Intarsia knitting, the technique by which you add graphic elements to a piece of knitting working from a different strand of yarn each time you change colors, is a fun way to add your unique spin to a project.
But it's also a little intimidating for knitters who have never tried it before: What do you do with all those strands? How do you read a chart? How can I make my own designs?
All these questions and more are answered in Picture Perfect Knits: Step-by-Step Intarsia with More than 75 Inspiring Patterns by Laura Birek, a fun book that's sure to inspire you to give picture knitting a try if you haven't already.
You Ought to Knit in Pictures
I first heard of Laura Birek in association with her amazing Obama-rama "Hope" sweater, and right around that same time I got a copy of her book.
This is a person who has clearly found the kind of knitting she enjoys and has a passion for sharing it with the world. The book begins with an overview of what intarsia is and why you'd want to knit this way, as well as the basics of how to read a chart and how to change colors so that the little bits and pieces or your project stay together.
She offers several options for strand management, explains the importance of blocking and how using different kinds of yarns can give a finished project a different look.
She offers tips on choosing colors for patterns and how to design your own intarsia patterns with the help of graph paper or a computer program and provides suggestions for the sorts of projects you might want to make with intarsia motifs.
The book includes 10 full-fledged patterns for intarsia projects, including a skull and crossbones scarf (with pockets to hide the messy back side of the intarsia), a felted argyle bag, a dog sweater, cat-inspired mittens and a hat, a cushion with a cupcake on it and a cropped cardigan with snowflakes across the back.
Some of my favorite patterns are a bamboo baby sweater with an intarsia Mom tattoo on the front, a Che Guevara pillow and a classic argyle vest.
In addition to these patterns there are stand-alone intarsia charts for everything from the alphabet to the state of Texas, a squirrel proclaiming his love for nuts to butterflies, a jellyfish, a robot and much more.
These patterns can be used in your own knitting projects, or as inspiration for drawing your own designs. There's also a sheet of knitters' graph paper (rectangles wider than they are tall) that you can photocopy to draw your own designs.
This book is sure to inspire people who have never tried intarsia before to give it a go, and it no doubt will create some new devotees of the craft. For those who already like painting with yarn, this book will provide some new ideas and great projects you can use as written or as a jumping-off point for your own projects.
I don't see how anyone could flip through this book and not be inspired to try intarsia. If you want to be inspired, check out this book.
Publication date: September 2008.