by Carol Wyche
Entrelac didn't interest me for a long time. All that knitting, turning,
purling back, switching colors, changing angles, picking up and joining. It
was a really pretty effect, but it sure looked like a lot of work. Then I
tried it one day and found out what they didn't tell you. It's also
a lot of fun. Almost addictive.
Those of you who know how to knit backwards as well as forwards, will find
that it simplifies and speeds up entrelac immensely, but just knitting and
purling works perfectly well, so don't let not knowing how to knit
backwards stop you.
The Structure of Entrelac
Entrelac is a series of building blocks, one row leaning right and one
leaning left. It's started with a straight cast-on, then a row of
triangles for a foundation. Then alternating rows, starting with an intial
triangle, then rectangles, and ending with a row of triangles. It is most
easily done with short rows - increasing rather than decreasing short rows.
In the sample piece I have made the beginning triangles, initial triangle of
every row, and bind off row of triangles a different color to make it easier
to see the construction. It is more usual to have all the sections in one
row be the same color.
Click on picture for a large version
Here is the color key for the sample piece.
Here is the pattern for a practice piece you can knit today, written for
knitting and purling. If you know how to knit forwards and backwards ,
you're welcome to do that. Substitute knit backwards for purl, and k2tog
(to the right, of course) for p2tog.
|Bright turquoise ||- the cast on row|
|blue gray ||- beginning triangles on each row|
|dark blue ||- first row of triangles, leans left|
|medium blue ||- first and third rows of rectangles, lean
|medium turquoise ||- second and fourth row of rectangles, lean
|dark blue ||- last row - the bind off, leans right
The Entrelac Practice Piece
Materials: any bulky, worsted or sport weight yarn, needles size 5, 6,
or 7 or so, whatever suits the yarn and you.
Cast on on 24 stitches
We're going to make 4 triangles in short rows. You could do it by
decreasing but then you end up on the point of the triangle and have to break
the yarn and start over. We're going to do it by increasing, so your last
row brings you back down the side to the cast-on row to start your next
The cast-on goes essentially left to right, and the first row goes right to
left. Left and right are going to become very familiar to you when working
Now make the next triangle, starting with the next two stitches. If you think
you'll lose your place, use a stitch marker. Make 4 triangles the same
way, using up all 24 stitches on the cast on row. The triangles seem to be
little lumps hanging from your needle, but persevere.
- k2, turn
- slip 1, p1, turn
- slip 1, k2, turn
- slip 1, p2, turn
- slip 1, k3, turn
- slip 1, p3, turn
- slip 1, k4, turn
- slip 1, p4, turn
- slip 1, k5, turn
- slip 1, p5, turn
- slip 1, k5, turn
- and 13. repeat rows 10 and 11 (or just use 11 rows and fudge on the
The rectangle rows:
Each rectangle row starts and ends with a little triangle. I left out the
turns, since you can figure that out by now.
Starting triangle, left end.
- sl 1, k1
- sl 1, inc 1, p2tog w/ 1st live stitch from other needle.
- sl 1, k2
- sl 1, inc 1, p1, p2tog w/next live stitch
- sl 1, k3
- sl 1, inc 1, p2, p2tog w/ next live stitch
- sl 1, k4
- sl 1, inc. 1, p3, p2tog w/ next live stitch
- sl 1, k5
- sl 1, inc 1,p 4, p2tog w/ last live stitch
- sl 1, k 5
- sl 1, p5
Now go "over the hill" and pick up six stitches to make
Right leaning rectangle:
(no increasing or decreasing this time, only joining)
Continue this way until the live stitches from the next section are all
used up. After the last p2tog join turn and slip and go back uphill, then
come back downhill again. Now, move on to the next rectangle, by picking up
six stitches from the side of the triangle below.
- slip 1, k5
- slip 1, p4, p2tog w/ next live stitch
- slip 1, k5
- slip 1, p4, p2tog w/ next live stitch
You end on the right. Next row will be left leaning.
Start with the left leaning triangle.
and so on...
