape. No one row has a ton of action, but there’s often a color shift, an increase, or a decrease that requires attention. This has been the most challenging part of this pattern—making sure I’m doing the repeated sections the proper number of times. I’ve been marking up my pattern to keep track of all this, and it frankly looks demented. I’m not showing you a picture of my pattern. Nobody needs to see what happens when somebody is simultaneously binge-watching River (so dark! so good!) and annotating an intarsia pattern. I’m craving a cheat sheet that will streamline all this row-counting. Stay tuned for Mrs. Shayne’s Brambling Cheat Sheet.
Tip No. 7: What to Fix. This is a highly sensitive and personal issue. Some knitters aim for perfection in their knitting, ripping out a hundred rows to install a missing yarnover. Some let imperfections stay as a testament to the wabi-sabi, human-made gorgeousness of life. Some are compulsive. Some are lazy—see how fast it all breaks down into judgment? I’m not a perfectionist. My feeling is that a lot of stuff just doesn’t really matter all that much. If I miss a k2tog, I’ll often let it go. But the one mistake I have gone back to fix twice now is where I failed to twist yarns when changing colors. It’s just so noticeable, along a beautiful line of contrasting color intarsia, to see that gap. No judgment—I mean, if you like big whacking pathetic swiss cheese holes in the middle of your intarsia, right on.