Mosaic Knitting

Mosaic knitting is one of the easiest colorwork techniques. It is a type of slip stitch knitting using two (or more) colors of yarn. Each color is worked independently usually 2 rows or 2 rounds at a time. Sometimes (usually when working in the round) the color of yarn being used can change every round. The technique can be worked in garter or stockinette stitch and creates geometric designs.

The examples in this post all create stockinette fabric.

key points to remember

  • Stitches are always slipped purl-wise with the yarn held to the back side of the work
  • Each slipped stitch reduces that column’s stitch count by one stitch
  • Using markers between repeats can be helpful
  • Always wrap yarns the same direction at the side of the work (when working flat) or at the end of the round (when working in the round)
  • High contrast colors work best in this technique
  • The row/round gauge of mosaic knitting will always be more dense than plain knitting because we are working each row/round twice.
  • Working stitches with lighter tension will provide extra yarn for the stitches to be slipped on future rows/rounds which can help reduce the possible puckering of fabric
  • Finished projects will benefit from blocking

Types of Instructions

There are many different ways that mosaic knitting instructions can be presented. Written instructions are used for projects worked flat, in the round, or a combination of both.

Here are some examples of how mosaic knitting instructions might be presented using a portion of the Jasper Hat & Cowl pattern by John Crane.

Written Instructions

Row 2: Using CC, *k6, sl1 wyib, K5, pm, rep from * to end of row. Join to work in the Rnd, being careful not to twist sts.

(Note: The work is joined into the round and begins to be worked in rounds)

Rnd 3: Using the same yarn as the previous rnd, knit all knitted sts and slip all slipped sts with yarn held in back.

Rnd 4: Using MC, *k5, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k4, sm, rep from * to end of Rnd.

Rnd 5: Rep Rnd 3.

Rnd 6: Using CC, *k4, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k3, sm, rep from * to end of Rnd

Rnd 7: Rep Rnd 3

Rnd 8: Using MC, *k3, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k2, sm, rep from * to end of Rnd.

Rnd 9: Rep Rnd 3.

Rnd 10: Using CC, *k2, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k1, sl1 wyib, k1, sm, rep from * to end of Rnd.

Rnd 11: Rep Rnd 3.

Traditional Mosaic Chart (Round)

A traditional chart for mosaic knitting in the round shows even numbers on the right hand side of the chart. Each row represents two rounds of knitting. This chart contains the same directions as the written instructions above.

Instructions for odd rounds are usually specified in notes. 

Round 3 (and all odd rounds): Using the same yarn as the previous rnd, knit all knitted sts and slip all slipped sts with yarn held in back.

Click HERE to view our list of knitting pattern abbreviations

detailed Mosaic Chart (Round)

A mosaic chart in the round might also be presented with every round shown. The odd rounds on this chart create the same result as the round 3 note on the chart above.

Traditional Mosaic Chart (Flat)

Using the same motif as the written instructions, this chart is an example of how the stitches might be illustrated for a mosaic project that is worked flat. 

Each row of this type of chart represents two rows of knitting. Row 2 is worked from right to left, and then the same row of the chart is used for row 3, worked from left to right. 

Detailed Mosaic Chart (Flat)

A detailed flat mosaic chart is similar to the traditional flat chart (above) except with this chart type all rows are illustrated.

The back of mosaic knitting is similar to stranded (Fair Isle), but can be distinguished by how the rows of yarn are separated into sets of two of the same color. This is clearly illustrated by the light and dark horizontal stripes of stitches in the center of the above image.

Whew! That's a lot of different ways to share the same information. Remember that mosaic knitting is quite simple, created with knit, purl, and slipped stitches.

Want to build confidence with the technique? Consider creating a practice swatch to ensure the technique is clear before beginning your first mosaic project.

Pattern Inspiration

Walk in the Woods
Hat & Fingerless Mitts

by Jennifer Burt

Hat & Cowl

by John Crane

Tashi Shawl

by Skacel Design Team

The Shift

by Andrea Mowry

Xuan Wrap

by Ambah O'Brien

Mosaic Poncho

by Rhonda Fargnoli