If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to knit with two colors, mosaic knitting might be a great colorwork technique to try first.
Haven’t heard of mosaic knitting? Well, you wouldn’t be the first. Of all the forms of colorwork knitting, the mosaic knitting technique may be the least well-known.
I find this fact a little strange. Why? Of all the knitting techniques that allow you to knit with multiple colors, mosaic knitting is the easiest. For this reason, I’d think knitters would be shouting it from the rooftops.
So if you don’t know enough about mosaic knitting yet, allow me to sing (or shout) its praises.
Here I’ll talk about mosaic knitting, what it is, and how it’s done. I’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks of this knitting method. I’ll also provide links to easy knitting projects you can start now.
But before we get to all that, let’s begin at the beginning: the origins of mosaic knitting.
Origins of Mosaic Knitting
While knitting history goes back thousands of years, mosaic knitting has been around for less than 60 years. Crazy, right?
Most knitters have heard of Barbara G. Walker because she was a prolific writer of knitting books. You may even have several. Here are some of her better known titles:
Barbara G. Walker Books:
But did you know that she invented mosaic knitting in the 1960s?
Barbara G. Walker was a journalist, feminist, and dedicated researcher. In a short bio included in one of her books she writes:
Ever since college, it was my habit to take up a new field of study each winter, when the weather was conducive to staying indoors and reading. I would go to the public library and collect any available books on my subject, read and take notes. In this way I went through a number of self-made ‘courses’ [...]. In my thirty-fifth year I decided to spend that winter learning to knit.-Barbara G. Walker, A Fourth Treasury of knitting patterns
And the rest is knitting history.
I know I’m so grateful (and inspired!) by her focus and determination to master knitting. And for Walker to have completely created this new technique, well, it gives me hope.
It’s a hopeful reminder that there’s still much to discover and learn about knitting. But back to the topic at hand.
What is Mosaic Knitting?
This innovative colorwork knitting method uses several elements to its success. They are:
- Slip stitch knitting
- Knitting with two colors, independently.
- Using high contrast colors
Mosaic knitting is knitting with two colors, sometimes more than two, to create geometric shapes by slipping stitches.
Now you may be thinking, what’s so original about these things? It’s true, slipped stitches weren’t a new thing, but they had never been used before for color knitting.
And in combination, they created a new color knitting style that was simple yet striking in its finished form. A lot of this has to do with the high contrast colors used.
On that note, allow me to explain contrasting colors.
What Are Contrasting Colors?
Take a look at this simple color contrast chart.
This chart shows that high contrast colors are direct opposites of each other. They are always combinations that are a bit jarring.
In the case of mosaic knitting, these contrasting color pairs allow the mosaic knitting pattern to stand out.
This Electric Love Mosaic Cowl knitting pattern is an example of contrasting colors.
Here’s another example in the form of a mosaic knit hat pattern I have in the works. I’m using Cascade 220 worsted weight yarn in Smoke (8408) and Mint (9076).
You can see from these examples, high contrast colors really make the mosaic knitting patterns stand out.
When it comes to choosing contrasting colors, they don’t have to be direct opposites of each other. Simply told, it comes down to choosing one dark color and one light color that complement each other.
Below you can see a swatch knit in the round for an earlier version of this hat.
It’s especially important to make a gauge swatch of your stitch pattern. Since you’re using slipped stitches, your mosaic knitting tension will vary from your average tension.
Now let’s talk more about the technique and how it’s done.
Is Mosaic Knitting Hard?
What makes this technique so appealing is its simplicity. If you can knit and purl, if you can slip a stitch, you can learn mosaic knitting. It’s that easy.
Mosaic Knitting Technique
Unlike other colorwork knitting techniques, mosaic knitting works with a single color at a time. This means you’ll knit with one color per row or round. There will be stitches of the opposite color on your knitting needles but these are slipped stitches.
Let’s look at this knitted hat again, up close.
On this round I am working with the dark color and slipping the light color stitches. The only active yarn for these two rounds is the smoke color or dark color. Then, I work with the light color for two rounds. And so on.
Slip Stitch Knitting
In slip stitch knitting, there’s no fiddling with how to knit with two colors at one time. There’s no fussing with how to change colors when knitting or how to switch between the two. Also, you won't have to worry about trapping floats.
This makes color knitting so much fun for knitters who want to explore colorwork. It’s an easy enough technique to learn for knitting beginners.
The only other technique you’ll need to know is how to slip stitch.
How to Slip a Stitch
If you can purl a stitch, you can slip a stitch. It's that easy.
There are two steps to slip a stitch in mosaic knitting:.
- First, insert your right needle into the next stitch on your left needle as if to purl.
- Next, transfer that stitch to the right needle without working it.
Then continue working your pattern. That’s it. You’ll repeat this as many times as your pattern calls for.
Keep in mind, there are other ways to slip a stitch. More on that later. For now, though, just realize this is how you’ll slip a stitch in mosaic knitting.
Slip Stitch Knitting Abbreviations
There are several ways you may find slip stitch abbreviated in patterns. The box below shows how you’ll see them used in mosaic knitting.
Benefits of Mosaic Knitting
- You can knit flat or in the round.
- You work with only one color per row or round.
- Requires two contrasting colors, but you can work with more.
- You don’t have to worry about catching your floats.
- Compared to other colorwork techniques, it is the easiest to do.
- Mosaic knitting uses less yarn than other colorwork techniques.
- The fabric it produces is not as dense as other stranded knitting projects.
Drawbacks of Mosaic Knitting
- Using slipped stitches requires more attention to tension.
- You may have to adjust your gauge and needle size to prevent puckering.
- The pattern cannot have unlimited slipped stitches between worked stitches.
- Your finished product will require a good blocking to smooth out the stitches.
Ready to try your hand at mosaic knitting? These free slip stitch knitting patterns will get you started.
I hope you enjoyed learning about mosaic knitting. I certainly love talking about it. If you have any feedback or questions, I'd love to hear from you!