Friday, March 26, 2010


First off, Sarah Peasley is brilliant. I went into the "Basic Intarsia Techniques" with mixed feelings at best. I didn't want to be converted. I didn't want someone up there burbling on about how adorable those animals in colors never found in nature on little kids' sweaters are. Sarah Peasley is not a burbler. She didn't get good at intarsia because she's devoted her knitting to it. She got good (if I'm remembering the story aright) by knitting through a vast number of intarsia kits for a friend who couldn't knit them anymore. She might even have gotten paid for it. She got good at intarsia because she had to. It was sort of self-preservation. This attitude toward intarsia I could get behind.

I had an arsenal of reservations about this technique. Intarsia is fiddly. Intarsia gets tangled. Intarsia leaves you with lots of ends to weave in. Intarsia can leave you with holes in your knitting. Three out of those four are unavoidable, but can be rendered bearable if you want the end product badly enough. The fourth, the holes in your knitting part, is completely avoidable if it's done right. If it's done right, it can even leave the back of your knitting looking extraordinarily presentable.

Fiddly? Undeniable. You're juggling awkward lengths of yarn in however many colors required for your pattern. You have to hold your yarn a certain way when you change colors in order to "lock" them. See the little vertical dashes of color on the wrong side? That's how your knitting should look if you're knitting along a straight line and have locked your color changes. Those diagonal lines on the picture below? That's how it should look when your knitting a pattern where the colors shift.

Tangled yarns? Well, yes. So you stop and untwist them periodically. Not actually all that big a deal.

Ends to weave in? That, too. One of the best things I got out of this class, though, was how to weave in ends. I'd always done it by guess and by golly before. The only rule I knew was to go in the direction the yarn/knitting was going. So beginning ends should be woven in going back and ending ends should go forward. It never occurred to me to go down or up on the diagonal, and then to double-back parallel to the first line of stitches. It's astonishing how much more endurable a task becomes when you're confident of the technique you're using.

Sarah also recommended this little gem from Sealed With a Kiss.

There's a whole intarsia sample in there. Not unlike the band sampler's worked by embroiderers in the 17th and 18th centuries (I used to do those, too). I've got quite a ways to go, but I expect I'll enjoy the getting there.

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