Mosaic knitting was invented by Barbara Walker in the 1960's and here we are, 60 years later, still obsessing over the effect of this mesmerizing style of knitting. It is a subset of slip stitch knitting but has its own characteristics, or rules you may say, in order to define and separate it from the broader category of slip stitch.
Let's go over some of these differences:
First, mosaic is always worked with two colors, which are normally high-contrast colors. The broader umbrella of slip stitch knitting may involve one, two or three or more colors.
In mosaic knitting, only one color will be worked at a time, over two rows. All color changes are done at the beginning of rows or rounds but never involve working with more than one color across a row or round.
All stitches on are slipped purlwise unlike slip stitch knitting which may slip stitches knitwise or purlwise.
Mosaic stitches are slipped on right side rows with the yarn always held to the back and slipped on wrong side rows with the yarn always held to the front. This keeps the horizontal strand to the back of the work. In slip stich knitting, this is not necessarily the case.
Mosaic patterns are geometric and can be complex or simple, with longer multiples and repeats of a pattern. Slip stitch knitting uses smaller, simpler motifs that repeat frequently.
One row on a mosaic chart represents two rows of knitting.
Now that you know the parameters, let's put them into practice and see how it's worked:
One color is worked across two rows, usually in Stockinette or Garter stitch, then a contrasting color is slipped purlwise over the same two rows. It is then reversed with the contrasting color worked over two rows and the original color slipped over the same two rows.
Each horizontal row on a mosaic chart represents two rows of knitting and each row is usually numbered with an even number on the left and an odd row number on the right. You read first from right to left for the right side (odd numbered) rows, then from left to right for the wrong side (even numbered) rows.
The first and last squares of each row tell you which stitches to work.
When you begin a row, one color is dropped and the other is picked up from underneath.
The wrong side rows look exactly the same as the right side rows and most knitters do not refer to the chart when working the wrong side rows, they just read the knitting on the needles. This means less time paying attention to a chart. If you're working on a right side row for example, and you are working all of the dark stitches and slipping all of the light stitches, then when you turn your work, you will work back across the wrong side row doing the same thing, working the dark stitches and slipping the light stitches. This allows one color to travel to the end of a row and back.
Mosaic charts will come with their own set of notes. In the chart below, the notes that explain how to work the chart are listed here:
On RS rows that begin with a dark square, you'll knit dark stitches and slip light stitches purlwise with yarn in back.
On RS rows that begin with a light square, you'll knit light stitches and slip dark stitches purlwise with yarn in back.
On WS rows, slip all slipped stitches purlwise with yarn in front; knit all dark stitches, purl all light stitches.
On Row 1 for example, you'll begin at the right. The first square is dark, so you'll pick up the dark yarn and work with only that color. This is how Row 1 will be worked:
K11, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k10. On RS rows, stitches are always slipped purlwise with yarn in back.
Row 2 is worked by: K10, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k11. You're knitting the stitches that you knit and slipping the stitches you slipped on Row 1.
This produces the mosaic patterning seen in the Blackwater Mosaic Pullover. It's definitely not as hard as it may seem. It moves along quite quickly since you're slipping so many stitches. Once you remember that the color shown in the first stitch of each row is the color that you'll use for the next 2 rows, it's a fun way to knit.
Another plus is that tension is usually not as a big of an issue as it can be with stranded work. If you'll notice in the chart above, you only slip one stitch at a time. You may knit 10 stitches straight, but are only slipping one stitch. Just remember when you knit your next stitch following a slipped stitch, not to pull it tight. Let it rest across the slipped stitch with a bit of room.
Since you are slipping stitches over two rows (for example slipping all light stitches across the right side row, then slipping those same light stitches on the wrong side row) the fabric will become compressed. There will be more rows per inch than in plain stockinette. To prevent a distorted image, you'll often find a combination of Stockinette and Garter used in mosaic knitting. This produces a nice looking, deeply textured fabric that lies flat.
I really encourage you to not overthink mosaic too much. Just pick up your needles and yarn, and jump right in. Read the notes that accompany a chart. And just start. You'll find that it all makes sense after you work a couple of rows. What I love about mosaic charts is that they look just like my knitting, so if I'm not sure of which row I should be working next, I just look at what I've knit so far and compare it to the chart.
