Learning How To Do Mosaic Knitting

mosaic knitting

Do you ever wonder how color-work knitting can be done flat? I’ve wondered if that is possible because I’ve only ever done color-work in the round.

Well, mosaic knitting is not really the same thing, but it can have the same effect with a pattern knit into a flat item, like a scarf, shawl, or cardigan.

I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for my next sweater project. My top choices are either a stranded colorwork pullover, or a cardigan. Unless I do steeking, which I’ve never done, a cardigan can’t have patterning on the body because it’s flat knitting. Color-work is done during circular knitting. Unless… you do mosaic knitting.

The Boho Style Mosaic Cardigan pattern caught my eye. I love Bohemian styles. And this loose, flowing, cardigan has beautiful color-work on the body and sleeves. It is done with mosaic knitting as the name suggests.

Printable Mosaic Knitting Chart For a Swatch

If I am going to commit to knitting a big sweater using mosaic knitting, I’d like to know how it’s done. Before I began wading through bad YouTube videos, I thought I’d look for an article online explaining mosaic knitting. The Interweave site has a good article with a little chart to print out.

Basically if you can knit, purl and slip stitches, you can do mosaic knitting. It is a fast and easy way to create an interesting pattern.

I chose Chart 2 from the Interweave article. This chart does not show the purl side rows, but you don’t need them.

If chart knitting is not your thing, believe me, you will catch on quickly anyway. This little chart is great for a beginner. Once you follow the first couple of rows it will make sense, and you won’t believe how easy it is.

Go to the Interweave page and print out Chart #2.

mosaic knitting swatch
Quick swatch to practice mosaic knitting

How to Follow This Mosaic Knitting Chart

Read the chart beginning at the bottom, reading right to left. This may seem weird, but that is how our knitting goes – we knit our stitches right to left.

I simply knit back and forth for the first few rows before beginning the chart.

Row 1 is all dark triangles and it’s all knit stitches in the darker color (green for me). At the end of the row, turn to the wrong side and purl all stitches to get back to row 3.

Now add the white yarn beginning at row #3. Knit 2 white, slip the next green stitch. (To Slip: put the needle in purl wise in the next stitch and slip it onto the right-hand needle… simple!) Continue across the row and turn to work the wrong side.

For the back of the work – the purl side – all stitches are purled with the color yarn you are holding. The other color stitches you come to will be slipped. There is no need to follow a chart because you can see the stitches you just knit as you come to them. If you just finished knitting with green, you will now purl those stitches with green. White stitches are slipped.

Also, wherever the yarn is – front or back – it will stay there while you knit or purl. On the Right Side / front of work, you will be knitting so the yarn will stay in back while you slip stitches. On the Wrong Side / back of work, you will be purling so the yarn will remain in front while you slip.

slipped stitches knitting mosaic swatch
Slipped stitches on back of swatch

All Purl Sides, back of work: Whatever color yarn you are holding – purl the same color stitches and slip the others!

For the next row, grab the correct color yarn – in this chart the dark triangle means the dark yarn – and begin knitting – and slipping the V blocks in the row. The yarns will travel up the side of the swatch as you change colors. This is not the best edging, and I would do something different if I were truly knitting a garment, but it’s fine for the swatch.

mosaic knitting

This is a very easy way to add an interesting pattern to a garment and I think the style itself looks a bit Boho! I don’t know yet if I will knit the Boho Style Cardigan, but at least I know what mosaic knitting consists of.

Mosaic vs. Fair Isle

For the mosaic type of knitting you are only knitting with one yarn at a time compared to Fair Isle where two yarn colors are held to knit a pattern across a row. That makes mosaic knitting quite easy to do. It can be worked on circular projects as well.

Fair Isle has a smoother finish as you can see in the images below, which are projects of mine. It’s a lot of fun to do, but must be used for circular knitting projects only. Cardigans can be knit in Fair Isle, but steeking is needed… yikes. I haven’t worked up to that yet.

This makes mosaic the perfect choice for adding designs to anything worked flat – including a cardigan.

Pictured projects L-R: Turkish Patterned Cap, Fair Isle Mitts (free pattern), and Wild Angelica Socks.

YouTube Videos on Mosaic Knitting

If reading how to do this type of knitting is confusing, a decent YouTube video can help. Unfortunately I can’t find any really good videos on this, but this one shows mosaic knitting in a shawl. It’s not exactly the same as I’ve described here because she is not purling the back of her work and the slipped stitches need the yarn in front for the slipping. But it shows a pretty way to add color to a shawl.

This video shows how to follow a chart, but as usual, there is a lot of talking. I didn’t watch the whole thing.

Free Mosaic Knitting Patterns

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