Intarsia Crochet Technique Tutorial
Welcome to the Intarsia Crochet Technique Tutorial, courtesy of April Garwood at Banana Moon Studio! Okay, that was cheesy…anyway. In honor of my latest published pattern, T. Rex Hat and Mitts, found in Interweave Crochet Accessories 2011. I have made this photo tutorial about working the intarsia crochet technique. In the picture above I have a simple intarsia chart of a letter ‘H’.
This is my T-Rex Hat and Mitts set! The pattern is available to purchase from Interweave. Get this dinosaur crochet pattern here.
The chart for the T. Rex pattern is in the mag for those who plan to make it. I didn’t think it would fly too well with the editor for me to post that here for all to see. So we will work with this one as an example. The intarsia crochet technique involves using 2 or more colors of yarn to stitch a picture into the fabric. It isn’t stitched on top, it is a part of the fabric. If you scroll to the end of this tutorial, you can see my finished ‘H’ swatch to see how that looks. The chart above shows you visually how to use the 2 colors.
When working in intarsia, it can be helpful at times to wind off some of a color into it’s own bobbin, ball, or mini-skein. I like to make little center-pull mini-skeins. See my tutorial for making those here.
The white boxes of the chart represent the background color (green in this case) and the green filled boxes, represent the color of the picture I am making (which in this case is pink). So for each white box I work a stitch in the green, and for each green box I work a stitch in the pink (sorry, I realize that’s kind counter-intuitive).
I start with a couple of beginning rows of single crochet that are wide enough for my chart to fit (10 sts wide), plus an extra stitch on each side. When working from a pattern, this set-up part will be written into the pattern. I have placed stitch markers in the first and last stitches that will encompass my chart so that I don’t have to think much about where to begin and end my chart work.
This row begins the first row of my chart. I worked the st(s) before my chart section in the green, then I began the first st of my chart, which is green. I inserted my hook into the st as usual, yarn over, pull up a loop and that’s where I am in the picture above. I am NOT going to yarn over with the green here.
I drop my working green strand to the WRONG SIDE of my fabric and place the end of the pink over the end of my hook. I do NOT make a slip knot, and I leave 4 to 6 inches of “end” or “tail” that will be woven in later.
I pull that loop of pink through the 2 loops of my green sc to finish it off. The top of that green sc will be green because it’s top is formed by the loop pulled through the sc before it. By pulling through this sc with pink, I have provided a pink top for the stitch that I am just about to work.
Here I have almost finished working the 2 pink sts from the chart. I have pulled up a loop with the pink, and now I am going to switch colors again. At this point you can either 1)carry the green yarn you were already using behind your 2 pink sts and use it across the rest of the row, or 2)use a separate bobbin (length of yarn that you either draw from the other end of the same skein, or wind off into it’s own ball or mini-skein) to work the green section between the 2 legs of the ‘H’.
As before, I placed a loop of green yarn over my hook and pulled it through the pink sc to finish it.
Now I work the sts between the 2 legs of the ‘H’ and will switch colors again when I have almost finished the 4th one. Again, I will have to decide whether to carry my yarn across the back or use a separate bobbin. If you decide to carry your yarn across the back, keep in mind that this will be likley to snag fingers or toes if you are making mittens, gloves, or socks. Also, you should be sure to carry it loosely. If you make it too tight your fabric will not be very stretchy and it will probably pucker where you don’t want it too. Be loose!
Now I have finished the first row and you can see the pink stitches sitting very neatly in their places with green stitches all around them.
Now, when I work the next row, I am working a wrong side row. This is messy-looking, as you can see! I used separate bobbins for this just as I did when making the T. Rex Hat and Mitts. So there are lots of yarn ends hanging off the back.
You will change colors the same way when working from the wrong side, but there are 2 important things to remember. First, you need to read the intarsia chart backwards. When you work a right side row, you read across the chart in the same direction as your work — from right to left. But when you are working a wrong side row you must read it from left to right.
With my example here it doesn’t make much difference because this design is symmetrical, but if the design is not symmetrical, as with the T. Rex, this makes all the difference.
Another important thing to remember is that when you lay down one color and pick up another, all your strands need to hang to the WRONG SIDE of the fabric, which you are now looking at. On the right side rows, they still go to the wrong side, but you aren’t looking at the wrong side. Just be sure you put your yarn ends in the correct place!
