Knitting with Needles

Advanced Knitting Techniques

Whether You're Knitting Scarves, Socks, or Shawls, You'll Find that All of These Techniques Spice Up Your Needlecraft!

Advanced knitting techniques can be broken down into four different categories: colorwork, lace, cables, and structural techniques. All of these will help you produce delightful knitted creations for years to come! Here's a little about each technique, suggested projects, and further reading.

Colorwork allows the knitter to make a multicolored garment by knitting with two or more different colors of yarn in the same row. There are three main styles of colorwork: fair isle, intarsia, and mosaic knitting. In fair isle knitting (which has an extensive Scandinavian heritage), two different colors of yarn (no more) are carried throughout the row, with one color "floated" behind the other while not in use. Fair isle items are usually knit in the round; cardigans are generally "steeked," or cut up the front after knitting. Intarsia knitting, on the other hand, is usually knit flat: while fair isle is usually used for motifs which are repeated in the round, intarsia is good for solid blocks of color independent of a motif, such as circles or squares. The third kind of colorwork, mosaic or slip-stitch knitting, differs from fair islea and intarsia in that only one color of yarn is knit at a time - the stitches which will be knit in the alternate color or colors are slipped, then knit on a second round while the stitches in the main color are slipped. The effect is lovely, but time consuming, as knitting a mosaic sweater can take twice or three times as much time as a fair isle garment, depending on how many different colors you are using.

Projects to try: Wendy Johnson's Fearless Fair Isle, Sweaterscapes Intarsia Tutorial (with free pillow pattern), hello yarn's Mini Skull and Crossbones Tote (intarsia)

Lace knitting, while it is often complicated, is in essence just specifically ordered, decorative increases and decreases. Thus, projects range in difficulty from simple feather and fan scarves to complicated Shetland, Faroese, and Orenburg shawls that have centuries of history. Shetland and Orenburg lace shawls are traditional square shawls knit in very fine weight yarn, while Faroese shawls are an exaggerated triangular shape with shoulder shaping, which helps the shawls stay on their wearers' shoulders. (If you're interested in Faroese shawls, there is no better resource than Myrna Stahman's Shawls and Scarves, which is out of print but often available used.)

Projects to try: Cookie A.'s Hedera, Wendy Engstrom's Orenburg lace shawl (PDF)

Cables originated on seamen's sweaters in northwestern Europe, where they were both decorative and helped conserve body heat. Thusly, cables create a highly textured and dense garment, although they consume lots of yarn in the process. Cables (usually knit in stockinette) are created by twisting stitches around each other, and are often set off by columns of reverse stockinette. Patterns can range from simple braids to complicated celtic knotwork. The best place for cables: warm, cuddly wool sweaters. For gorgeous cabled sweaters, be sure to check out the books of Alice Starmore and Elsebeth Lavold.

Projects to try: Rebecca Hatcher's BPT, Jodi Green's Mariah, Ariel Barton's Leaves in Relief

Structural innovations in knitting come about through using shaping techniques (entrelac uses short rows) and inverting the usual order of things (twisting the cast on of a circular piece, in Mobius knitting). Entrelac uses short rows to produce a fabric that appears to have been woven, although it's actually been knitted. Mobius knitting is just as you might imagine - the principle of the Mobius strip applied to cowls, baskets, and more. Cat Bordhi's A Treasury of Magical Knitting is a great place to read more about Mobius and other types of mathematical knitting. Klein bottle hats are just another application of this type of knitting (and quite cozy, too!)

Projects to try: Jesse Loesberg's Danica, Cat Bordhi's Cashmere Mobius Cowl (PDF), Nathanael Berglund's Klein Bottle Hat (PDF)

Once you've experimented with these techniques a little, try designing your own! Combining elements of any of these techniques can make for a beautiful and unique creation...

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