Knowing the differences will help you identify which patterns are truly mosaic. I hope you try mosaic knitting or if you're a fan already, that this helps to shed some light onto how mosaic knitting is defined.
Gonzalez, Leslie. “Slip Stitch Knitting Redux.” Cast On Aug – Oct 2014.
Gonzalez, Leslie. “Don’t Confuse Mosaic Knitting with Color Slip Stitch Knitting – They Are Different.” <http://whitehorsedesigns.blogspot.com/ 2014/09/dont-confuse-mosaic-knitting-with-color.html>.
Vogue Magazine Editors. Vogue Knitting. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2002.
Walker, Barbara. Charted Knitting Designs. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972.
Walker, Barbara. A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Pittsville, WI: Schoolhouse Press, 2012.
When you're working brioche in blocks of color, like in Eastport Pullover, you'll need to connect your yarns in the back of your work intarsia style when working blocks that are side by side. There are SO MANY types of brioche stitches out there. The Eastport Pullover uses a basic brioche rib based on an even number of stitches with each color block containing the same number stitches. The same row is worked on both right and wrong side rows.
or continue reading for a silent experience:
If you're working two different blocks of color from the very beginning, begin by casting on with the first color. Push those stitches to the side then cast on in the next color. The two colors will not be connected at this point.
Turn and work the first set-up row in brioche, across all of the stitches in the first color. Holding the working yarn secure in your left hand, use your right fingers to pick up the next color of yarn from underneath. Work to the end of the row in the second color.
Next row (right side) and all right side rows. Work in brioche stitch across all stitches of the first color. (First meaning the first color that you start working with in any given row.) When you reach the join, take your yarn to the back of the work drop the first color, pick up the next color from underneath, bring the next colored yarn forward again and continue working in brioche to the end of the row in the next color.
Next row (wrong side) and all wrong side rows. Work in brioche stitch across all stitches of the first color. Bring your yarn forward so it lies in the front of your work (which is the wrong side), drop it, pick up the next color from underneath, then work the next set of stitches in the new color.
By dropping the first color and picking up the second color from underneath, you'll avoid any holes or gaps, and the yarns will connect the two sections. They will form an even and neat pattern up the wrong side of the fabric. Keep your tension uniform. You don't want saggy loops at the join. Strive to maintain the same tension when you work the last stitch of one color and the first stitch of the next color as you've used in the rest of the garment. To err on the tighter side is better than working these too loosely.
Always keep your color changes to the wrong side of the fabric. On right side rows, take the yarn to the back, drop the old and pick up the new, then bring the yarn back to the front again to continue working in brioche with the new color. On wrong side rows, drop the old yarn and pick up the new one in the front of your work to keep the colored seam on the wrong side of the fabric.
One more tip on the brioche rib stitch used in Eastport Pullover, when you're starting your very first stitch and it's a yf type of a stitch, place your needle tip under the yarn, then start to work. You can't really pull the yarn forward since it is where it is. The only thing that moves when starting a row is the needle, so just slip your needle tip under the yarn, then start knitting.
I hope you enjoy adding blocks of color to your brioche knitting. It's a dramatic and fun way to work brioche and it's a great option when you're not ready to work brioche in 2 colors simultaneously.
Covid has left many knitters relying on the internet to pick out yarn for their next project. Many local yarn shops that are not currently open to the public due to the pandemic, do have websites where you can order yarn for curbside pick up or delivery. If you are buying a yarn you know and love, the process can be convenient. If you're picking out colors for Fair Isle or stranded work, it can be a nightmare.
I'm here to share with you a great way to make sure the colors you select have sufficient contrast. Contrast in colors refers to difference in light between the foreground and background, or in the case of knitting, the pattern and the background. Fair Isle bands are either light on dark, meaning a light colored pattern on a dark background; or dark on light meaning a dark pattern on a light background.
1. If you're looking at a website from your phone, pick out the yarns you think you want, then take a screen shot of each one.
2. Using an app like LAYOUT, you can pull the pictures you just took into the app so you can see them in a group, or side by side. This will create one picture of all of the screen shots.
3. Click on the photo, hit EDIT, then go to filters (on an iPhone it's the three circles that overlap) and apply a black and white filter. This strips away all of the colors and allows you to look at just the contrast. You want sufficient contrast between the colors so that the pattern looks attractive to the eye.