- sl 1, p1
- sl 1, inc 1, ssk w/ next live stitch,
You will make the same sideways triangle as before: slip 1, increase, work
to end and join with the next live stitch; turn, slip and work back uphill -
but this time you will increase and do your joining on the knit side, and purl
Then make a set of left leaning rectangles, reversing the way you did
the right leaning rectangles; join on the knit side, slip and work back on the
and so on...
- pick up 6 stitches
- sl 1, p5, turn
- sl 1, k4, ssk w/ next live stitch
Binding off as you go - the last set of triangles
Make the beginning triangle the same as any beginning triangle, until you
get 5 stitches on the left needle. Then sl 1, inc 1, bind off those two, then
bind off the remaining stitches of the beginning triangle as you knit each one,
except for the last stitch.
Pick up 6 stitches down the next valley, as usual. You will have 7 stitches on
the left needle, one from the beginning triangle, and 6 from the current pickup.
- slip 1, work 5 to the left, turn and bind off the last 1 of the
picked up stitches with the remaining stitch from the beginning triangle.
- slip 1, work 5 to the right and join to the next live stitch as
- slip 1, work 6 to the left, turn, and bind off 1 stitch
- slip 1, work 5 to the right and join to the next live stitch
Continue doing this, as if making the usual rectangle but binding off one
stitch each time you come to "the top of the hill" until you have
bound off the entire 6 stitch section, leaving only 1 stitch on the needle,
then pick up for the next section and so on, until all stitches are bound
More about Entrelac
As you can see by my bad example hat, there can be a problem, especially with
high contrast yarns, of color A showing through and making a little stripe in
Color B. One way to avoid this is to work one full row in the color to be
used next, knitting the live stitches and picking up all your pickup stitches
at once before starting your beginning triangle. If you do this, it can be
helpful to put markers at each "hilltop" where the live stitches
stop and the pickup stitches begin, and each "valley" where the
pickup stitches end and the live stitches begin. This is easier when working
in the round than it is when working flat. Working flat you need to join your
new color at the "wrong end" of the work and knit or purl the pickup
row back to your proper beginning point.
||What you can do with entrelac.|
- make the sections as large or as small as you wish.
- shape by increasing or decreasing the number of stitches in each
section, or by judicious binding off (say for an armhole, or
- change color every row
- change color every section
- work it all in one color
- use a shaded yarn or a painted yarn for very nice effects
- work different stitch or lace patterns, all in the same color or
varying color, too.
Here are some interesting published patterns you can use to learn about
- Meg's Sweaters by Meg Swansen, pp. 32-35, Knitter's
Magazine, Summer 92. No. 27.
This is a pattern for a pullover knit in the round with an entrelac yoke,
in natural colored 2 play Icelandic wool. There is a discussion on
calculating the size and number of the rectangles needed, along with the
pattern. On page 34, there is a tam in entrelac to match the sweaters.
I think the same or a very similar pattern is probably available in the
Spun Off Series, from Woolgathering, SchoolHouse Press.
- Sidna Farley, in the same issue,
has a tunic-length pullover in the round, knitted entirely in entrelac, in
case you're so taken with it you just have to do more than a yoke.
- Entrelac Ensemble by Maureen Egan Emlet, pp. 37-39, Interweave
Knits, No. 4, Winter 97.
This is a tam and fingerless mitts set, with entrelac and popcorns, and
some plain stockinette for relief. It has a small sidebar explaining
knitting backwards, and its use for entrelac and for popcorns.
- Entrelac Vest by Dianne Sinclair, pp. 50-52, Spin-Off,
This is an utterly gorgeous vest in postage stamp sized entrelac, all
done with one strand of a multicolored yarn, not by changing colors.
- Square for the Great American Afghan by Bette Anne Lampers,
pp. 34-35, Knitter's., No. 46, Spring 97.
This is a one color entrelac with different knit-purl patterns in the
different sections. The Great American Afghan is also published separately
and sold by Knitter's, with all the afghan square patterns in it.
- Entrelace by Heather Lodinsky, pp. 34-36, Knitter's,
No. 50, Spring 98.
This is an oversized knit blouse in cotton (linen would probably wear and
drape better) using the Windmill pattern from Barbara Walker in entrelac
copyright cjwyche, 2000