I just had my first foray into mosaic knitting, and for one, I can’t believe it had taken me this long. This method of color-work knitting has been around forever, but it was truly mastered in the1960’s by Barbara Walker. In the last handful of years there’s been a huge resurgence of mosaic knitting, and we are particularly seeing a lot of it at Wool & Grace thanks to mosaic knitting projects like Andrea Mowry’s Nightshift.
Mosaic knitting happens to be one of the simplest forms of color-work. Working with two contrasting colors of yarn, you work with one strand at a time, slipping the contrast color as specified in your pattern to achieve the motif you’re creating in your knitting. You’re not carrying two strands of yarn across in your knitting and stitching in two colors within a certain row like you do with stranded color-work.
The popularity of Andrea Mowry’s shift patterns has us doing intensive amounts of mosaic knitting at Wool & Grace. She has a number of patterns that use this method – but within that mosaic knitting she’s using marled, variegated yarns to add an abundance of color and texture to these pieces. All of this color and texture is good at hiding imperfections (which is good if you’re like me and like to overlook imperfections).
Here are the various “shift” patterns from Mowry and the yarns we’re loving to use with them from Wool & Grace:
- Nightshift (pictured at top): a large, triangular shawl. We use two balls of Noro Ito or a smattering of colors using Cascade 220 Superwash Wave or even hand-dyes like Rios or Madeline Tosh Vintage
- The Shift: a bandana cowl made using a sport-weight. We like using three colors of Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Crazy or 3 colors of Schoppel-Wolle’s Edition 3
- Shifty: A cropped, colorful mosaic sweater. I’d pick 4 colors of Schoppel Wolle’s Edition 3
- Shiftalong: A shift hat, pick a solid to mix with a skein of Crazy or Edition 3. For your solids, try Loft, Simplicity, Sueño or Peerie
There’s a big world of mosaic knitting out there beyond Mowry’s unique take on it. Many of you will recall our Emiliana KAL a few years ago featuring a popular pattern by Lisa Hannes. She has an abundance of patterns that put magnificent mosaic knitting to use, and you can see her collection of patterns on Ravelry here. I particularly like Afternoon in Lisbon for its striking geometric motifs. Choose any of our favorite fingering weight yarns for this one: Malabrigo Sock, Tosh Merino Light, Baah La Jolla, Anzula Squishy, Loft or my preference for this one, Peerie.
Andrea Mowry’s Tincture has long been a favorite hat of mine, knit up in one of my favorite-ever-yarns, Brooklyn Tweed’s Arbor. Tincture creates a herringbone motif with the mosaic stitch, and it’s an easy pattern for anyone who wants an introduction to mosaic knitting with a glorious yarn. By the way, this would also be gorgeous with Kokon’s Merino DK. Oh, and quick projects like this make great gifts. Feel free to knit this with reckless abandon, and then gift it to someone whose head you think it will fit!
I am really into Irene Lin’s Boho Style Mosaic Cardigan. This sweater makes for simple, top-down seamless sweater construction, worked in one color for a good, long while. Once you start feeling bored knitting the body and sleeves you get to start the mosaic motifs. Lin uses 4 colors of Shelter to knit up this cool cardigan. I feel like this is a piece you can throw on over anything to add some edge to your look. It’s a distinctive piece that adds style to any basic outfit. If you don’t want to work with Shelter, consider using Kenzie, Mary’s Tweed, Shepherd’s Wool or Woolstok to name a few!
Amy Van Der Laar’s Insulate! Hat shows how versatile mosaic knitting can be in creating very distinct motifs. Here she created a hat (and there are also coordinating mittens) to make a Dr. Who Phone Booth motif on a hat. By the way, knitting up a hat this way, with two strands of yarn, makes for a double layer, extra warm hat. You’re going to use a DK or light worsted yarn for this, so give Arbor, Kenzie or Kokon Merino DK a try for Insulate!
One last mosaic project I’m loving is Alexandra Tavel’s large scale mosaic knitting, her Mexican blanket knit up in super bulky wool. Stripes are complimented with a geometric diamond motif for this striking (and warm!) blanket. For this one, I’d look first to Mirasol’s Ushya (which is light while being super bulky) and Spuntaneous.
Mosaic knitting can be simple or complex and can be worked with any weight of yarn. Stop by to see us and let us help you choose a project to suit your skill level and your yarny cravings!