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Fair Isle Fever: The Ivy League Vest

Sep 11, 2009

Sailing the Fair Isles

In my knitting, I tend to get inspired by something and just jump right in, whether or not I know how to do certain techniques. I figure that hands-on is the best way to learn, so I go for it. Fair Isle intimidated me more than usual, though, so I found a beginning class and signed up.

The pink and purple hat (left) is the result of that class. (It's a class pattern, so it's unpublished.) The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, and it's really cozy and warm, though I wish it were a tad longer to totally cover my ears.

I fell in love with the skull cap pattern (right) and knit it up for a Christmas present two years ago for my brother. (The pattern is We Call Them Pirates.) He loved it so much that he wore it out and I had to knit him a new one last Christmas.

This year I have a new hat in the works for my brother, one of the "faux isle" patterns where you use one solid color and one variegated color to achieve a multi-colored Fair Isle look.

I've mentioned before that I've only done a couple of Fair Isle projects (see the hat photos below), but now I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more Fair Isle!

Fair Isle Made Easy

I've just had the opportunity to watch the new Knitting Daily Workshop DVD, Introduction to Fair Isle: The Ivy League Vest with Eunny Jang.

For almost an hour I was mesmerized by Eunny's Fair Isle design, the Ivy League Vest (click on the link for a free pattern download!). Eunny talks of the various principles of Fair Isle knitting, such as picking the right yarns, various ways to hold that yarn, keeping your tension even (tricky in Fair Isle!), and how to change colors easily.

Plus, Eunny has some great finishing tips that I will certainly be putting into use. I really do feel like I could be successful and have a great time with a Fair Isle sweater project!

This pattern is designed so well, even the ribbing makes use of the colorwork throughout the piece.

Eunny provides a demo in steeking, which is the process of cutting the armholes and neckline after you knit your sweater completely in the round. She cuts with confidence, making it look easy. The edges really don't unravel!

Here's a clip from the steeking section of the DVD, where Eunny cuts an actual steek and shows us how to pick up stitches on the resulting edge.

See how easy that cutting part is?

I've got a yoked Fair Isle cardigan on the needles, which I put it down to do the Central Park Hoodie, but I think I'm going to pick it up after the hoodie is complete. I'm knitting it out of Cascade 220; the body is brown and the yoke is pink, blue, and cream. It has steeks, so I'll definitely be reviewing Introduction to Fair Isle before I tackle that step!

Maybe the next project in Kathleen's Knit-a-Long should be a Fair Isle project! What do you think?





Featured Product

Knitting Daily Workshop Introduction to Fair Isle The Ivy League Vest with Eunny Jang

Availability: In Stock
Price: $19.95


Learn to master multicolored Fair Isle knitwear in this video workshop with Eunny Jang, editor of Interweave Knits magazine and co-host of Knitting Daily TV.


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Beverly@45 wrote
on Jan 10, 2011 7:00 AM

Is there a kit for the Ivy League Vest?  I have read several posts on ravelry and the comment that there is just too much yarn called for in the pattern has me concerned....I really don't want a lot of left over yarn....any suggestions...thanks so much, Beverly (

MarilynK@13 wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 6:12 AM

I went to google and typed in  "We Call Them Pirates" and the first hit was the pattern.  Printed it off with no problem.  Now I need to know the weight of the yarn which I am guessing is worsted weight but not certain.  I haven't tried knitting a swatch yet but will soon.  Anybody out there know for sure?


DebbieG@2 wrote
on Sep 14, 2009 8:41 AM

thanks for the pattern. My daughter will love this hat when I get it made.

baba66 wrote
on Sep 13, 2009 8:42 AM

I have not been able to get any of your technique demonstration to play in about a month. What is wrong?

Dorothy W wrote
on Sep 12, 2009 10:09 AM

I have a grandson who would just love that "skull" cap done in Fair Isle.  Could you let me know where I can get the pattern?  It would be my first attempt at Fair Isle knitting, which has fascinated me for awhile now.

on Sep 12, 2009 7:36 AM

I just bought the Ivy League Vest pattern last week, and here you are giving it away. How irritating.

