Getting Started: Entrelac Knitting
By Eunny Jang, Editor of Interweave Knits Magazine
Entrelac is a knitting technique that produces a fabric with a woven appearance—tiers of tilting blocks appear to run over and under each other. But the fabric is actually worked all in one piece as a series of interconnecting rectangles. Also called patchwork knitting, basketweave knitting, or birch-bark patterning, entrelac can stand on its own in garter or stockinette stitch, or it can provide an interesting framework for other texture or colorwork techniques.
How to Knit Entrelac - Flat Knitting
Entrelac fabric's series of tilted blocks are worked one at a time in tiers. Within a tier, blocks are worked in the same direction, either right to left or left to right. Each tier of blocks builds upon the one below it. Individual blocks are worked by picking up stitches along the selvedge of a block from the tier below and working stitches of the growing block together with live stitches from the top edge of the next block below. To produce a piece with straight rather than pointed edges across the bottom and top, the first and last tiers must consist of rows of triangular half-blocks. For straight vertical edges, every other tier of a flatworked entrelac piece begins and ends with a triangle.
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Individual blocks may be worked over any number of stitches, and a piece may have any number of individual blocks. In all cases, each block contains twice as many rows as it does stitches. When you practice knitting entrelac for the first time, try working every other tier of blocks in a different color to emphasize the basketweave effect and make it easier to identify the blocks and live stitches of each tier. Note: When you work the first stitch of every row, you can slip it for a tidy pick-up edge, but be aware that you will lose some elasticity in the knitted piece.
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What's it going to look like?
Though the basic entrelac technique has several variations, the following method we'll look at produces tidy results. This information was adapted from an article by Eunny Jang from Interweave Knits, Spring 2007 (shown at the right).
This example starts with 24 stitches to be worked in three groups of 8, using the knitted cast-on so that stitches are loose enough to work with. Triangles are knit one at a time, and once the first has been completed, the right selvedge edge of the just-worked triangle forms the right side of the triangle, the live stitches on the needle form the left side, and the cast-on row forms the base. Repeating the process of triangle 1 until all cast-on stitches have been worked, there will be three 8-stitch triangles on the needle. Figure 1showed the results of this first tier.
Note: All figures show knitting with needle removed.
First Tier of Blocks
This tier and every other tier of blocks moving forward begins and ends with a half-block, or side triangle, at each edge to maintain a straight selvedge. The live stitches from each base triangle are joined to the growing blocks of the new tier by working the last stitch of the new block on WS rows together with a live stitch from a block in the previous tier. Tip: If you're changing color on this row, purl the first stitch with both strands of yarn to secure them, then snip the old color.
After the first side triangle is completed, the process continues with the row blocks, picking up stitches along the selvedge of the triangle now on the needles, and working from the tip to the base of the triangle. To end this tier a second side triangle is worked, finishing with 25 stitches total, two full blocks of 8 stitches each, one first side triangle of 8 stitches, one second side triangle of 1 stitch. Figure 2 shows our work at this point.
Second Tier of Blocks
This tier consists of all full blocks and is worked following a first tier of blocks. To begin this row pick up and knit stitches along the selvedge now between the needles, picking up from tip to base of the block from the previous row. Note: The stitch remaining on the needle from the side triangle counted as the first picked-up stitch, so only pick up and knit 7 stitches to have 8 stitches for working the first block.
Each block is worked individually before moving onto to complete the second and third blocks for this tier. What you'll end up with is the number of stitches you casted-on (in our example 24) and full blocks of 8 stitches each. Figure 3 shows what this completed tier will look like. The two previous tiers can be repeated as many times as desired, ending by completing the tier that begins and ends with side triangles.
Finishing Method 1: Top triangles
To finish, pick up and knit stitches along the selvedge now between the needle, taking care to pick up stitches from tip to base of the blocks from the previous tier. Note: As before, the stitch remaining on the needle from the previous triangle counts as your first picked-up stitch, so pick up and knit only 7 stitches to have 8 stitches for working each top triangle.
After the first triangle has been completed, 1 stitch remains on the right needle. If you started with 24 cast-on stitches as we did, you'll repeat twice more to complete the second and third top triangles—1 stitch remains. Cut yarn and pull through last stitch on needle to fasten off. Figure 4 demonstrates the finished piece.
Finishing Method 2: Continue Working in Stockinette or Another Pattern Stitch
There is a variation you can use for continuing into another pattern stitch rather than ending with the last row of triangles, as mentioned above. Instead, the last tier of triangles is worked to create a straight horizontal line of live stitches at the top of the entrelac section. It's important to note that because the entrelac blocks lie on the diagonal, the number of stitches along an edge of an entrelac piece doesn't make an edge of the same length as knitting. Therefore, there will be a need to increase stitches on the following row to the number needed to produce a piece the same width as the entrelac section.
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How to Knit Entrelac - Entrelac in The Round
Entrelac may also be worked as a continuous circular tube of fabric, joined as Figure 5 demonstrates. Although the result is a seamless tube, the tiers of blocks are worked back and forth, just as in flat entrelac knitting patterns.
However, no side triangles are needed—instead, the first block of each row is started in a different manner to join the round. To finish the top triangles are worked as for entrelac knitted flat, picking up for the first triangle as for the first tier of blocks worked in the round.
Now that you've got an idea of the basics of working entrelac knitting patterns, you're ready to start one! (And don't forget your 10% discount* with coupon code SAVELP)
These stylish mitts make a great
introduction to knitting entrelac.
River and Woods Afghan
Practice flat entrelac with this
beautiful afghan pattern.
Felted Entrelac Fobs
Introduce yourself to entrelac in the round
with these cinched pouches.
This stunning garment design takes shape by increasing & decreasing entrelac units.
If you're a beginning entrelac knitter, chose a pattern that's done flat, such as the River and Woods Afghan. You'll get practice doing the technique while you create this beautiful blanket. When you're confident knitting entrelac, move on to something done in the round, such as the Felted Entrelac Fobs. When you're ready to move on to garments, the Cochin Shrug is the perfect pattern to learn about shaping and fit in entrelac designs. Whichever pattern you choose, you'll love knitting entrelac! It's so much fun. Whether you're brand new to entrelac knitting or are a seasoned expert, these patterns will delight your inner knitter:
Take your entrelac knitting to the next level with a favorite entrelac knitting tutorial:
Enjoy your entrelac explorations!
Editor, Interweave Knits magazine