Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Photo Tutorial: How to Measure Yarn for Intarsia

This year I’m doing Debbie Abrahams’ Mystery Blanket. There’s lots of intarsia.
I’m taking some advice from a friend and sorting out my materials for each square when I get the patterns. This means I can just grab a bag and start knitting when I’m in the mood.


One thing that’s very useful to know is how much yarn to measure off for your intarsia bobbins. You may be of the persuasion to wind a bit off and hope for the best; if you’d rather be more accurate then hopefully the following will be helpful. It would be useful if you are short on yarn, or like me want to prepare in advance, or if you travel about with your knitting and want to take less yarn with you.

First, count the number of stitches in each section you’ll be knitting.

Here’s a sample chart -

Intarsia Chart

You can just count each square and make a note of it. Or here’s a few tips to make the counting quicker. If the chart is numbered or has boxes of 5 or 10 then it makes life easier.

For easy square shapes like the blue square then just multiply the rows by the stitches. There are 100 stitches in the blue square.

If the shape is irregular like the purple shape, then find any square or rectangular shapes – such as the area outlined in green and work out how many sts are in this i.e. multiply the rows by the stitches. There are 140 sts in this section. Then count by hand the small purple bit that is left – 25 sts in this section. Add the two sections together and there are 165 sts in this section.

Repeat this for the yellow section and there are 135 yellow sts.

Highlighted Intarsia Chart

I’m just going to work on the purple section now to simplify things.  The stitch count is 165 sts, which I’ll call X. You need to know how many rows are in that section too. This is easy with a numbered chart. There are 20 rows in the purple section.

The next step is to work out how much yarn a stitch uses. I’ve seen some people work this out by winding the yarn around the needle 10 times and measure this length, then divide by 10 to get the number. This would give you a good estimate but won’t perhaps be as accurate.

What I tend to do is measure how many stitches I can knit in a metre (or a yard) of yarn. I do this on my gauge swatch but if this isn’t something you do then cast on enough stitches for a swatch (say enough for 6 inches of width) and knit a row or two first.

Start at the beginning of a row, measure a metre or a yard of yarn. It doesn’t matter whether you’re metric or imperial , just work in what you’re used to.

Make a slip knot at the metre/yard mark.

Intarsia 1


Use either a lockable stitch marker, safety pin or even a paper clip and attach it through the loop of the slip knot (where the knitting needle normally goes).


Then pull it up tight.


Work across your stitches until you reach the knot. Count how many stitches you’ve worked.

In my sample, I worked 59 stitches in a yard. If working in imperial, divide this number by 36 and that’s how many stitches can be worked in an inch. If working in metric, divide this number by 100 and that’s how many stitches can be worked in a centimetre. My number is 1.64 (rounded to 2 decimal places). I’m going to call this figure Z. I can work 1.64 stitches in 1 inch.

I’ve got all the numbers I need to work out how much yarn we need for the purple section.
  • Number of stitches – 165 – X
  • Number of rows – 20. The rows give a bit of leeway for moving across stitches and up and down rows. Multiply this number by 2. 20 x 2 = 40 and call it Y.
  • Stitches per inch/cm – 1.64 – Z
Number of stitches + number of rows multiplied by 2. 165 + 40 = 205

Divide this number by the stitches per inch/cm. 205 ÷ 1.64 = 125

Add 12 inches / 30 cms for tails. 125 +12 = 137 inches

The yarn I need for the purple section is 137 inches.

For those that like numbers then here’s a formula that sums it all up – (unintentional pun!)

Intarsia Formula

This can be a little time consuming if you have a huge chart and it’s not practical in all circumstances. However, it’s a useful thing to know how to do.

Once you’ve got all your yarn then wind into bobbins and you’re ready to start knitting.

Personally, I can’t stand the plastic knitting bobbins. They weigh your knitting down, bang about, taffle together and stop you from getting into a flow with your knitting.

I’d recommend winding them into butterfly bobbins. There isn’t any added weight to your knitting, if you have a taffle you can just pull the yarn through and if you’re using shorter lengths then there’s less to taffle anyway.

Here’s how I make butterfly bobbins.

I wind bobbins on my hands. For a smaller amount of yarn, I’ll do this over just two fingers. For most circumstances then I’ll use four. Give yourself enough of a tail to get it out of the way of winding. This needs to stay free because this is the end you knit from.


