Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mosaic Knitting Tutorial

Today I’m posting a tutorial on mosaic knitting.  This is the technique I used to do my linen dishtowel. 

 Barbara Walker is the guru here.  Her first Treasury of Knitting Stitches had several examples of color work with slipped stitches and then she did a full book titled Mosaic Knitting.  For this project I used Band #22 from this book on page 107.

While the designs can look complicated, they are easier than they look since you use only one color at a time.  Barbara always charted these patterns and they are easy once you learn how to read them.  Here is the chart I used:

You can see that the pattern has a repeat of 10 stitches (2 – 11 on the chart) with one side stitch on the right and two on the left.  You read the odd rows right to left – and there are only odd number rows on the chart.  More on those missing even number rows in a minute. 

To start, you first do a couple of rows in your background color.  For my towel, I used the natural linen and did stockinette stitch.  You could do this in garter but I prefer the look of the stockinette.  To begin the colorwork band, you drop the background color – don’t cut it, attach the contrast color (in my case, orange) and begin the pattern.  The contrast color is represented in the chart by the dark squares.  When a row starts with a dark block that means you use the contrast color for that row and the next.  When it starts with just the background block, you do that row and the next with the background color.

In the first row, the first dark block means that we are using the contrast color as the working yarn.  You knit all the dark blocks and slip the background blocks.  Always slip stitches purl-wise and keep the working yarn to the wrong side of the work.  For this row, that means knit two in orange, slip 2, knit 5, slip 2, knit 2.  That would be for 13 stitches.  You repeat stitches 2 – 11 as many times as you want for the width you need.  Now, you turn and are ready for row two – a missing row on the chart.  That is because you don’t need a chart.  Your knitting will tell you what to do.  When you come to a contrast color stitch on your needle, purl it with the same color.  

When you come to a background color, slip it as if to purl.  Since you are working on the wrong side, you would hold the working yarn in front on the wrong side.

Now you are ready for row three.  The first stitch on the chart is a background stitch so you pick up the background color, twisting it around the contrast color for neatness.  

You will knit the background squares and slip the contrast blocks.  

When you get to row four, slip the contrast stitches and purl the background ones.

Some Rules to Remember:
  • Don’t slip your selvedge stitches.
  • The color of the first stitch on a right side row determines the working color for the next two rows.
  • Dark symbols on the chart refer to the contrast color.  No symbols refer to the background color.
  • A stitch never changes its color on the wrong side rows.  All of the color changes are done on the right side.
  • Always slip the stitches purl-wise with the work to the wrong side of the piece.  If you are on the right side of the work, that means the yarn is in back as if to knit.  If you are on the wrong side or even number row, you hold the yarn in front as if to purl.
  •  Twist your two yarns at the beginning of the odd rows to make the carried yarn look neater. 

There you have it.  You only have to read a chart for half the rows with a rest in between.  And you have a complicated looking design with only one color being worked at a time. 

Just a note.  This was one of my first projects in linen and while knitting it looks all crimped and uneven.  After the washing machine and dryer, it softened up and fulled a bit.  It is just a dishtowel after all; who would want to have to hand wash and block it. On Friday I'll post the pattern that I wrote for this towel.


  1. Thanks so much for the tutorial.

  2. thanks for the tutorial. I knit a lot of fair isle. I found a sweater project that is a mosaic pattern. Couldn't both colors be carried and worked at the same time for faster results?