Tutorial: knitting intarsia in garter stitch

Tutorial: knitting intarsia in garter stitch

Usually, intarsia is knitted in stockinette stitch (every front side stitch is knit, every backside stitch is purled). In most cases, it’s not necessary to make a beautiful or reversible back side when knitting stockinette stitch because you will not see it anyway. That is why it’s possible to just twist the yarns at the transition points and go on. This is totally adaptable to garter stitch intarsia IF you knit straight lines and no diagonal patterns.

It all get’s complicated if you want to to the diagonal lines. If you use the twisting only the backside will look untidy at the back side when leaning to the left and on the front side when leaning to the right. This is caused mainly because of the nature of the purl stitch. If you work a knit stitch over a purled one in two different colors you will see, that the line gets’s kind of broken. The feet have the new color and the “bumps” have the old color. Usually, to avoid this you would purl one row with the new color over the old purl row and knit with the new color then. The problem is you can’t do it in garter stitch, because knitting every row is the nature of this stitch and that includes knitting over purl rows.

So here is my way of doing the garter intarsia. I wanted to achieve that on both sides the lines look the same no matter which direction they’re leading. The front lines never the less look a bit different than the lines on the back.

So here we go:

First, take a marker and pin it to the right side of your front side. It’s very important to know where your front and back is and this can be mixed up easily in garter stitch. If you mix it up your line will not look the same on every side.

Tipp: Slip every first stitch of a row. This compliments the garter stitch and makes a clean border. It’s also helpful to pull the thread tight at changing points before you continue knitting.


Knit the last stitch of the back row with your contrast color (CC). Turn your work.

 Leaning to the left

If you look on the front side, the line where the color changes lean from the bottom right to the top left.

On the front side:


Knit the first stitch of your front row with CC. Change to main color (MC). Go through the next stitch as if to knit.


Make sure you put the needle below the MC yarn. Wind the CC yarn around the needle.


Knit the stitch. Knit to the end of the row with MC. Turn work.

On the back side:


Knit to the first CC stitch with MC. Put the MC thread in front of the needles on top of the CC thread.


Take the CC thread and put it behind the needles. This way the two threads get twisted.


Knit the next stitch with CC. Turn your work.

This is what you repeat when doing the left-leaning color change. Basically, you take the thread of the main color to the next stitch inside the contrast color stitch so it will not show a bar at the back of the knitting.

Going straight up

This is the easiest way. If you want to try out intarsia, do this first. You twist the yarn every row.

On the front side:


Knit with CC to the changing point. Lay the CC thread on top of the MC thread.


Take up the MC thread and knit to the end of the row. Turn your work.

On the back side:


Knit to the changing point with MC. Put the MC thread over the CC thread. Then knit with CC to the end of the row.

Leaning to the right side:

The left-leaning line increased the contrast color on the front side. The right-leaning line increases on the back side.

On the front side:


Knit with CC to the changing point. Lay CC thread over MC thread. Pick up your MC thread and knit to the end of the row.

On the back side:


Knit with MC to the changing point. Take the CC thread and place it over the needle behind the loop of the next stitch.


Go through both the loop of the next stitch and the CC thread you put behind the stitch as if to knit.


Knit with MC.


Lay the MC thread to the side facing you. This is very important!


Knit with KC to the end of the row. Turn work.

So why should you do this in garter stitch when stockinette is obviously the easier way to go with intarsia?

1. garter stitch is reversible which is perfect for scarfs.

2. garter stitch does provide a flat surface with no rolling rims. Perfect for jackets, scarfs, small accessories.

3. garter stitch has an interesting texture and is a little bit thicker (and therefore warmer) than stockinette stitch.

4. If you hate purling, garter stitch is your soulmate.


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