Yarns that are too close in value, without enough contrast will not look their best. In Fair Isle, you should be able to see your pattern in black and white. If the bands look like a completely white band or completely black band, then the colors won't work. Some colors are deeper than others and more saturated and that's good. Not all colors need to have the same intensity, but you should be able to tell them apart.
This also allows you to group your colors into light or dark. In the Milan Hill Mitts, 4 colors are used: 2 dark colors and 2 light colors. Each band uses only 2 colors and it features either a light on dark pattern or dark on light. The photo to the left is the mitt and to the right is the same mitt with a black and white filter applied.
You'll notice on the right picture, that each of the pattern yarns can be seen, some stronger than others, but they can be seen. By looking at your colors in black and white, you can more easily match them up to a pattern's color key.
In the Milan Hill Fingerless Mitts below, the yarns used are Morehouse Farm Merino 2-ply sport weight in the following colors:
Bright/darker blue is Pacific (color A) dark
Oatmeal (color B) light
Chocolate (color C) dark
Aqua (color D) light
When you hold Oatmeal and Aqua next to each other and take a picture, they come out looking exactly the same, like two skeins of white yarn. So you can use these, just not together in one band.
If you are in a yarn shop, gather your yarns and take a picture of them side by side. Apply the filter and see how it looks! Hopefully this will help you make sharp color choices, so when your yarn arrives in the mail it's perfectly contrasting for your next Fair Isle Project. To find out more about the Milan Hill Fingerless Mitts, click on this link. <Milan Hill Mitts>
I'm so addicted to slip stitch knitting! It’s fast, complex looking, incredibly vast, and simple to do.
Slip Stitch is defined as a stitch passed from one needle to the other without being worked.
Slip Stitch knitting uses slip stitches to create designs or texture, or both.
Note - Mosaic knitting and Brioche knitting are subsets of slip stitch knitting, but they are not covered in this article.
A slip stitch is probably the easiest technique in all of knitting, and certainly one of the fastest and most useful. It can be used to create a dense fabric, as an alternate way to work stranded colorwork, to create a decorative design on a fabric or as part of a structural role.
Stitches can be slipped knitwise or purlwise. When slipping stitches, always slip them purlwise unless instructed otherwise by the pattern. When you move a stitch from the left needle to the right needle purlwise, you do not change the orientation of the stitch. This means that a “normal” stitch has two legs, and the right leg rests to the front of the needle and the left leg rests to the back of the needle. The needle goes through the middle of the two legs. When you slip a stitch purlwise, it ends up on the right hand needle with the right leg still resting to the front of the needle. To do this, insert your right hand needle into the first stitch on your left hand needle from right to left, as if you were going to purl the stitch. Don’t purl it. Just move it from one needle to the next. (If the pattern says to slip knitwise, you will insert needle from right to left as if to knit and you will form a twisted stitch.)
In addition to slipping knitwise or purlwise, you can slip more than one stitch at a time, you can slip the same stitch again on the next row which stretches it, creating a visible vertical strand and compressing the fabric, you can slip a stitch so it draws diagonally or horizontally.
There are two very different applications for slip stitch knitting:
First, in a single color, slip stitches are used to either create dense, thicker fabrics which are durable and wonderful for coats, hats, mittens, placemats, outerwear sweaters, or just highly texturized sweaters. The purpose of slipping the stitch is to create a visibly decorative pattern.
Yarn can be held in the back, (wyib) as you slip the stitch to let only the slipped stitch show. When working with a single color, it is used when you want an elongated vertical stitch slipped over more than one row. Yarn can also held in the front (wyif) as you slip the stitch which carries a horizontal strand across the bottom of the stitch being slipped. This provides a woven look and takes on a very interesting look when worked in more than color. (See Plectics above).
When you use more than one color, you can create all types of designs by slipping a stitch from one color to a future row. The West Village Cardigan for children for example (below), uses three types of slipped stitches, one in a single color on the body and multi color slip stitch motifs on the hem and cuffs.
In either single or multi color slip stitch, when you slip a stitch up more than one row, you will compress the fabric, making it denser with more rows to an inch than you would get without slipping the stitches. These type of slip stitch patterns are designed to manipulate the stitches to create a highly textured fabric.
