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Faux Isle: A Great Colorwork Technique (plus a free pattern!)

Oct 9, 2009

There are so many beautiful variegated and self-striping yarns out there. They're perfect for adding some pizzazz to your stockinette projects, but have you thought about doing some colorwork with these yarns?

The term "faux isle" is a funny play on words, but it's also a neat technique that uses one variegated or self-striping yarn and one solid yarn to knit a Fair Isle-type pattern.

I'm working on a faux isle hat (at left) for my brother for Christmas, and it's so much fun. Like all of the colorwork I've done, it's really addictive—I can't wait to see the next row!

I developed my own easy knitting pattern for this hat, which my friend Deborah kindly modeled for me—she's one of those people who looks great in hats of all kinds.

This is today's free pattern, so read on!

Kathleen's Faux Isle Hat

This hat measures about 18 1/4" when finished, and fits about a 20" head. For a larger head, cast on more stitches in multiples of four.

Your gauge should be 21 stitches to 4 inches in stranded knitting.

Note: After making this hat a few times, I've decided I don't like the two rows of stockinette (brown, in the hat shown at left) and the half diamond right above the brim of the hat. The hat is also just a tad too long (tall??) on most people. So, I would advise skipping chart A and starting right in with chart B.

Using worsted weight yarn (you'll need about 100 yards of a variegated yarn and 100 yards of a solid yarn) and size 6 US 16" circular needles, cast on 96 stitches in the solid color (Yarn A).

Place a marker at the beginning of your work and join for working in the round.

Work in k2, p2 rib for  1 1/2", using the variegated yarn (Yarn B) for the purl stitches and Yarn A for the knit stitches.

Knit 3 rounds in Yarn A.

Knit 2 rounds in Yarn B, and then work rows 1 through 8 in Chart A.

On row 9, switch to Chart B, repeating rows 1 through 6 of the chart until the hat measures about 6" from the cast-on edge (or to desired length minus 2 inches).

Using just one of the yarns (A or B, you choose!), begin decreasing crown as follows:

*K10, k2tog; rep from * around hat—88 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K9, k2tog; rep from * around hat—80 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K8, k2tog; rep from * around hat—72 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K7, k2tog; rep from * around hat—64 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K6, k2tog; rep from * around hat—56 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K5, k2tog; rep from * around hat—48 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K4, k2tog; rep from * around hat—40 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K3, k2tog; rep from * around hat—32 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K2, k2tog; rep from * around hat—24 sts rem.
Knit 1 round even.
*K1, k2tog; rep from * around hat—16 sts rem.
*K2tog; rep from * around hat—8 sts rem.

Break yarn, leaving about 4 inches of tail. Thread tail onto a tapestry needle and pull through remaining stitches twice. Cinch tight.

Weave in ends and block lightly.

Fill Up Your Basket With Faux Isle

Faux isle projects really give you a lot of bang for your buck; because of the variegated yarn, it looks like you're using several colors, but you're just using two colors throughout the whole piece. I enjoy Fair Isle projects, both the process and the product, but this faux isle technique is so easy (not so many ends to weave in!) and beautiful in its own right. 

Here are some ideas for your project basket. 

Spacer 10x10 pixels
The Cactus Blossom Pullover is a beautiful and easy pattern that knits up quickly in worsted weight yarn. This is a comfy, slouchy sweater that's perfect for weekend adventuring.   The Faux Fair Isle Cardigan
is so beautiful! I love the colorwork in the ribbing. This is a cardigan that will end up in the hope chest for the next generation to enjoy.
  My friend Laurie knit this version of the faux isle kids' sweater. Isn't it amazing what a change of color can do? Whatever the color, though, this one's a keeper.

I hope you'll try a faux isle project—I think you'll really like the results. 

Have a wonderful weekend!


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Child's Faux Fair Isle Knitting Pattern

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If you love the effect of colorwork, but are clumsy...


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+ Add a comment


Lucysalgado wrote
on Mar 29, 2010 5:22 AM

Oh.... what an awesome cap!!!  Now I have a great project for Xmas caps.  Work a few with a soft beige and variegated red yarn.  Thank you for the great pattern.  I love receiving your newsletter all the time.  And I adore your show.  I record each of them in my DVR, it teaches me new things all the time,  Eunny, Shay and Kristin are awesome.  My best regards to them.  And I truly do, make time to yarn every single day.  Thank God I have the wonderful opportunity to knit and crochet every day.

