Over the years, I have done a lot of intarsia or picture knitting. Many of the things I have made have been from already created patterns, but a lot have been from my own design because there just wasn’t anything like I wanted available. I thought I would share how to create your own intarsia patterns. Please note this is just to show how to make your own intarsia designs, it is not to teach how to knit intarsia!
What you need
You will need a basic pattern for whatever it is you want to knit and a picture that you want to add to your knitted item. You will also need to know roughly the tension that you knit at.
For the purpose of this instructable, I will show how I made my daughter’s Dr Who jumper first as it was quite straight forward, using pre-existing knitting graphs. Later, we’ll look at using non-knitting graphs and how to convert them. Of course, you are not limited to adding pictures to jumpers. Anything knitted can have a picture added.
Step 1: Getting a Picture and a Knitting Pattern
Find a picture you want to use. We wanted to give our daughter a Dr Who themed jumper, but unfortunately we couldn’t find any patterns. The closest we came was a pattern for a knitted plush Tardisand a Dalek scarf
Because both were knitting graphs, I didn’t have to alter them to make them come out in the correct proportions.
I have a number of knitting books and quickly found a pattern for a plain raglan sleeve jumper in my daughter’s size. If you don’t have any patterns yourself, just look online. There are plenty of sites with free knitting patterns for sweaters/jumpers.
Step 2: Make Sure That the Design You Have Will Fit on Your Jumper
Take a look at the graph for your design and see what the size is. I was using the graph for one side of the Tardis plushie for the front and this graph was 37 stitches wide and 96 rows tall, so I had to make sure that the front of the jumper had an area at least that size plus a few rows for the light on top. The Dalek pattern was quite small, only 19 stitches wide by 30 rows tall, so I tripled this in size so that it was 57 stitches wide by 90 rows tall. This made it comparable in size to the Tardis on the front.
So I have a size for my pictures, now I just need to make sure there are enough stitches and rows in the jumper I will be putting it on.
The pattern I am using is knitted in 8 ply and the front and back are both 117 stitches wide so both designs will easily fit that way. Next I need to work out how many rows will be in each piece. The pattern required that both front and back had to be 12 inches from the start before shaping for the sleeves began. This is where you need to know what tension you knit at. I did a test square of stocking stitch to find out how many stitches and rows of my knitting covered 2 inches and found that I needed to do 14 rows. This meant that 12 inches would be about 84 rows. I then needed to work out how many rows of shaping for the sleeves were done before the neck shaping started. (remember that the neck opening will be lower at the front so there will not be as many rows) On the pattern I used, 35 rows of sleeve shaping were done on the front before the neck opening was started. Add these 35 rows to the 84 done before the sleeve shaping started and we have a total of 119 rows to place the picture on. Remember the Tardis graph was 101 rows tall (we added 5 rows to the 96 for the light) so if the front of the jumper is 119 rows, we will have 18 rows without picture to divide between the top and the bottom. For this jumper, I knitted 10 rows before starting the Tardis image. The Tardis was 37 stitches wide, so I knitted 40 stitches in before starting the graph. This centred the Tardis nicely. When I knitted the back, I chose to start the Dalek on the same row as the Tardis on the front, I just adjusted how many stitches in from the side to start.
Next we’ll look at using non knitting graphs.
Step 3: Using Non-knitting Graphs and Pictures
So using those principles, it’s easy to add a picture from a knitting graph to your garment. But what if the picture you have is made for something like cross stitch. If you just copy that straight across to your knitting it will not look right. Most non-knitting graphs are worked on squares, but a knitted stitch is actually a rectangle that is wider than it is high, so the graph you use must be adjusted accordingly. I have included a blank graph sheet that you can print to use. Although we knit at different tensions, the proportions of the graph should be much the same for everyone.
So you have a graph for cross stitch (or any image really) that you want to knit. You might even want to just draw your own image onto a graph to knit. You need to transfer you image, or just draw it onto the knitting graph. How you do this is your choice. You may want to just draw it freehand onto the graph or, if you are not that confident, place the original behind the graph and trace it. You just need to make sure your knitting graph is the right way, the rectangles need to be wider then they are high. If you have the graph the wrong way, your knitted picture will end up looking very tall and skinny! If you are skilled in using something like photoshop, you could add the graph in a layer over the top of your picture.
Step 4: Adding More Than Just a Single Motif
As well as just adding a single motif to a jumper, you can design a scene that uses most of the area of the jumper. The best way to design an all over picture is to know exactly how many stitches and rows are in a jumper piece, especially if the design will go all the way to the shoulders. When designing an all over picture, make sure that any part that touches the side seam matches up with the the side seam on the other piece. If you have a look at my wall jumper, you can see how I wrapped the wall pattern so that when the jumper was sewn up, the brick pattern was continuous. Unless, you have knitted a jumper before and took note of how many rows and stitches there were around the neck and shoulders, I would suggest just using a picture with a simple top part.
Step 5: Other Jumpers
Here are two more jumpers I have designed and knitted.
The first was for my hubby who used to sail. The main boat motif is on the front, but the waves continue around the body. There is a sun on one sleeve and a cloud on the other.
The second is a bowling jumper. At one time, hubby, myself and our then only daughter used to bowl. We all had a jumper with a bowling theme.