Mosaic knitting

The inspiration for my Cantuccio hat and cowl design came from a picture on Pinterest that showed the chevron pattern used for the hat and cowl knitted simply in beautiful brown and white yarn. I immediately fell in love with it and wanted to learn how to knit this even though it looked very complicated. A little searching online yielded the pattern and after reading through it a few times, I had to admit it didn’t sound that difficult.

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Cantuccio Cowl detail

You really only needed to know knit, purl and slip stitches. Which truly are all the stitches you need to know!

The term Mosaic knitting seems to have been coined by Barbara Walker in her book ‘Mosaic Knitting’ which was published in the 1970s (here is the Ravelry link for this book which will also give you more examples of the stitch patterns you can do).

The technique creates amazing, complex looking geometrical patterns and is essentially a two coloured slip stitch pattern. The basic principle is that parts of each row are hidden behind slipped stitches of a different colour from the row below which are carried up. As a result, you will only ever work with one colour at a time.

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Chevron mosaic knitting detail

The three main things you should know to be able to knit a mosaic pattern are:

  • Slipped stitches are slipped purlwise with the yarn in the back on right side rows (and when working in the round on every row) but are slipped with yarn held in the front when working wrong side rows.
  • Colour changes happen after every two rows.
  • You ‘reunite’ the slipped stitches with knit stitches of the same colour on every third row.

That’s pretty much all you really need to know! A few more words though on this technique.

Row instructions tend to be a little long but as you repeat rows you only really need to understand half the rows because the return (second) row is worked exactly the same way. Basically, you slip the stitches where you slipped them in the row below and knit/purl them where you knitted them before.

It is also a very easy pattern to adapt from knitting flat to knitting in the round. You just knit two rows of the same colour identically. For a little more texture Mosaic patterns can also easily be knitted in garter stitch. Note however, that the pattern will look a little more condensed.

Compared to stranded colour work this is an easy technique because, as mentioned before, you will only work with one colour at a time, but also because you won’t have to deal with floats. Because you are slipping stitches of the ‘wrong’ colour, the amount of ‘wrong’ coloured stitches you can have next to each other is limited to about 2-3. This means that you don’t have to figure out what to do with long floats at all.

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Back of the Chevron pattern – the floats are really short

However, there are disadvantages to this technique as well. For one, you are limited to geometrical shapes. Also, the fabric usually requires blocking to smooth out the stitch pattern which was something I found true for the Cantuccio patterns as well.

If you want to find out more, I would recommend trying to get your hands on a copy of the Barbara Walker book mentioned above, or, her book ‘A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns’ also contains a section on mosaic knitting.

Happy knitting!

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