Mosaic knitting fun

For the first time I’ve cast on a toe-up sock (that is, I’ve been following a sock pattern that starts at the toe and ends at the cuff). I knit most of it last week. By the middle of last week I got tired of the pattern a bit and started looking through my books and magazines. Since last midweek I’ve actually been reading about knitting more than actually knitting. Of course I’ve been playing with the yarn as well.

You could say that lately I’ve been having lots of fun swatching.

Yeah, I just wrote that sentence and I’ve paused a minute before writing this line. I’m surprised as well.

What has brought on this swatching activity? Two things: 1) I have one sister-in-law who deserves a scarf because the other one already has one I knit; 2) Barbara Walker’s mosaic patterns have inspired me to try designing a nice scarf for her.

Mosaic knitting is nothing more than slip stitch color change knitting. It’s an extremely simple technique: you get a two-color pattern using one color at a time.

Due to its simplicity two fantastic outcomes occur: 1) garter stitch suddenly becomes a superstar if you decide to knit every row in flat knitting and 2) you come up with all kinds of ideas for using it because simple techniques are also versatile and easy to imagine in the planning phase of applying them.

I’m more interested in its implementation for different kinds of knitted items than I am in explaining its technique. Plenty of other knitters have written about the topic. If you’re not familiar with the technique have a look here to find out how to do it with examples in stockinette (all knit stitches on right side rows and all purl stitches on wrong side rows). To do the technique in garter stitch while knitting flat just knit on the right side and on the wrong side and slip the stitches you are supposed to slip. Some patterns just look better in garter stitch than in stockinette.

Back to my swatching: I’m trying to figure out a nice scarf design and I want it to look nice on both sides. Mosaic knitting is great for double knitting. As a matter of fact it might just be the cousin of double knitting.

First, I’ll show you some swatches and then I’ll explain how to knit mosaic so you can have two different patterns, one on each side of your knitting. One side is a stripe design and the other has a mosaic pattern.

Anyway, the first thing I knew was that I wanted stripes on one side of the scarf and a mosaic pattern on the other side. The only thing I didn’t know was: which mosaic pattern? Do I want it to be garter stitch or stockinette?

Here’s a mosaic pattern I swatched up from Barbara Walker’s A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns:

It doesn’t look bad in stockinette stitch, does it?

But wow! The garter stitch version I like also. I actually still can’t decide if I like the stockinette version or the garter stitch version.

So far I’ve swatched the mosaic pattern in stockinette stitch with stripes on the reverse side:

Later on down the road when I choose the right yarn for the project I’ll decide if I want mosaic garter or mosaic stockinette.
Anyway, how did I do that? It’s not hard once you get the hang of it. Basically, I made a closed tube using two knitting needles. Here’s the basic method for doing this so you have stockinette on both sides:
1) With color A cast on twice as many stitches as you would need for a one-sided item. Make it an even number for simplicity.
2) With color A *K1, slip 1 wyif* repeat from * at end of row turn your work
Repeat step 2 three times. You will discover that you have two sides. Side A is now facing you. Your first stitch is a stitch for side A. The second stitch is a stitch from side B. When you look at them facing side A the individual stitches alternate in this way: side A – side B – side A – side B, etc. You always slip, with yarn in front, the stitches from the opposite side you’re working on.
Now:
3) You’re on the A side after you turn your work. Using color B, knit the stitches you’re supposed to knit following your mosaic pattern and slip your yarn with yarn in back for stitches to slip in your mosaic pattern. Always slip the stitches from the B side with yarn in front.
4) With color B, do step 2.
5) Repeat steps 3 and 4 one more time.
6) Switch back to color A and continue with your mosaic pattern on side A and your stripe pattern on side B.
And now, continue as the pattern is established, alternating colors A and B working sides A and B twice with each color. You’ll notice that, if you’re using a mosaic chart, the same old rule applies: you don’t need to read the chart for even numbered rows because you can already see which stitches need to be slipped with the yarn in back.
If your mosaic pattern calls for an odd number of stitches you can either A) make a selvedge edge or other kind of decorative edge or B) alter the basic pattern here so that you always slip the first stitch, wyif, whenever you begin work on side A.
Maybe you like your mosaic pattern in garter stitch. If this is the case, alter the basic pattern so that you alternate rows in knit and purl stitches each time you work on side A for the mosaic pattern. Of course, you mustn’t forget to slip the stitches you’re supposed to slip with the yarn in the correct position.
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