In the picture above, you can see, though it is hard to find among all that yarn, that I have the 2 loops of a green stitch on my hook and I am just about to change colors. The working end of my green is coming out from under my hook and hanging down the wrong side. I have picked up the working strand of the pink and have it going around the back of my hook, just about to finish the stitch with it.
This picture isn’t really necessary, but it shows you one of the common difficulties of working the intarsia crochet technique — tangled yarn. I was working on this little swatch standing up and that made it much harder to keep my yarn untangled. If you are sitting down it will be easier to move your skeins/bobbins/balls around to keep the yarn untangled. Every few rows, stop and untwist everything.
Switching colors again on a wrong side row. I have the green strand held against the wrong side of the fabric with my thumb and am just about to pull through both loops with the pink. Right after changing colors, you may want to pull both your ends to tighten up the last stitch just a little bit.
Now I am working the crossbar of the ‘H’. When I change over to the pink, I am just going to keep right on working all the way across it with the same bobbin. I will leave the bobbins for the middle section of green and the other pink bobbin right where they are.
In some designs it might be more appropriate to cut them off leaving 4 to 6 inches of “end” to be woven in later. In this case I left them there and will use them in just a couple of rows as I work the top of the ‘H’. I plan to carry them up the back, but if the distance were very long, I would probably cut them and restart them later to avoid having a long floater across the back.
Here I am looking at the wrong side. I have finished working all of the pink. You can see my floaters in both pink and green going over the section where I worked the crossbar. Once you are to this point, and all the remaining stitches will be worked in the background color, you can cut off all the unnecessary bobbins leaving a 4 to 6 inch “end”. DO NOT cut off the one that you still need to finish with!
As I work the top row that doesn’t have any color changes I will jut use the same strand of yarn to stitch all the way across the top in all the stitches no matter their color.
In the above picture I wanted to show you what it means to “weave in ends as-you-go”. This is ideal! You can weave in your ends as you stitch, leaving less work to do afterward. Do you see how I have that green end laying on top of the next stitch that I am going to work into? I can lay that along the tops of the row of stitches I am going to work into and then stitch over it as I work. That way, I have one less end to weave in later!
Ta-da! I have stitched a letter ‘H’ into my crochet fabric just like the one shown on my intarsia chart…except the color difference of course.
By the way, the yarn I used for this demo is called Queensland Collection Super Aussie 100% Merino. it is a VERY soft worsted weight superwash wool that I LOVE! I ordered mine from WEBS.
I hope this was helpful to you! Was there anything you would like me to clarify? explain in more detail? Leave a comment and let me know! I’d also love to hear about it if this intarsia crochet technique tutorial was helpful! I plan to put up a second blog post today or tomorrow about winding off a separate bobbin or “mini-skein” to complement this post. Until then, happy crocheting!
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6 thoughts on “Intarsia Crochet Technique Tutorial”
How do you handle the difference in the look of the stitches on the right/wrong side of the piece you are crocheting? I am crocheting a football afghan for my son and I don't like the way the pattern looks when I crochet from left to right. Do you end each row and only crochet from right to left?
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I crocheted just as usual, but it is true that the stitches worked on the WS row do not look as nice and neat. Carol Ventura and Laurinda Reddig have both done some work on finding ways to make intarsia look better. You might google their names and look through their work.
Thanks so much. I will do that. I guess I'm just too picky 🙂
how do i make my picture chart to fit a twin or queen blanket size??
You'll need to know the dimensions of your blanket – how big you want it to be when it's finished. Then, make a swatch with the yarn, hook, and stitch pattern you'll be using. Measure how many stitches there are in 4 inches (or 10 cm), and how many rows there are in 4 inches (or 10 cm). You take the width you want your finished blanket to be, divide it by 4 (if you measured in inches, by 10 if you measured in cm). Multiply that by the number of stitches in 4 inches. Do the same for the length of your blanket, but in the last step, multiply by the number of rows in 4 inches (or 10 cm). This math will tell you how many stitches and rows your finished blanket should have. Then use MS Excel, or several sheets of graph paper taped together to draw out your chart.