I have no problem paying for patterns (I think designers deserve to be paid), and I also appreciate freebies - but I do wish Interweave/Knitting Daily would be more consistent about charging vs giving stuff away. Either a pattern is free or it is not.

ShafaqS wrote
on Sep 12, 2009 4:48 AM

Great video. What sweater is Eunny wearing? I love the design on the sleeves.

Kate M. wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 6:04 PM

To MatildaRita: If you use real wool, the yarns really do felt together as you work; just try ripping out a mistake!  But if you want a little more reassurance, take needle and thread and do a line of back-stitch all along the steek but one stitch away, on both sides of the steek.  Then you can be sure it won't come apart.

On another topic: one can avoid a part of the UFO syndrome--the second sleeve not done--by knitting both sleeves simultaneously.  My mother taught me to do this.  I suppose, though, with Fair Isle all those yarns would become terminally tangled.  But it works wonderfully for other projects!  (I now knit two socks simultaneously.  What joy!  No more one-sock-finished limbo!)

morsini wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 3:38 PM

I want that pirate hat pattern!

Kathrows wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 2:20 PM

No!!  Please don't do Fair Isle for the next knit along!  I want to join.

BlueJaye2 wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 10:51 AM

Why is it that I can never access the video? I would dearly love to see this, but it just does not show up.

megweimer wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 10:50 AM

Kathleen,  I have a Son-in-Law who would love your Skull cap pattern "We Call them Pirates"  Where can I buy/get it?

Please let me know, my knitting needles are itching for the skulls to show up.

Thanks,  Mary Weimer (with inching needles)

April wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 10:49 AM

Eunny always makes everything look easy, but I am still scared. : )    I may just have to jump in like you said.

MatildeRita wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 10:26 AM

I don't understand what is she trying to show when she cuts the knitting

If someone could explain me please?


KarenLeeC wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 10:22 AM

I would like to do a Fair Isle project.  I really like the vest.  A cardigan is in my unfinished project black hole, completed except for one sleeve.  If I did the vest with this group and got back in the fair isle mode, perhaps I would be inspired to finish the cardigan!

I also loved the skull pattern and have downloaded it from the site you provided.  


CarolynM wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 10:14 AM

Wow, thanks *so much* for this post!!!  I have an ILV swatch that's been lanquishing for a year, because I have so many questions about this technique, and I adore the yarn and don't want to goof it up.  I'm totally in favor of a fair-isle knit-along.  ;)

Louise@4 wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 9:49 AM

The volume is way too low on your videos.  I have my computer turned all the way up and it still isn't "audiable".  Therefore, useless.

VictoriaJ@3 wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 8:55 AM


If the pink and purple hat isn't quite long enough to cover your ears, why not pick up stitches for ear flaps on each side?  I did this on a hat for myself, and i was very happy with the results.

-- Victoria

AliceM@13 wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 8:51 AM

Actually just wanted to ask Kathleen if she could share her pattern for that fair isle skull hat she knitted for her brother. Just love it.   You can email me if you'd like.

Soulbreaking wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 8:30 AM

Amanda, it's actually not the model's shape that makes the curve in the stripes.  That occurs as a result of the deep neck steek.  It's less noticeable if you were to make a higher neckline, and start the neck steek at the same time as the armhole steeks.

Amanda@26 wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 7:54 AM

I love the vest, but the model, like I is fuller in the bust and the stripes aren't straight.  That really bothers me.  Are there adjustments that can be made to make it line up better?

PatK wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 7:44 AM

We Call Them Pirates is a free pattern from

(Just in time for International Talk Like A Pirate Day!)

LindyS@6 wrote
on Sep 11, 2009 7:07 AM

Kathleen- you have motivated me to get back into Fair Isle!

 Where might I find "We Call Them Pirates" or at least a skull pattern?  Thanks!