Need Help with Intarsia...or is it Fair Isle?

I’ve been sporadically knitting my Christmas stocking for about three years. I’ve never knit a stocking before and certainly have never attempted this kind of color-work.

I basically have no idea what I’m doing and am just hoping I can catch on. I don’t know the difference between Fair Isle or Intarsia, so obviously I don’t know how to do either! Thisis the pattern I am working and have gotten as far as the top of Santa’s head.

Can anyone point me in the direction of some good reference materials on how to accomplish this correctly? My knitting has thrown up all over the back of the stocking and the people can’t get any more squished together!

Thanks for any help! (I would post my work, but oh how embarrassing it is right now!)

intarsia is a word that comes from italian, it means ‘an inset tile’

intarsia is inset color work (like a tile) a pattern that is inserted into a solid background of knitting…
Though it can also be used for multi colored mosaic tile like all over patterns.

Fair Isle (note caps!) is a style of color work associated with Fair Isle (one of the small island off the coast of scotland)

fair isle (no caps) is a term used for any sort of color work that is done in rows…

as a general rule, fail isle (with or with out caps!) is color work that uses 2 colors per row, (but there might be 6 or 8 or more colors in a design (2 rows of A & B, 2 rows of B &C, 2 rows of D & E, etc)

there are several "rules’ for true Fair Ilse, (note caps) but the term fair isle is also used for lots of different kinds of all over color work.

Intarsia is difficult to work in the round…(it can be done,but not easily)

Its not uncommon for socks like yours to be knit flat (and to use intarsia) for ‘leg’ and to be joined into round for heel/foot/toe.

With Fair Isle (or stranded) knitting you are carrying the colors across the back of the work. It’s best for knitting in the round.

Intarsia is always knit flat which is what that pattern asks you to do. The yarn is in separate balls or long pieces and you just wrap the yarns so you don’t get holes, but you don’t carry them across the work.

There are videos here on KH showing both.

Here’s some good photos and text about how to do it, too.
These are the fair isle ones

The difference between intarsia and Fair Isle is this:
In intarsia, you just knit with the other colors where needed. In FI, you carry along the yarn in the back of your work and keep the different colors going through the entire row. Actually, the name FI is used incorrectly most of the time-- true FI is a system where you only use 2 colors in each row, you change only one at a time, and after a specific number of rows. It comes from Fair Isle, which is in the North Sea. It was made popular in the 1920s by the then Prince of Wales. (Just how much did you want to know about this?:slight_smile: ).

So here’s what to do for intarsia, and when to use it:
You wind up lengths of the yarn that’s going to be used for the inserted picture or design, and put it on plastic yarn bobbins, made for this purpose (these or these or these, or you can make them yourself out of stiff cardboard. Then when you come to that part in your pattern, tie on the new color and just knit for as long as you need it for, and then go back to your main color. Then just leave the picture color, and when you come back on the next row, there it is, waiting for you. If you are going to knit with the picture color for more than 3 sts, then every 3 sts, wind it around the main color yarn in back. This is called stranding, and doing this prevents long loops of the carried color, or tightening which it sounds like you may be having a problem with. When you wind it every 3 sts, just don’t do it too tightly so that it won’t pull on the fabric. INTARSIA DOESN’T WORK IN THE ROUND. Well, actually, there is a technique for it, where you leave it and the next round you go back and knit it and then pick up the main color again, but it is a little more complicated and since you’re new at this, let’s not make it more difficult than we need to:) . We can get to that later.

For FI:
You keep the color(s) going the entire time. This works best when there is a constantly repeated pattern, and where you are going to need the colors over and over again, like this or this You just keep both (or all, depending on how many colors) going througout the entire row, constantly stranding/twisting every 3 sts.

Thanks so much everyone!

I really appreciate the info on the differences. I don’t feel so silly now and hopefully can do a better job going forward. And hopefully I won’t have to sit at the computer too long and knit!

Maybe if I can finish my own, my son will get his before Christmas! …maybe! Crossed Fingers