Use the photographs as a guide but basically wind the yarn in a figure of eight shape. Some people just wind it around without the figure of eight – not tried it myself though. I always think the figure of eight keeps the strands stacked on top of each other so they are easier to pull out.


Keep winding…..


Continue until you’ve got enough left to wind around – probably about 16 inches/40 cm (more is better than less).


Slide the yarn off your hand holding it firmly in the middle so it doesn’t unravel.


Wind the tail end of the yarn around the middle section. Do this firmly but not too tight as the yarn wants to run through underneath. Continue until there is only a small amount of yarn left.


Loop the yarn….


Slide it over the end of the yarn to the middle (where you’ve been winding around).


Pull it tight. If you’re winding from a ball then just clip the yarn short.


To use the butterfly, pull the yarn from end where you started (not the end that is wrapped around the butterfly).


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Baby Ravi

This one didn’t take long to knit at all. It’s a fabulous knit. Quick because of all the garter stitch but lots of interesting construction too, making it fun. The pattern is Ravi Junior by Carol Feller. The yarn is Millamia Naturally Soft Merino in Forget-Me-Not. Ravelry Project Page.


The yoke is worked from edge to edge with short rows to give the shape. I used German Short Rows which made the whole process quite mindless – no picking wraps up when working back. It’s a great technique if you haven’t tried it.


There are short rows at the bottom edge too, which makes it a lovely shape for a baby.


The yarn is just perfect for this (and most things really). I’m a big fan of Millamia. The stitch definition in this yarn is beautiful and so lovely and soft too. It blocks really well and I think this soft blue is just gorgeous.


The buttons are from Textile Garden. I thought a contrast worked nicely here and it zings it up a bit.


There’s something very satisfying about applied i-cord against garter stitch. Probably something to do with the clean lines next to each other. It can be a wee bit tedious but more than worth the effort.


I used the recommended yarn for the pattern. The yarn is worked at a looser gauge than is recommended by Millamia. Naturally Soft Merino is a sport weight yarn and normally worked on a 3 / 3.25mm. This is worked at a similar gauge to a standard DK. In garter stitch, this makes a nice draping and soft fabric. The only downside is my knitting looks a little uneven in places… This does mean that you could possibly use a DK yarn if you wanted to.




Tuesday, 10 February 2015


The Torine scarf that I mentioned last week is finished. The yarn was Rowan Truesilk in the sleep colourway. Ravelry project page.


I love the colour of the yarn. The sheen of the yarn really brings out the colour beautifully – there’s almost a metallic tint to it. It is lovely to knit with as well. The only little hiccup is it’s very easy to catch and it is a chain construction so difficult to pull the snags back in.

It blocked very well. Though I think I spent half an hour threading the blocking wires down the garter stitch ridges but it was worth it. It makes a beautiful and fluid fabric - perfect for a scarf.


The central panel is knitting separately to the borders and then the borders are sewn on. Luckily, I like sewing.


The borders could have been worked at the same time as the body of the scarf but having the sewn seams gives the scarf some stability and helps with any rolling of the borders. Plus the borders are worked on a smaller needle and this does make for neater garter stitch than if it were worked on the same size needle as the scarf.





My weekend was spent working on a Ravi Junior by Carol Feller. Nearly finished but here’s a picture of the yoke in progress as I think it’s just lovely.


The construction is fun and interesting. I’m  really enjoying it.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Works in progress

I’ve got quite a few WIPs at the moment. This is partly due to several mystery knitalongs.

My birthday/Christmas present (and maybe next year’s too!) was a membership to Debbie Abrahams Mystery Blanket 2015. I want to share pictures of this but I don’t want to ruin any surprises for people. I’ve put photos of the finished squares on my Ravelry project page.

I’ll show you a few sneak peek photos though.

Here is the first batch of materials.

The 2nd lot of patterns have just come through and I spent Sunday morning being super organised. The materials for each square are wound off and in their own zip lock bags.

The other mystery knitalong is Ysolda’s Follow Your Arrow KAL 2. I did it last year and really loved the finished shawl. Can’t really show you but here’s the project page with pictures. This is the yarn I’m using. It’s Solo by sparkleduck.

The other project on the needles is a Torine scarf from the Rowan Truesilk book and I’m working it in Rowan Truesilk (colourway sleep). The yarn is just heaven.

There are a few other bits too including a Christmas present – being very organised!

I’ve just completed another Buzzy Bee outfit for a friend’s dog, though it’s more “Dennis the Menace”esque.