How to knit intarsia in the round

When you try to find information about knitting intarsia in the round on the internet, most of the time you’ll be told that it’s not possible. The big problem when you try to do it: your yarn ends up at the end of your row, while you need it to be at the beginning.

If you don’t like bending the knitting rules, you’ll have to learn how to live with it: knitting intarsia in the round cannot be done. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind a little experimenting, there are actually two methods to solve this problem:

  • the yarn over method
  • the ‘stranded intarsia’ method
Both methods are explained below.

Yarn over method

  1. Knit in the round until you’ve done the last row before the intarsia starts.
  2. Use your main and contrast colours as you would when knitting intarsia flat, until you get to the end of the row.
  3. Turn your work, so the wrong side is facing you.
  4. At the beginning of the row, do a yarn over.
  5. Since you’re working on the wrong side of your work, purl the rest of the row as you would when knitting flat, but do not work the last stitch of the row yet.
  6. Purl the last stitch of the row together with the yarn over you made in the beginning of the row, seaming both sides together while doing so. Pull tight enough.
  7. Turn your work, so the right side is facing you again.
  8. At the beginning of the work, do a yarn over.
  9. Since you’re working on the right side of your work again, knit the rest of the row as you would when knitting intarsia flat, but do not work the last stitch of the row yet.
  10. Knit the last stitch of the row together with the yarn over you made in the beginning of the row, by knitting through the back loop of these two stitches.
  11. Repeat steps 3 to 10 until the whole intarsia part is done.
  12. Continue knitting in the round as you would normally do.

 

Pros and cons

+
You can knit intarsia as you are supposed to do it: using separate strands per change of colour
  • You create a seam.
  • You have to knit back and forth as long as you’re knitting the intarsia part.

Examples of the seam

yarn over seam yarn over seam 2

 

What it looks like

On the outside On the inside
Outside yarn over method Inside yarn over method

‘Stranded intarsia’ method

  1. Knit in the round until you’ve done the last row before the intarsia starts.
  2. Start working the contrast colour, but: instead of using a separate strand of yarn every time you change from contrast colour to main colour, use only one strand per colour. When you’re not using the second colour, carry it around in the back every two or three stitches, as you would for stranded knitting.Note: Don’t pull your yarn too tight, it’ll take the stretch out of your work. Don’t leave it too loose either, or you’ll create holes in your work. To maintain a nice stretch, make sure that you can still spread your stitches on your needles as you would when working with one colour only. It may take some practice, but you’ll get there.
  3. When you’ve reached the end of your row, cut the contrast colour yarn if you haven’t done so already. Make sure to leave a long enough tail to weave it in once you’re finished.
  4. Continue knitting in the round, adding the contrast colour to each row when you need it, carrying it along the back of your work until you’ve reached the last stitch on that row.
  5. Repeat steps 3 to 4 until the whole intarsia part is done.
  6. Continue knitting in the round as you would normally do.

Pros and cons

+
  • No seam
  • You can keep on knitting in the round while doing your colour work
  • You’re dragging the colour your not using along behind your work, which goes against the intarsia rule
  • For each row done in intarsia, you’ll have 2 ends to weave in, which may add up to a pretty high number of ends!

What it looks like

On the outside On the inside
Outside stranded intarsia method Inside stranded intarsia method

Now it’s up to you

So, I’ve explained both methods I’ve tried before. Personally, I prefer the stranded method. Have you used one of these methods before? Do you happen to know any other methods? What’s your favourite? Let me know!

Biker boy cardigan

There goes my first cardigan! I’m very pleased with the result, it looks great, if I say so myself. I’m convinced my husband will actually wear it more than the one obligatory time. So that is one marriage saved!

Biker boy cardigan

What I liked
It’s a plain stockinette stitch. I know a lot of people are put off by projects like that because they think it gets very boring, but I don’t. For me, it means relaxed knitting, without having to think about the pattern too much. I could sit back, knit, and enjoy numerous episodes of Grey’s anatomy. And Weeds. And The Big Bang Theory. In other words, it makes a great excuse for my couch potato syndrome 🙂

The sleeves are knit in. No fussing about afterwards to get them exactly right, the pattern forces you to get them in where they need to be. And the way it’s done looks so nice. This definitely is a way of knitting that I hope to encounter more.

Biker boy cardigan

The neck is finished so it has a lining. Extra thick and extra warm. It gives it a cozy look. I actually like wearing it myself. Too bad it’s way too large for me.

Biker boy cardigan

There’s hardly any seams to close up afterwards. The only ones there are in the bottom half of the sleeves, next to the vertical stripe. And I guess you can avoid these as well by doing the whole sleeve in the round, instead of knitting flat and then joining. Maybe something I’ll do next time!

Rough patches
Casting on stitches for the sleeves was a bit of a mystery at first. Since there is a vertical stripe in them, I needed to change colours at one point. It puzzled me, and I really didn’t have a clue how to do it. While, in fact, it’s not that difficult at all. Just like you do when you need to switch to a new ball or when you are working intarsia, you need to twist the old yarn with the new yarn, and then move on as if nothing ever happened. Just make sure to twist it rather tightly, since this is the edge of your sleeve.

Biker boy cardigan

The skull patch was a bit difficult as well, but, once again, that was completely my fault. I didn’t know what technique to use, so I started doing stranded knitting. Not the best choice. It looked like a skull, but I had been pulling my yarn too tightly and it made the patch look rather lumpy instead of straight. So I frogged it and started over, doing intarsia this time. Way better.

Biker boy cardigan

Not really a rough patch, but certainly a time consumer: getting the zipper in. The pattern says to wash the cardigan first, before you measure it for a zipper. And then I still had to get to the store to get the zipper. And then, of course, get my sewing machine out to get the zipper in.

What I altered
This pattern has really long sleeves, so I added thumbholes to them. My hubby wanted them, and I thought it was a great idea. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as simple as just leaving a hole while doing the seam of the sleeve. Because both sleeves are knit in exactly the same way and because this also involves a vertical stripe, the seam ends up in a different place when you get the sleeves in. So, for the right sleeve, I could just leave a bit of the seam open to get a thumbhole. But for the left sleeve, the seam ended up slightly to the back. So, to get the thumbhole right, I had to steek. That’s right, I had to cut my hard work! I’ll explain how I did that in a separate post. I must say it made me a little bit nervous, but once I saw the result, I knew it was worth it. I’m never doubting the steek method again.

Biker boy cardigan

All in all, knitting this cardigan took me about 1,5 months. I was really motivated to get this right and I concentrated on this project alone. It was quite addictive as well, I wanted to pick up my needles to get on with it almost all the time. At first I thought it would take me forever, with the renovations in the new house and everything. But now I think that I needed a project that’s not related to that house in any way, just to get my mind off it. And it sure worked! I should pick out another cardigan or sweater to knit soon. Maybe for myself this time, haha.

Biker boy cardigan