Mosaic Knitting Week 2: Stash Diving and Yarn Selection

Hello knitters! This week, we’re talking about how to choose the perfect yarns for a mosaic knitting project. This all-important step is, luckily, one of the most fun parts of any colorwork adventure – stash-diving and/or yarn shopping!

First, let’s talk about fiber content. Happily, pretty much any fiber combination will be workable for mosaic knitting – wool, cashmere, alpaca, cotton, you name it! The only thing I would suggest staying away from is yarns with large, defined halos or novelty yarns that call a lot of attention to themselves. We don’t want to hide or detract from the beautiful work to be done with a yarn that could obfuscate your effort.

This yarn, for example, would likely be distracting in a mosaic pattern.

Now, on to the fun part – color!

Whereas Fair Isle and intarsia can feature many different colors, mosaic knitting is usually only worked in two contrasting colors.

The key word here is contrasting.

When choosing your two colors for mosaic knitting, dark vs. light contrast is of the utmost importance. Without contrast, your finished product will still be lovely but you may lose the visual impact of all your hard work creating the pattern. This is why mosaic patterns are usually charted in black and white – the black standing in for your darker color of choice and the white for the contrasting lighter color.

When I was going through the test knitting process for my Mr. Wednesday shawl, the need for contrast in mosaic knitting became apparent to me.

The two projects below were created by two of my test knitters. While both came out beautifully, the visual impact of the mosaic border on the shawl on the right is far greater than that of the shawl on the left. While some contrast may work fine for simple stripes or less intricate colorwork, the complexity of mosaic knitting  designs calls for sharp differences between the two colors chosen.

Two of my test knitters’ beautiful Mr. Wednesday shawls


Another important element to choosing yarn colors for mosaic projects is colorway type. Solid and semi-solid yarns are recommended here. These yarns are preferable for mosaic (and most other types of colorwork) patterns because they work with the pattern so both the design and the colorway can shine the brighter. Conversely, highly variegated yarns can be difficult to use in mosaic patterns as they tend to fight back against the pattern such that both the intricacy of the design and the beauty of the colorway are lost in the shuffle.

However, there is one exception to the “stay away from variegated yarn” rule: gradient yarn!

Yarns with long color changes can be particularly beautiful when knit into mosaic designs. The slow color shift allows for the pattern to show through while the yarn transitions from one beautiful color to the next. I used this loophole when I knit up my Walk the Moon Hat a couple times as I was designing it and I fell in love with gradient yarns in mosaic. I recommend giving this a try if you’re feeling adventurous!

Both hats feature the same skein of Knit Picks Chroma Twist Bulky! Hooray gradients!

Are you mentally stash-diving yet?

Planning a trip to the yarn store?

I hope the yarn choice discussion above has gotten your creative juices flowing and has gotten you excited to give
mosaic a try!

Next week, we’ll discuss how to actually do mosaic knitting, including how to read the (sometimes confusing) mosaic charts and bring them to life in your stitches. In the meantime, here’s your Challenge for the Week:

Take some time selecting your yarns for the upcoming Mr. Wednesday KAL, if you’re planning to participate, or for another mosaic project. Once you’ve chosen, share a photo of the yarns you’ve picked. I can’t wait to see what you choose!

About the Author

The Founder of Yarn Academy Babs is all about inspiring others to find their creative juices. Babs finds it exhilarating to learn as many new techniques and skills as humanly possible and explore the entire world of yarn. Babs is always looking for the win win solution to any situation so we can all grow together in the wonderful world of fibre and colour.

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