Intarsia, also known as picture knitting, was a big trend on the catwalks for Autumn/Winter 2017.
This technique allows designers to precisely apply and play with colour. Unlike stranded colourwork, intarsia can be used to place blocks of colour anywhere and in any shape within a knitted fabric, using as many colours and moving between colours as often as desired.
Designers such as Chloe, Missoni and Alexander McQueen kept things simple with clean, abstract lines and shapes that ranged from monochrome to brightly coloured palettes.
Clockwise from top left: Alexander McQueen Swallow Intarsia Bomber Jacket (here), Victoria Beckham Denim Patchwork Sweater (here), Sonia Rykiel Fine Wool Cardigan with Intarsia Motif (here), Chloe Loose Graphic Sweater (here), Eskandar Square Patch Cashmere Tunic Sweater (here).
In contrast, a 1940s and 50s style was evoked at Gucci, Valentino, Miu Miu and Alberta Ferretti with inset designs of pretty flowers and birds, often used in conjunction with embroidery designs (see Trending: more is more).
A more quirky, humorous take on intarsia was on display at Stella McCartney, MaxMara, Moschino and Gucci, as well as menswear at Gucci and Christopher Kane. Designs featured comic book characters, doodled faces, UFOs and an array of brightly coloured cats, rabbits, tigers and birds.
Clockwise from top left: MaxMara Cashmere Sweater (here), Gucci Oversize Embroidered Wool Cardigan (here), Stella McCartney The Dandy Print Turtle Neck Jumper (here), Gucci Men’s Wool Sweater with Planet Intarsia (here), Christopher Kane Menswear Intarsia Face Jumper (here).
Intarsia can seem quite intimidating- it often seems to feature on knitters’ lists of techniques they have not yet tried or are scared to attempt. But while intarsia can definitely be very fiddly and involve a lot of detangling of yarn, it can also be really fun and satisfying to knit, with even simple intarsia designs resulting in a big impact.
There are some great introductions to intarsia online, including very clear tutorials by Staci Perry at VeryPink Knits (here) and by Knit Picks (here). The Craftsy blog also has a brief history of the technique (here) as well as classes (here).
The king of intarsia: Kaffe Fasset – a great innovator in intarsia colourwork, Kaffe Fasset has produced numerous, inspirational patterns since the 1960s and is still designing today, often collaborating with Rowan yarns. See his website here and archive of patterns at Ravelry here.
Rowan magazines: these magazines often feature updated versions of traditional styles, including many examples of intarsia and other colourwork. Rowan Yarns website can be found here.
Inspiring intarsia designs:
Sunlight cardigan by Marly Bird (here)– Inspired by the warm colours of a Colorado sunset, blocks of colour form a striking design on this 5-ply/sport weight boyfriend cardigan. Knit in the colours suggested or create a very different look with less contrasting or paler colours.
Lucky Star Jumper by Jimenez Joseph (here)– This oversized, boxy style jumper is knitted in dk weight yarn and features a star motif in a contrasting colour and contrasting lace texture. The sweater includes a wide scoop neckline, drop shoulders and super-long sleeves with optional thumbholes that can double up as fingerless mitts.
Avignon by Rachel Søgaard (here)– Knitted in dk weight, this oversized sweater is a great piece to throw on over other layers. The transitions in colour are accompanied by changes in stitch pattern, including the textured sand stitch, garter stitch and broken rib.
Albers Pullover by Julia Farwell-Clay (here)– A different take on stripes, this dk weight sweater uses intarsia to create broken strips of colour. The clean, crisp look is underlined by the simple ballet neckline and neat fit.
#24 Fox Pullover by Wei Wilkins (here)– This classic v-neck, worsted jumper is given a equirky, fun edge with the intarsia fox detail, as well as contrast colour elbow patches and ribbed saddle shoulders. Made in pieces and then seamed, this sweater could also easily be turned into a tank top/vest.
Pluie Cardigan by Alex Capshaw-Taylor (here)– The all-over umbrella motifs give a fun vintage feel to this fitted, 4-ply/fingering cardigan, while the contrast colour edging gives a polished finish.
Over to you: do you enjoy knitting intarsia designs? Have you been inspired by any catwalk or high street fashion picture knitting?