Intarsia and the Brambling shawl

I can't believe the first month of A Year of Techniques has flown by so quickly! The enthusiasm and excitement that you've shared this month in the knitalong threads, on Instagram, by email and in blog posts has been humbling. Thank you all!

Bristol Ivy has designed this beautiful Brambling shawl, using a clever combination of shaping and intarsia.

Bristol Ivy has designed this beautiful Brambling shawl, using a clever combination of shaping and intarsia.

I present to you the Brambling shawl! I had a total intarsia conversion last year when I knitted my Harewood Hap, so when we started to think about techniques and designers for A Year of Techniques, I knew that I wanted Bristol Ivy to be our "intarsia pusher"! If you're lucky enough to be an intarsia-confident knitter, then head off, download your pattern and dive in... You won't need the rest of this! But many of us aren't intarsia-confident. I know that before Harewood, I was fully convinced that I would never be able to knit intarsia projects neatly, and that it was basically beyond me. Oh how things have changed! And they can change for you too...

Bristol has knocked this design out of the park. The triangular shawl features intersecting curves in different colour blocks - best seen in the drawing below:

Worked from side to side, Bristol has created intersecting shapes in strong colour blocks.

Worked from side to side, Bristol has created intersecting shapes in strong colour blocks.

How she works these things out makes my head swim! The way that the curves flow so smoothly is incredibly beautiful, and just mesmerising to knit. The instructions are all written out in full, and no need to be daunted by the length of the pattern, it's absolutely straightforward to follow. Even if you're not sure about it, I would highly recommend just grabbing some yarn and casting on. It's the knitting equivalent of closing your eyes, holding your nose and jumping in at the swimming pool. You just have to go for it!

Brambling is a great, portable project. There's just a very short section which uses the maximum of 4 colours per row, with most of the shawl using 1, 2 or 3 balls of yarn. There are rows to tick off and increases to keep track of, so it isn't totally mindless, but I have worked successfully on mine at knit night and in front of gripping TV without any mishap. The pattern is divided into sections which always makes me want to work "just a few more rows" so that I can complete a section before going to bed. Terrible for my sleep pattern, but so, so satisfying to keep knitting!

The clever way that the intarsia and shaping work together make this a simple project to work on, no matter where you are.

The clever way that the intarsia and shaping work together make this a simple project to work on, no matter where you are.

Let's talk about the yarn for a bit... Cumulus from Fyberspates is completely aptly named - it feels like soft, floaty clouds with its blend of baby alpaca and silk. The alpaca is spun around a silk core, so it's fluffy, but unlike equivalent mohair yarns I've found it relatively easy to unknit when I've made a small error. The finished fabric is beautifully light and airy, whilst also being warm. I can imagine myself wearing my shawl right through spring, as well as on cooler summer evenings in the garden. If you're not able to lay your hands on some Cumulus (although I would highly recommend it! If you're in the States or Canada then MDK will have kits of 5 colours in their shop shortly), then I would recommend using a yarn with a bit of bounce as it helps to keep the intarsia join neater (so give the cotton a miss if at all possible!). Cumulus is hard to pin down to a specific yarn weight as it can be knitted in so many different ways, but I would suggest choosing a yarn that will give a nice drapey fabric at the recommended gauge of 20 sts and 28 rows to 10cm [4in] over stocking stitch - something around a 4ply/fingering weight should be about right, I would think.

In your pattern file (which you can either access through Ravelry or via our online shop) you will find a full photo tutorial on how to work the intarsia joins as well as tips on weaving in your ends to keep everything neat. There is also a video tutorial hosted over at Mason-Dixon Knitting, where I talk you through both techniques in plenty of detail. I hope you will enjoy hearing me describe how easy this is to work!

Who knew that intarsia could be such fun? Bristol's designs are fantastically clever, while also being easy to knit.

Who knew that intarsia could be such fun? Bristol's designs are fantastically clever, while also being easy to knit.

Over in our Ravelry group there is a new April knitalong thread, where there will be prizes on offer for KAL participants. As usual in our knitalongs we are aiming for a nice inclusive experience. To participate all you need to do is to join the group, post a photo of your intarsia project in progress (it can be Brambling or another intarsia project), and tag your project page on Ravelry with ayearoftechniques. There's no need to finish your project in April - we're all guilty of knitalong enthusiasm from time to time, and I firmly believe that it's the taking part that counts! Do come and join us - it's wonderful to see so many from all around the world joining in and offering help and advice where needed. You can also head over to The Lounge, where the sofas are comfy and the chat is witty - you'll find threads for A Year of Techniques there too.

If you haven't already, you can buy a print + ebook copy of A Year of Techniques for £19.99 plus shipping, or the ebook only version for just £19.99. Both products can be found in our shop on the Year of Techniques page. You can also buy the ebook directly on Ravelry: A Year of Techniques

If your local yarn shop is interested in stocking print copies of A Year of Techniques from September 2017, they can place a preorder with our distributor, Chester Wool Company by emailing chesterwool@btinternet.com

Many thanks to my fabulous friend Sue McGovern, who kindly helped me with modelling for AYoT. And as always to Jesse Wild, our patient and clever photographer! All photographs in this post are © Jesse Wild.