The second application, involves keeping the row gauge the same, and does not pull a stitch up to another row. It is used as an easy way to work Fair Isle. When working Fair Isle, the stich is slipped with yarn in back. You can work any Fair Isle pattern as written by working with only one color at a time. You work each round twice: first you work it in the first color of the first square on the chart, knitting only those colored stitches and slipping the stitches on the chart that are in the second color. Then you drop the first color, pick up the second color and work that round again, slipping the stitches that you just worked on the previous go around. If you are working flat, back and forth in rows, work on circular needles so you can slide the work back to the beginning to begin knitting the same row again in the second color.
One word of caution however, you will not be able to catch long floats with this technique, so look over the charts before you begin to make sure the colors change frequently. If you have sections of only one color that are 1" or more, you want to avoid this way.
You will also still need to spread your stitches out to keep the floats on the back from pulling tightly. This method is fun to do, but doesn't solve all of the tension and disappearing stitch problems of traditional Fair Isle knitting. It can make your Fair Isle a little more uniform and yarn more manageable. It's a great way to work your first Fair Isle piece.
Overall, slip stitch knitting is easy enough for beginners to do, and when I was designing Plectics, I almost classified this Easy. It’s definitely a good sweater for a confident beginner. It uses single color slip stitch at the cuffs and hem, and multi color slip stitch at the yoke. It's a fun and fast pullover!
Traveler's Sweater (below) uses one color throughout and you can see the amazing texture that this particular slip stitch pattern creates. This fabric is denser, with more rows per inch than Stockinette stitch.
To try this fun way of knitting, look for patterns specifically designed with slip stitch patterns, or try any Fair Isle pattern and work it using only one color at a time (remember to work each round twice; once in each color).
It is a wonderful knitting option for knitters who suffer from tendinitis or arm pain from knitting since you keep everything light. You don't want to pull stitches tightly when you are knitting or purling them after a slipped stitch, because you want that strand that runs behind (or in front of) the slipped stitch to lie flat. For this reason, it's helpful to keep your tension a little on the loose side, especially if you tend to be a tight knitter.
It is also a great way to create a sweater you can be proud of if you struggle with even tension. The slipped stitches tend to mask any guttering or rowing out that can be visible in stockinette stitch. Of course striving for even tension is the best solution in your knitting. But try slip stitch and you may be pleasantly surprised at how good your knitting looks when you're finished. Just another reason why slip stitch knitting is good for beginner-intermediate knitters.
Gonzalez, Leslie. “Slip Stitch Knitting Redux.” Cast On Aug – Oct 2014: pp. 10-12.
Hiatt, June Hemmons. The Principles of Knitting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Stanley, Montse. The Handknitter’s Handbook. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles Publishers, Inc., 1986. Distributed in US (New York, NY) by Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.
Walker, Barbara. A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968.
I love Fair Isle. It's fun to work stranded knitting with different colors. Counting the colors is relaxing, 3-2-1-2/ 3-2-1-2/3-2-1-2/ its like a little song at each round. But, here's the thing, after about 5", I'm ready to move on. Which is why St Kilda features a 5" Fair Isle border at the hem and cuffs, then transitions into Stockinette so you can speed up the knitting, and wear the sweater sooner.
All colorwork is kept at the beginning, or bottom, so you start with all of the fun, then move on to single color plain knitting for the rest. Body and sleeves are worked in the round from the bottom up, then worked flat. Set in sleeves make for a nice fit across the chest and back. There is extra ease around the hips to give a little more room when wearing with jeans or cords. The wide ribbed neck works great with a turtleneck or long sleeve crew neck.
Worked in DK weight 100% wool, this pullover is knitted with Kelbourne Woolens, SCOUT. Having a heathered DK wool gives the pullover a bit richer look than a solid color. The sunflower color in St. Kilda is one of my favorites, but I don't look great with yellow around my face. This is a way I can wear that warm, heathered yellow color, with it kept at the cuffs and hem, with a more flattering grey around my neck and face. If you're one of the lucky people who just looks radiant in yellow, you might want to reverse the colors and use it as the main color.
There are really lots of options for mixing up the colors. There are 5 colors total, 3 greys, a dark red and yellow. True to the traditional Fair Isle form, no more than 2 colors are used in any given round.
If you want to find out more about the St. Kilda Sweater, visit Ravelry or my website.
If you want to find our more about the island of St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, click here.
Thank you for visiting & I hope you like this pullover as much as I loved knitting and wearing it.
Hello! I'm Donna. I enjoy designing knitwear that is artistic, intricate and comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.