Love you all, Lucy Salgado from Tampa, Florida.

AndyMN wrote
on Mar 20, 2010 5:53 PM

Hi Kathleen,  I printed out the pattern for the Yggddrasil Blanket.  I have tried every which way, and I can not get the Invisible (Provisional) Cast on, to work.  

I want to do this blanket, and I consider myself an intermediate knitter, having started about 70 years ago in 7th grade.  Thanks, Andy

LauraV@2 wrote
on Jan 13, 2010 1:59 PM

Kathleen,  thank you so much for this pattern!  I just completed my sixth hat.  I shared the pattern with two of my co-workers and they are finishing up number 4 and number 5!  This pattern has also inspired new knitters and I plan to get some of them started on it next week.  So thank you, thank you!  :)  Regards, Laura V.

Peggreene wrote
on Nov 20, 2009 5:52 AM

I tried this faux fair isle hat pattern and I must be something wrong when I change the yarns.  My result looks like reversible knitting and I really only end up with half the stitches  when considering the circumference. Color A ends up on one side and Color B on the other.  I leave the purl tail in the front and the knit tail in the back while I am knitting.   Would be great if you want a reversible hat but does not give you the fair isle look.  I am still on the first 1 1/2 " of ribbing . I understand that once I get to the chart it should increase the circumference.   Thanks.

Carolyn@3 wrote
on Oct 15, 2009 4:38 PM

I once viewed a short video on this site, showing how Eunny handled changing colors in colorwork. I cannot find that video now. Can you help me find to look at it again?  Thanks.  Carolyn McElrath

nancyi2 wrote
on Oct 14, 2009 4:03 PM

Couldn't wait to knit the hat so started it Friday pm and finished Saturday.  Looks great and is very warm.  I had the same issue with the extra rows of the variegated yarn as busymama7 and decided on just two rows total.  My hat also turned out too long by a couple of inches so I unknitted back about one full motif.  I also alternated the solid with the variegated in the shaping at the top which is pretty cute.


Lauren wrote
on Oct 14, 2009 11:43 AM

Thank you so much for posting this pattern! I have been hesitant to try fair isle because it scares me a little, but I think this would be an excellent first step into fair isle. Can't wait to get started!


busymama7 wrote
on Oct 13, 2009 10:01 AM

I started this hat last night.  I am so excited as I have never done fair isle or intarsia, I was too intimidated. But this looks so great, I just had to try it.

Could there possibly be an error in the first few rows?  It says after the ribbing to knit 3 rows of solid color, 2 rows of multi, then start chart A which starts with 2 more rows of the multi. I did not like the way that looked on my hat, so I came back here to look closer at yours. It doesn't look like there are 4 rows of the multi before the pattern, but maybe I am missing something.  Like I said, I am very very new to this.

If the pattern is correct, would it mess things up too much if I went back and left only 2 rows on mine?

Thank you!

nance wrote
on Oct 12, 2009 6:14 PM

Sorry. I missed/just saw your posting with yarn names. Thank you.

nance wrote
on Oct 12, 2009 5:54 PM

I'm also interested in yarn suggestions. My hat's off to whomever fooled around enough to discover these possibilities.

on Oct 12, 2009 5:50 PM

dot41email-patterns: You can copy and paste everything into a Word doc if you want to. That's what I did to get just the pattern.

AnnalisaC: You're on the right track—you do just carry the colors across the back until you need them.

Verna: Faux isle usually just uses two colors, a main solid color and a variegated/self-striping color. The variegated/self-striping color takes care of all of the color changes so you don't have to use a bunch of colors.


on Oct 12, 2009 5:47 PM

Hi Ahhh!

I made the felted rose using a Clover brand felting mold (Google it!). You could also use a couple of different sized haeart-shaped cookie cutters. The rose is a bunch of heart shapes fitted together to make a rose.


