Intarsia Knitting: A Guide To This Colorwork Knitting Technique

By Jodie Morgan

| Updated:

I show you how intarsia knitting works and how to do it. It’s such fun to add color pictures or lettering to knits. You only need needles and yarn in different colors.

Intarsia Knitting

Frustrated Teacher Quits In Disgust, Sells The Farm, Moves The Family Halfway Across The World And… Starts Knitting

See what I did next...

I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 22, 2023.

Table Of Contents

What Is Intarsia Knitting?

Intarsia knitting is a colorwork technique, and a way to create pictures or lettering in knitting.

Isn’t It The Same As Stranded Knitting?

In stranded knitting, use two yarns to knit across the row. You leave the other yarns until you need them again. When you need a yarn you left behind, bring it to the tip of the needle, creating a strand at the back creating what’s called a float, and change colors.

In intarsia, use two/more colors for a block surrounded by the other. The yarns aren’t carried across the row. Picture a blue square surrounded by yellow.

Knit up to the square using one yarn. Switch and use the blue. Next, use the third ball of yarn to knit the rest of the yellow. These aren’t reversible. Most have the pattern on the knit side of the piece.

What Does Intarsia Mean In Knitting?

Intarsia means the knitted colorwork technique.

The Process Of How To To Knit Intarsia

Here is how to start. Norman from Nimble Needles shows you the basics of Intarsia with a letter N pattern.

Tip: When you’re changing yarns, you need to twist them around each other. Why? If you don’t, you’ll end up with a big hole. When changing colors, put the old yarn to the left, and take the new yarn under the old one and to the right.

How Do You Cast On For This Technique?

Here’s a tutorial showing how to cast on and off for Intarsia. If you use a regular cable cast on, the stitches won’t line up.

Using The Garter Stitch

Francoise Danoy shows you how to do Intarsia in garter stitch. It’s almost the same method as for stockinette.

My Top Tips

  • Enlarge and print out the chart.
  • Leave a tail of yarn at the beginning and end of each color section. This prevents holes from forming in your work.
  • Use bobbins wound with small balls of yarn.
  • Don’t unwind the yarn until necessary!
  • Block it after you’ve finished your intarsia project.
  • Don’t have too many colors on the go.
  • Be patient with yourself when sewing in the ends.

Knitting Intarsia In The Round

Suzanne Bryan teaches how to knit Intarsia in the round.

The Process With Multiple Colors: Suzanne Bryan shows you how to manage color changes in a row while doing the intarsia technique.

Pin Now to Save for Later

Intarsia Knitting Pin

FAQS About Intarsia Knitting

How Do You Change Intarsia Colors In Knitting?

When knitting up to a color change in Intarsia technique, put the old yarn to the left. Place the new yarn to the right. That twists them around each other, so there’s no hole. If you didn’t do that, the two fabrics wouldn’t connect.

How To Read An Intarsia Design?

Reading an Intarsia chart is like other charts. Each square means one stitch, and the squares are color-coded to tell you which yarn to use. Read the first row on the chart from right to left and the second from left to right.

Follow the hints the author of the chart gives.

Is Technique Hard?

No, you only need practice. Also, a tolerance for tangling and lots of yarn tails hanging out on the back of your fabric.

How To Make Intarsia Patterns

Use some graph paper for your chart. Color in the boxes with two or more colors. Add a dot to the boxes that are purl, and leave the knit stitches blank. Add a key, so you remember the boxes with dots are purls, and the boxes without dots are knit.

How To Finish

Learn how to weave in your ends for Intarsia with JenACKnitwear.

Most knitters recommend using the duplicate stitch to weave in the ends of your finished knitting.

How To Avoid Holes In Intarsia Knits

To avoid holes in Intarsia, twist the yarn around each other when changing colors. Keep your tension even because loose stitches lead to holes!

How To Fix Intarsia Holes 

YarnSub shows how to make the changeovers in colors have smaller stitches to keep your tension even.

Intarsia Knitting Vs Fair Isle

  • Intarsia is one block of color surrounded by another color. The yarns aren’t stranded across the row.
  • Fair Isle knitting strands the yarn across the row, creating floats and stranded colorwork. There are no floats in Intarsia.
  • Fairisle is a style of colorwork using motifs.

Intarsia Knitting Vs Jacquard

Intarsia doesn’t leave floats in the row. Jacquard kniting does.


Intarsia knitting, a colorwork technique for creating beautiful patterns. It’s daunting, but you’ll be pleased. Why not try Intarsia? To discover more about the topic, see my guide to great knitting books. If you’re in the mood for something different, try my post on the finger knitting method, or the loom knitting technique.

About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder) | Lives In: Regional Australia

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in regional Australia. Taught by her mother and wonderful grandmother “Mama”, she fell in love with crafting from a young age. When she’s not knitting, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of coffee with cream, or sharing helpful resources and tips with the online knitting community. Get to know Jodie and the team on our meet the team page.

Crunchbase | LinkedIn | MuckRack | Ravelry | Twitter

Frustrated Teacher Quits In Disgust, Sells The Farm, Moves The Family Halfway Across The World And… Starts Knitting

See what I did next...

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.