I was first introduced to the concept of entrelac knitting by Danica, a scarf pattern published in Knitty. Danica's designer, Jesse Loesberg, is a technical writer by trade - and it shows. I often recommend this pattern for beginning entrelac knitters, due to its clear instructions and great results. (And out of all the scarves I've knit over the years, Danica is still my go-to scarf, some five years after knitting it.)
Entrelac knitting basically allows you to knit a checkerboard on the bias. You start by knitting a series of triangles, leave the stitches on the active side on the needles, and then use those live stitches to knit a series of squares or rectangles. It's Short Rows 2: The Revenge.
The technique as a whole isn't terribly complicated, but it's easy to get lost. It's almost inevitable that at some point you will lose your way, or knit the wrong shape by accident (knitting a triangle when a rectangle is called for, or vice versa). Thus, entrelac knitting requires frequent "sanity checks."
Whenever you finish a unit or a row, take a mental step back and look at your work. If something has gone wrong, it should be fairly obvious. Messed up entrelac knitting often takes on a distinctively three dimensional shape. In the case of a bit of entrelac I recently worked, what should have been a scarf shape turned into something more like a capital Y.
The right side and wrong side are easy to identify in stockinette. However, when working entrelac in garter stitch, the wise knitter is advised to use a stitch marker to identify the right side.
Many entrelac projects take advantage of the long color repeats of a yarn like Noro Silk Garden. Any yarn with a long color repeat can make a fabulous work of entrelac. If you want to customize a pattern for your particular yarn, simply fiddle with knitting a sample square until you have one that takes up an entire color repeat. Then alter the entrelac pattern you want to use, so that it's worked over that number of stitches. One benefit to entrelac is that it is easy to customize sizes in this way, simply by adding or removing stitches to the repeats.
Some popular entrelac patterns:
- Karen Baumer's Multidirectional Scarf - not true entrelac, but a good way to start. Knit in garter stitch.
- Kureopatora's Snake Scarf - also not true entrelac. Knit in 2x2 ribbing. (Although these two patterns both use basically the same shapes and technique, it's surprising how different they look!)
- Danica scarf
- The Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole, from Scarf Style.
- Entrelac socks are also quite popular. Entrelac works really well in hand-dyed sock yarn.
- Felted entrelac bags are a great place to start. The felting process helps hide any beginner's mistakes!
- Criminy Jickets' Garterlac Dishcloth is a good small project.
Photo credit: Flickr/Jaydot