Tips for knitting entrelac patterns to achieve neater results. How to prevent holes, yarn peeking through, and perfect your edges.
I personally believe entrelac is one of the most underrated knitting patterns out there. You can achieve such stunning effects with this ingenious technique. Alas, most tutorials will repeat the same old instructions that result in a lot of problems. And that’s why I decided to compile a list of entrelac tips for advanced knitters I personally use for all my projects.
At the core, the entrelac pattern is just a simple way to knit a garland of rectangles. And then you knit another garland on top of the first one – but instead of casting on stitches, you pick them up from the edges. As easy as this sounds, problems arise when you deviate even a fraction from the perfect repeat.
Think about it that way: If you are knitting a simple sweater in stockinette stitch and then you accidentally purl one stitch in the middle – it’s going to stand out like a lighthouse on a dark shore. And entrelac IS knit in stockinette stitch. So, above all, it’s about consistency and perfect tension.
But there’s a couple of other things you can do to get neat results and prevent holes. Here are my 5 best entrelac tips!
One important note: This article is not meant to convince you to abandon your technique if you are happy with it.
1. Pick the right yarn & needle size for entrelac
My number one entrelac tip really is knitting with a slightly fuzzy sock yarn (or any other very evenly spun and durable yarn). Just like when you are knitting intarsia or any other colorwork technique, you need a fiber that hides minor mistakes and color transitions well.
Because let’s be honest, you are probably not a knitting machine and there will be flaws, moments of inattention where your tension is not ideal, etc. And this will show if you are knitting with cotton or similar fibers from three miles away. Also, you are turning your work around a lot and this will add (or subtract) twist from your yarn – and if your yarn is only loosely spun, to begin with, this will also result in a less than neat stitch definition.
On top of that, I recommend knitting with a relatively small needle size compared to your yarn weight. That way, you will produce a much more condensed fabric that will add to the overall basketweave appearance of entrelac. Knit with too loose a gauge, and everything you want hidden will peek through.
2. Pick up stitches the right way
Now, picking up stitches deserves its very own article, if not a whole book. And there are quite a lot of tips and ways to improve your entrelac knitting, but if you stick to a couple of simple rules you can improve the look of your finished projects tremendously. The way I see it there are three issues: How to do it, where to do it, and how to treat the corners. Let’s go through it one by one.
1. There’s beauty in symetry
My first and most important tip here would be: No matter which technique you chose, do it consistently. If you pick up a stitch through every second edge stitch for your first entrelac rectangle and for the second you start with the first and then through the corner, this is bound to look less neat.
At its core, no single knitting stitch is less beautiful than the other. But if you repeat the same motions over and over again, your brain will be able to see patterns and not just chaos. And usually, that’s what we call beautiful or pleasing to the eye. You’ve probably experienced this when you started knitting moss stitch, brioche, or any other knitting stitch pattern with a more complex repeat. After only 2 rows it will always look like you did something “wrong” – the pattern will take a while to emerge.
2. Consider going through the little knobs
In half the books I read about entrelac, they tell you to knit a slip stitch selvage for your right or left-leaning rectangles. So, you always slip the first (or last) stitch of every row. This will create an edge where it’s very easy to pick up stitches. But will it also result in a neat color transition? I personally didn’t find that to be true!
Instead, I knit across all rows without a special selvage technique. And then I go through the little “knobs” of the edge using my crochet hook (or knitting needles). There’s always a little “V” of a knit stitch, and in between those Vs you will find a little loop that is the result of the yarn being drawn up one row. And I pick up my stitches through those knobs.
Why? Well, first of all, it will result in wider rectangles. You don’t forshorten the fabric by cutting off the selvage. But I also feel it creates a cleaner edge and the colors intermingle a bit less.
On top of it, it also creates a cleaner seam on the wrong side. So, I personally find it’s so much more attractive. Sure, the immediate edge might not look perfectly in sync with the overall stockinette stitch pattern. But as it usually gets drawn in a bit, that is much less noticeable than what you end up by going through the full selvage stitch.
Pick the right corner stitch
Maybe the biggest flaw of all entrelac patterns is the corner stitches. So, the spot where four rectangles meet in the middle. And here you have, if you ask me, three options:
- You go through the first corner stitch.
- You go through the last selvage stitch.
- You go through both and knit (or purl) them together right away in the return row (instead of just knitting across).
I usually go right through the first corner stitch. The result will be a slightly slanting stitch. I feel this is just perfect when you are knitting entrelac in only two colors as that stitch serves to connect the two rectangles in the same color.
If you are knitting in multiple colors, it’s sometimes better to pick the last edge stitch. This will create a tiny little hole and you will see the kind of marbled intersection stitches. But if you are knitting with a tight enough gauge, this typically gets drawn inward.
3. To SSK or not?
I am not sure how much you know about knitting theory. But there’s quite a lot of problems with left-leaning knitting decrease (click on the link for the details & the best alternatives). As a result, your left-leaning entrelac rectangle, where you SSK the last stitch together with the first stitch of the adjoining rectangle from one row below, often has a bit of yarn peeking through.
Now, you can purl these SSKs through the backloop in the return row for a more balanced decrease line, but that won’t fix the bleed through. That’s why I typically will knit a k2tog instead. I’m aware that this is not a left-leaning decrease and will not result in a neat decrease line. However, as it twists the stitch around its central axis, the color transition is much more distinct.
Obviously, both versions are okay. I guess it boils down to personal preferences and which compromise you want to live with.
4. Perfect those left triangles
I personally prefer knitting in the round (that’s actually my go-to entrelac tip!). It’s much easier and you don’t have to deal with these filler triangles on the left and right sides of every second row. But apart from them being a nuisance to knit, they typically also don’t look very neat – especially the left triangles. They usually don’t look like a perfect triangle and are often quite distorted.
So, I came up with an alternative that’s a bit more difficult to knit but really pays off. The best part, you don’t even end up with holes around the decrease line. Here’s the repeat:
- Step 1: One row before you finish the last left-leaning rectangle, join in a new color.
- Row 0: Knit across and SSK (so finish the last row with the new color).
- Row 1: Pfb. turn.
- Row 2: k2. turn.
- Row 3: Sl1, PLL, p2tog. turn.
- Row 4: Sl1, k2. turn.
- Row 5: Sl1, PLL, p1, p2tog. turn.
- Row 6: Sl1, k3. turn.
- Last row: Knit across and p2tog (so skip the increase).
And I feel this repeat results in a much smoother left triangle compared to all the other versions I ever found. It’s my personal go-to repeat. You get a nice sharp tip, a neat slip stitch selvage, no yarn bleeding through and no tails to weave in on the edges.
5. A better way to cast on without holes
And the last issue that personally bugs me a lot is the tiny little holes along the cast-on edge. Some patterns will tell you to knit proper short rows for the base triangles (e.g. German short rows) but that only helps a bit.
That’s because these holes are created because of the slant of the stockinette stitch. As a result, the stitches need more room and draw the cast-on stitches apart. So, here’s how I fix that:
- Step 1: Cast on however many stitches you need with a longtail cast on (around two needles).
- Step 2: Purl across.
- Row 1: k1. turn.
- Row 2: p1. turn.
- Row 3: k1, then lift the left loop of the first row on your left needle, and ssk that loop and the next stitch together. So, it’s the loop that is directly connected to the next stitch and if you pull on it you should be able to affect the next stitch. It’s a bit like knitting K1tog LL or other lifted increases. turn.
- Row 3: p2. turn.
- Row 4: k2. lift & ssk. turn.
I know this is a bit awkward to knit but I promise you it will fix these annoying holes in the cast-on edge. It will, however, also take away a bit of the stretchiness. So, that’s definitely something to consider.
[Bonus entrelac tip] knit intermission rows
One thing you may consider is called intermission rows. It’s something I personally don’t do because I don’t like the look of it but it does have a couple of advantages.
It sounds complicated but it’s actually very easy. So, at the beginning of a row, start picking up stitches as you normally would. But then, don’t continue knitting your left- or right rectangle. Instead, knit across the next couple of stitches, and then pick up the next set of stitches from the next edge and so on.
And then, start knitting your little rectangles one at a time the normal way starting on the wrong side. Consider slipping the first stitch of every return row (so the remaining stitch after your SSK or p2tog). That way, you avoid holes from forming around these decrease lines.
This would be a good choice if you are working on a project with a lot of negative ease where you plan to stretch out the fabric a lot. Then these intermission rows can look very charming.