Introduction to Mosaic Knitting – Part 1

Why is Mosaic Knitting a good technique to learn?

The short answer: because you can make many (but not all) different kinds of multi-colored projects very easily.

This is the first in a three-part series of articles on how to read knitting patterns for Mosaic Knitting. Note that very few such patterns will actually call it by name – it is the mix of slipped and knitted/purled stitches that make the fabric a Mosaic Knitting example.

This article will focus on a piece of knitted fabric that looks like this:

The square dot knitted sample

The square dot knitted sample

I’m going to call this a Square Dot pattern. It consists of two rows of Stocking Stitch in White, and then two rows where two stitches of white alternate with two stitches of a variegated yarn. The result is a bunch of colored 2-stitch-by-2-row blocks embedded in a sea of white. That’s why I call it Square Dots.

How to Make This Without Mosaic Knitting

Here is a simple chart showing how to make this pattern as described above:

Square Dots Chart

Square Dots Chart

Here is an explanation of how to read this chart (it is so easy that it is useful as an introduction to reading charts).

  • Each box refers to a stitch.
  • That stitch is Knitted if you are working on the Right Side of the fabric, or Purled if you are working on the Wrong Side of the fabric. The basic stitch is Stocking Stitch.
  • Where you see a white square, work the stitch with the background color. Where you see a green square, work the stitch with the contrasting color.
  • Read the chart from right-to-left on the odd-numbered rows (the Right-Side rows in this example).
  • Read the chart from left-to-right on the even-numbered rows (the Wrong-Side rows in this example).

Written out in words, this stitch pattern looks like this:

  • With MC, cast on a multiple of 4 stitches plus 2
  • Row 1: With MC, K.
  • Row 2: With MC, P.
  • Row 3: With CC, K2. *With MC, K2. With CC, K2. Rep from * to end.
  • Row 4: With CC, P2. *With MC, K2. With CC, P2. Rep from * to end.
  • Rep Rows 1-4 for pattern

The problem? On Rows 3 and 4, every two stitches, you have to switch yarns. You are using both yarns as you work your way across the row. The yarns get tangled. And every time that you change color, you have to make sure that you don’t pull that new color too tightly, because otherwise the knitted fabric will be too narrow.

The Answer: Mosaic Knitting

Mosaic Knitting is a form of multi-color knitting in which only one color of yarn is used on any row. With the appropriate “slipping” of the stitches in the previous rows, interesting color patterns can be formed.

With this technique, there are a few rules or guidelines that are followed:

  • Each colour is used for two consecutive rows (a right-side row and a wrong-side row).
  • The colour is worked (not slipped) for the first and last stitches of the two rows.
  • If a stitch is slipped on the right-side row, it is also slipped on the wrong-side row.
  • When stitches are slipped, the working yarn is carried on the wrong side. Patterns typically will say:
    • (For a right-side row)With yarn in back, slip n stitches.
    • (For a wrong-side row)With yarn in front, slip n stitches.
  • Usually the maximum number of stitches that are slipped is 3 – any more makes the yarn that is carried on the wrong side too long, and likely to snag or be pulled too tightly.
  • Usually the right-side row is a Knit row. The wrong-side row may be a Knit or Purl or combination row.
  • Mosaic Knitting can be done with both back-and-forth and circular knitting.

All those rules and guidelines are interesting – in fact, fascinating! But what do they mean to the beginning knitter?

Read the next article in this series for an example.

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