Mosaic Knitting Week 3: Let’s Get Knitting!

Hello knitters!

This week, we’re talking about how to actually do mosaic knitting, including how to read the (sometimes confusing) mosaic charts and bring them to life in your stitches.

It can be a bit puzzling at first but I promise it’s easy once you understand what the charts are trying to show you.

First, I want to show you a couple different types of mosaic knitting charts. Some mosaic patterns (including mine) also come with written-out directions for those who don’t like charts, but, for mosaic knitting especially, I find charts indispensable. They make it easy to understand why your stitches need to be where they are and, for me at least, make the pattern you’re knitting come alive.

Note that I said above that there are different types of mosaic charts.

Different designers chart their mosaic patterns differently depending on personal preference and the demands of their unique designs.

However, I find that mosaic knitting chart types tend to fall into one of two categories:

Traditional (without stitch types other than knit/purl)


Progressive (with stitch types other than knit/purl).

Typically, traditional charts are used for areas of straight knitting without increases or decreases (e.g., the body of a hat or a cowl, etc.) while progressive charts are used for knitting shaped by increases and decreases (e.g., shawls, hat crowns, etc.). Let’s look at each chart type and figure out how to read them.

Here’s an example of a traditional chart from my Starlight Mountains Hat:

So, how do you read and knit this chart?

Here’s a guideline for traditional mosaic knitting charts:

  1. Each color is worked for two rounds before switching to the next color. On traditional mosaic knitting charts, this means that each horizontal chart row represents the stitch repeat to be worked over two rounds. After working each odd row (shown on the chart), work the following even row (not shown on the chart) by repeating the previous odd row in the same color.
  2. The color to be used for each two-round set is indicated by the box to the right of the chart. Each white box indicates a set of two MC (Main Color) rounds, each black box indicates a set of two CC (Contrast Color) rounds. The MC is usually the color you’ve been knitting with before the mosaic chart begins, while the CC is the color introduced as the mosaic chart begins. This means that most mosaic charts will start with a set of CC rows.
  3. With the color indicated by the box on the right, work your way across each round by knitting the stitches that match the color indicated in the box and slipping the opposite color stitches purlwise with the yarn in the back of the work. For example, on a chart row with a white MC box at the right, you knit all white/MC stitches on the chart row and slip all black/CC stitches on the chart purlwise with yarn in back. On a row with a black CC box at the right, you knit all black/CC stitches on the chart row and slip all white/MC stitches on the chart purlwise with yarn in back.
  4. On the second round of each color, simply repeat the previous round by knitting the stitches that match the color indicated in the box on the right and slipping the opposite color stitches purlwise with yarn in back.

To put it simply, you knit all stitches indicated in one color and slip the stitches indicated in the opposite color.

That’s it! That’s all there is to mosaic knitting!


Note that, though this chart shows stockinette, traditional mosaic charts can easily be worked in either garter stitch or stockinette so make sure you check the key of any mosaic chart to ensure you’re performing the right stitch.

Okay, so how about progressive charts?

In a nutshell, progressive charts use regular knitting chart style to express both mosaic and normal knitting. Here’s an example of a progressive mosaic knitting chart from my Starlight Mountains Hat:

If you’re familiar with regular knitting charts, this progressive mosaic knitting chart style should look more recognizable to you.

Here are some tips for reading charts like this:

  1. Each row is shown on its own line (instead of doubled, as in traditional mosaic charts). This is usually to accommodate things like decreases and/or increases.
  2. Instead of that extra chart column indicating row color as in a traditional mosaic chart, this chart indicates the color to be worked over the round by showing it as knit in the chart row.

The opposite color stitches to be slipped are indicated as slipped on the chart.

As I mentioned before, each mosaic knitting design has its own unique needs so the features of progressive charts tend to vary to meet these demands. Good mosaic knitting patterns should include a guide to tell knitters how to read the charts so they don’t get stuck.

I hope this introduction to mosaic knitting charts and the technique itself leaves you feeling ready to dive right in and try it out!

Our Challenge for the Week will be to work up a mosaic knitting swatch (instructions given below) to test out your new skills. Once you’re done, post a picture and let me know how it went!

See you next week for the last segment of our mosaic knitting mini-course! We’ll be discussing how to design your own mosaic knitting patterns!

Swatch It – Mosaic Style!

Use the tips in last week’s lesson to choose two contrasting colors of yarn in the same weight.

BONUS TIP: A great way to tell if your two yarns have enough contrast is to take a photo of them and switch it over to black and white (see above). This will help you determine if there is enough difference between the two colors for the mosaic to really pop.

Any yarn weight will do, though I tend to favor worsted or aran yarn for technique swatches – just for ease of learning. You won’t need much of either yarn (I used about 10 g of my CC and about 15 g of my MC) so this would be a great opportunity to use up some left-overs. The lighter color will be your MC and the darker color will be your CC.

NOTE: The swatch detailed below will be a stockinette stitch swatch with a garter stitch border.
If you want to try the whole thing in garter stitch, give it a go! The mosaic pattern will work both ways – or in a combination of the two!

Stitch Abbreviations:
BO: Bind off
CC: Contrast Color
CO: Cast on
K: Knit
MC: Main Color
P: Purl
RS: Right Side
WS: Wrong Side

Mosaic Chart:

Using needles appropriate to the yarn weight you’ve chosen, CO 33 stitches in your MC.
Row 1 (WS): Using MC, knit across.
Row 2 (RS): Using MC, knit across.
Rows 3 – 4: Repeat Rows 1-2.
Row 5: Using MC, k3, p27, k3.
Row 6: Using CC as indicated for Mosaic Chart Row 1, knit 3 stitches, work Mosaic Chart Row 1 repeating the stitches inside the red border three times, knit 3 stitches.
Rows 7 – 37: Repeat Row 6 with the corresponding Mosaic Chart Row as you work your way through the Mosaic Chart twice.
Row 38: Using CC, knit across.
Row 39: Using CC, k3, p27, k3.
Rows 40 – 43: Using MC, knit across.
BO and block lightly, if desired.

Note: This is a traditional mosaic knitting chart designed to be knit flat. As such, though each chart row still represents two rows of knitting, the chart has row number indicators showing which way to knit each row. Odd rows are knit right to left, even rows are knit left to right.

Note: The chart used is a modified version of Mosaic 2: Herringbone from Barbara Walker’s Mosaic Knitting book.

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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