When was the last time you picked up your knitting needles? The new year is still fresh and you have plenty of time to grab 2011 by the horns (or knitting needles?) and make good on goals to learn a new skill or try a new project. So, why not round up a pair of circular needles and try out this cute-as-a-bunny blanket project, suitable for knitters of all levels, perfect as a baby gift for new parents or a cozy little throw. This project, designed by Jennifer Lippman-Bruno, is an excerpt from the latest book by Debbie Stoller, editor-in-chief of BUST Magazine, knitting whiz from a long lineage of Dutch knitters, and author of the popular Stitch ‘N Bitch knitting book series. Without further ado, a word from Ms. Stoller herself!
Intarsia is a knitting technique that gets its name from a type of wood work in which blocks of different colors of wood are pieced together, puzzle-like, to create an image. In intarsia knitting, you are doing sort of the same thing — knitting blocks of different colors to create an image — but unlike the woodworking technique, you don’t use glue to hold the pieces together. Instead, you hook the different blocks of color together while you are knitting them.
In my new book, Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics, I devote an entire chapter to explaining the ins and outs of this method, but I’ll give you a few basics here. Intarsia is a pretty easy technique that can be accomplished by even a knitting newbie. It doesn’t require that you hold your yarn in any special way, and it’s almost always done in plain ol’ stockinette stitch: knit one row, purl the next. It’s fun, too, because you can create really cute images with this method, like the bunnies in the Hip Hop Blanket shown here. There are two main things, however, that you need to master when learning intarsia. The first is how to deal with hooking your different colors together. The other is how to manage a number of different colors of yarn at the same time.
The idea of intarsia is to make it look like your yarn magically changed from one color to the next in your knit row. What you’re really doing at these color changes, however, is knitting a number of stitches in one color, then dropping that color and picking up another color yarn to knit the following stitches. With intarsia, you never carry any yarn behind your other colors, which means if you are making a complicated image, you will end up working with quite a few different colors of yarn at the same time. Imagine, for instance, that you want to knit a red circle in the middle of a blue background. The first few rows you would simply knit in stockinette, back and forth, using the blue yarn. Then when you get to the first row where the bottom of the red circle is going to begin, you need to knit with a piece of blue yarn until you get to the red circle, then knit the stitches for the bottom of the red circle with a red piece of yarn, and then use a second piece of blue yarn to knit from the bottom of the red circle to the end of your fabric.
So how do you deal with all that yarn? You could use three different balls of yarn – two blue and one red, for the above example – but you’d be kind of crazy to do so, because managing a bunch of balls of yarn at the same time can be as challenging as juggling. So some folks like to wind off some yarn onto what’s called yarn bobbins. They’d wind two bobbins full of blue yarn, and one full of red, to knit that red-ball-on-blue-background image. Bobbins aren’t as big as a full ball of yarn, so that’s a bit easier. I, however, hate using yarn bobbins because I find that they still manage get tangled up like yo-yo’s hanging from your knitting. Instead, I prefer to use what I call the “infinitely long piece of yarn” method. This works if you are using 100% animal fiber yarn, like wool, and one that isn’t superwash. All you do is cut a length of yarn for each color you need, in this case that would be three, two blue and one red. I like to use a “wingspan” – that is, as long a piece of yarn that can reach from one hand to the other with your arms stretched out to your sides. I knit with these lengths of yarn, because even if they get tangled together it’s super easy to just pull the one you need free from all the others.
Then, when my yarn is getting too short and I need more, I just spit-splice another wingspan’s worth onto it, as so: I wet the ends of the old and new piece of yarn by sucking on them (don’t worry, it’s not that gross). Then I overlap these ends in my palm and rub my hands together quickly for about 10 seconds, so that I can really feel warmth in my hands. These three ingredients – warmth, friction, and wetness – combine to magically felt the two ends of the yarn together. When I open my hands, the ends have fused together to become one, and I can go on knitting.
The only main challenge with knitting intarsia is linking your different colors of yarn together. If you don’t do that — you just knit with one color, then knit with the next, and so on — your different areas of color won’t be attached together and the sides of that red ball will be free and flapping in the air like a fish’s gills. You link the two colors like this: when you get to the last stitch of blue before the red starts, you take that blue yarn, and bring it up and to the left. Then you take the new, red yarn, and bring it up and underneath the blue yarn. Then you make your new red stitch. You do the same when you get to the end of the red yarn and want to start knitting with the blue: bring the red yarn up and to the left, then bring the blue yarn up from underneath and begin knitting with it. In this way, you’ll link the sides of the stitches together at these color changes, which is really quite a bit like two people linking arms.
There are a bunch more tricks that I discuss in my book, but this is basically all there is to intarsia. Now let’s get hopping on this blanket!
Finished width: approx 29″
Finished length: approx 29″
Karabella Aurora 8 yarn (100% extra fine merino wool; 50g/98 yd)
- A: 10 balls #18
- B: 2 balls #1364
S. Charles Collezione Micio yarn (60% nylon, 40% wool; 50g/110 yd)
- C: 1 ball #01 white
US 10.5 (6mm) 24″ circular knitting needles
14 stitches and 20 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch using 2 strands held together
CO = cast on
WS = wrong side
RS = right side
P = purl
K = knit
STS = stitches
BO = bind off
PM = place marker
Note: Entire blanket is worked with 2 strands held together. Bunnies may be knit using the intarsia method, or background yarn may be stranded behind bunny motif catching every other stitch for added strength and to avoid creating loops.
With A, CO 100 sts.
Work 9 rows in garter st (k every row).
Row 1 (WS): K7, p86, k7.
Row 2: Knit.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 3″ from beginning, end with a WS row.
Next row (RS): K9, pm, work chart 1 over next 64 sts, pm, k to end.
Continue in pattern as est, working remaining 54 rows of chart between markers. Remove markers when chart is complete.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 19″ from beginning, end with a WS row.
Next row (RS): K32, pm, work chart over next 61 sts, pm, k to end.
Continue in pattern as est, working remaining 34 rows of Chart 2 between markers. Remove markers when chart is complete.
Repeat rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 261/2″ from beginning, end with a RS row.
Work 9 rows in garter st.
Thanks to Debbie Stoller and the good folks at Workman Publishing for sharing this project with us. For more knitting patterns and tips, check out Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting.