All about mosaic knitting

Mosaic knitting is a colour work technique which is also known as slipped stitch knitting. There are a large variety of mosaic knitting stitches, and the end result of using this technique is often extremely striking and complicate looking. Mosaic knitting is however very simple once you hang of it.

The aim of this article is give an introduction to the art of mosaic knitting, and to point you in the right direction if you would like some more in depth help about this topic. You will also find a list of lovely, free mosaic knitting patterns so that you can get on with slipping those stitches and creating some beautiful colour work knitting.

The difference between mosaic and Fair Isle knitting

Both mosaic and Fair Isle knitting entail using two or more colours to create beautiful multi coloured knitting.

Where the two techniques differ is that with mosaic knitting, only one colour is worked across the row or round. The stitches of the contrast colour are simply slipped from one knitting needle to the other without being worked. In Fair Isle knitting, two or more colours are worked along the row or round, and the strands of each colour are carried along the back of the work.

Mosaic knitting projects grow more slowly than Fair Isles, because not all of the stitches are worked. Slipped stitches are kind of ‘dead’ stitches so they do not help the piece to grow. However, all the slipping is really fun and quite speedy once you have had some practice.

How to slip stitches

The most common way to slip stitches is to slip purl wise. If a pattern doesn’t state otherwise, slip your needle into the stitch that is to be slipped, as if you were going to purl it, and pass it to the other needle without working it at all.

This video, originally from my free mosaic beanie hat knitting pattern, shows how to slip a stitch purl wise.

Abbreviations used in mosaic knitting

When reading mosaic knitting patterns you will see the abbreviations sl1 or sl2. This means slip 1 and sl2. You may also see slwyif /slip with yarn in front) and slwyib (slip with yarn in back). These abbreviations are pretty self explanatory, and usually it is easy to see whether the yarn stays at the back or front of the work as you slip the stitches. The yarn usually simply stays where it is – the pattern is just making it clear for you.

Sometimes you will see instructions to slip stitches knit wise or purl wise rather than just slip. Again this is self explanatory and just means to insert your needle into the stitch that will be slipped as if you are going to knit or purl.

This textured cowl was made using a fun to knit mosaic stitch (pattern available here in my Etsy store by the way).
  • The Knit Like Granny website has another useful guide, with pointers to some excellent Youtube videos about mosaic knitting.
  • There is a brilliant guide to mosaic knitting and slipped stitches here at Knitpicks. This is well worth a read if you are getting started with mosaic knitting.
  • This introduction to mosaic knitting Youtube video is well worth a watch if you would like to see the technique in action.
  • While not a tutorial, if you would like to see the potential of knitting using the mosaic and slipped stitch technique, check out Stephen West’s designs. Stunning and inspirational!

List of free mosaic knitting patterns

Here is a list of free knitting patterns that you can use to practice slipping your stitches. All patterns are free at the time of writing and please note that you may need to sign up to some of the websites to get the patterns.

  • This beautiful free baby blanket knitting pattern is ideal for practising the mosaic knitting technique – knit various squares to make a stunning, unique looking blanket.
  • For another lovely free knitting pattern for your home, check out this pretty slip stitch cushion cover and blanket set, knit up in aran yarn.
  • The Tweedle Do blanket is a beautiful looking blanket which uses the mosaic technique.
  • The honeycomb stitch is a classic for working in mosaic style, and you will love this baby blanket knitting pattern which is available for free from Yarnspirations.
  • For a smaller mosaic knitting pattern, the Little Boxes baby hat is ideal. Perfect for beginners to slipped stitch knitting.
  • For an even smaller mosaic stitch free knitting pattern, this washcloth is ideal. Check it out on the Lovecrafts website.
  • The Neskowin Hat is another lovely knitting project for beginners to mosaic knitting. Well worth a free download!
A close up of two hats that I knit using the mosaic technique – so easy and yet looks so cool!

Thanks so much for visiting The Knitting Times today – please do check back soon for some more helpful knitting articles.

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