do you know intarsia? do you even know what that means?

Instarsia (noun):

  1. An art or technique of decorating a surface with inlaid patterns, especially of wood mosaic, developed during the Renaissance.
  2. A method of knitting with a number of colors, in which a separate length or ball of yarn is used for each area of color.

Intarsia knitting is a much understood and maligned art. But what is intarsia? Why do it?

The name comes from Italian for marquetry and has been used in terms of knitting since the 19th century. It is a just a fancy way of staying you are using a motif or a block of color in your knitting.

An example of wood intarsia from the Renaissance
An example of wood intarsia from the Renaissance

The classic use of intarsia is for argyle sweaters and socks, but you can use any motif – shapes, animals, flowers, logos, cartoon characters, initials – whatever you can imagine and chart. It is great for sweaters, blankets, cushions, and clothing, or anything you would like to personalize. There are a lot of knitting patterns that use intarsia. Designer Kaffe Fassett uses it a great deal and often his works have a ‘quilt’ look about them (see the main photo above).

Intarsia is a fun and creative way to knit. It is not difficult, but it is important to do it correctly to avoid holes in your knitting.

Five Great Things About Intarsia:

  1. Single layer of knitting – so your item is not bulky (as it might be with stranded colorwork)
  2. Can be modern or classic, depending on what pattern you choose
  3. Ideal for detailed designs
  4. You only knit with one color at a time
  5. Great way to use up small amounts of yarn

If you want to find out more about intarsia knitting, sign up for Cecilia’s one-session Color Blocks (aka Intarsia) Class on Wednesday, Oct 14. Click here to register.

~ Cecilia

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