Editor’s Choice: Birdy Cushion by fyberknitics
Intarsia is fun to knit and a fabulous skill to learn! If you’re keen to try, a cushion is a great place to start!
I often say, that if you want to learn a new knitting technique, do it in miniature before you tackle a huge project. Test out top down cardigans for teddy bears before you embark on an adult sized version or knit a swatch of a new stitch before you knit it into a jumper. Cushion covers are very fertile ground for new techniques – knit a square with simple cables, or wide stripes – once you’ve practised on something small, you can apply your new skills to garments.
I love intarsia. It’s a technique that is instantly satisfying, seeing a picture appear between your needles as you knit. Fair isle, or stranded knitting, involves carrying the yarn along a row, but when you work in blocks of colour, you knit from small bobbins or balls of yarn at the back of the work.
My first intarsia project was a Christmas cushion by Martin Storey, which adorns the front cover of the brilliant Nordic Knits book, pictured below.
Martin Storey’s cushion is a work of brilliance because it uses both fair isle and intarsia methods – notice how the hearts use the fair isle technique, but where the reindeer have little solid bodies, they require an intarsia bobbin of the contrast colour at the back of the work. By the time I’d made this cushion, I felt confident in both techniques!
The Birdy Cushion is composed in a similar way – nine squares worked separately and seamed together to make the front of the cushion cover. The back is striped, with a button fastening and the cover will fit a 40xm by 40cm (16″ x 16″) cushion pad.
Each square uses three colours, and a bead for the bird’s eye (if you don’t want to add beading to the mix, you can always embroider a little dot for the birds’ eyes afterwards!)
Creating little bobbins is easy – either wind some yarn around a piece of cardboard, or a clothes peg, or use one of our Pony Yarn Bobbins!
Top tips for intarsia:
- Wind your bobbins before you start!
- When you change colour, remember to twist the working yarn around the new colour to avoid creating a hole in the work. (If you forget, you can sew these holes up later!)
- Try to keep your colours sitting neatly behind the work to avoid them becoming tangled. For the Birdy Cushion, you will be using three colours per square, two for the bird and one for the background.
- Study your charts before you start. For the Birdy Cushion, you’ll be working in stocking stitch, working back and forth in knit and purl: the right side rows (knit) are odd numbers, and the wrong side (purl) are even numbers.
- Make sure you leave tails of yarn long enough to weave in neatly on the wrong side.
Yarnwise, this cushion is pictured here knitted in Rowan Pure Wool Superwash DK, which comes in over 30 shades, but any DK wool or acrylic will work well here. I’m a great fan of GGH Wollywasch – it’s a really hard working 100% wool yarn that comes in a rainbow of colours – it’s great value, and the stitch definition is neat and clean, perfect for intarsia work. You can match the colours of the original pattern, or create in your own shades to match your home!
Take the plunge and try intarsia!
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Last updated: April 8th, 2016.