AnneliseC wrote
on Oct 12, 2009 9:56 AM

Like Verna, I have a basic question:  how do you switch colors?  Do you just strand them across the back until needed?  I've done intarsia work, but I've never attempted fair isle, so I'm pretty clueless.  This project looks like a good "starter" project to whet my appetite for more color work! Thanks for the free pattern.

verna wrote
on Oct 12, 2009 9:41 AM

great looking hat, i don't quite get it? what is the difference between the faux isle and stand fair isle, i appologize, i have not done very much color work, do you carry the yarns across as normal? thanks

on Oct 11, 2009 9:08 PM


Can you provide the pattern in a printer-friendly format?


on Oct 11, 2009 7:14 PM

Hey, SueF! It sure is Sippie. We can't wait to see the western WA contingent at the retreat!


on Oct 11, 2009 7:12 PM

I used Noro Silk Garden (color is discontinued) and Zara Plus in brown.

cmtuchman: It's the same sweater in both photos, just different colorways.


SueF@41 wrote
on Oct 11, 2009 12:34 PM

Is that my pal, Sippie Wallace, doing the modelling of your great hat?? And I recognized Lav's faux isle sweater - it was even more glorious in real life!

cmtuchman wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 3:08 PM

I love the technique and would love to try the "kids' sweater".  However, the link to this sweater leads to the "Faux Fair Isle Cardigan".

Chris@31 wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 3:04 PM

For JayeIF

Thank you so much for converting the chart for me, that was a huge help.


Ahhhhhh wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 1:57 PM

Kathleen, I'm a newbie member and love the Knitting Daily website! I wanted to ask  you for instructions on how to make the neat little felted rose in the Sept. 14 issue. I make felted purses and would love to be able to embellish some of them with such little roses.

Before I found this "Add A Comment" spot, I posted a note in the forum asking the same thing... I also had an awful time coming up  with a username that wasn't already taken! Hence, the Ahhhhhh for my name! My real name is Marina.

BreannaS wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 1:38 PM

I would love to know what yarns you have used.  I just love your hat and can't wait to make my own.

Anne wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 12:27 PM

Hi Kathleen. I love the idea of faux Fair Isle. My problem is in finding commercial yarn with long sequences of color. I like the look of having 4 or 5 rows of one color in a hat or mittens...but  I don't know which brands  have that long a sequence of color.  Any suggestions? I know I could dye my own, but I'd love to buy yarns that might meet my needs. Thanks so much.  LOVE this website and watching Knitting Daily on my PBS station.  Anne in Ocala, Florida

winky wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 11:36 AM

please tell me how to read your chart. I am a new knitted and can't read the chart as is.



JuliL@4 wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 11:00 AM

I love the yarn- what did you use?


on Oct 9, 2009 10:26 AM

Thanks for providing the line-by-line directions, JayelF!


JayelF wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 10:17 AM

For Chris @31, written chart directions:

There are 2 charts, Chart A & Chart B.  Both charts have a 4-stitch repeat.  Chart A has an 8-row repeat; Chart B has a 6-row repeat.

The solid yarn is Yarn A; the self-striping or variegated yarn is Yarn B.

Chart A:

Rows 1 & 2: all stitches in Yarn B.

Row 3: One st Yarn B; 3 sts Yarn A

Row 4: 2 sts Yarn B, 1 st Yarn A, 1 st Yarn B

Row 5: All sts Yarn B

Row 6: 2 sts Yarn B, 1 st Yarn A, 1 st Yarn B

Row 7: 1 st Yarn B, 2 sts Yarn A

Row 8: All sts Yarn A

On row 9, switch to chart B.

Chart B:

Row 1: 2 sts Yarn A, 1 st Yarn B, 1 st Yarn A

Row 2: 1 st Yarn A, 3 sts Yarn B

Row 3: All sts Yarn B

Row 4: 1 st Yarn A, 3 sts Yarn B

Row 5: 2 sts Yarn A, 1 st Yarn B, 1 st Yarn A

Row 6: All sts Yarn A

Repeat rows 1-6 of the chart as instructed in pattern.

Hope this helps!  Happy knitting!

JayelF wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 9:48 AM

Thanks for the lovely pattern, Kathleen!  From the picture, it's clear you used a self-striping yarn (I have just the right yarn for this one!).  The photos that follow give us a clue as to how it might knit up with variegated yarns with more frequent repeats. (Hey, I have a candidate for that too!)

I'd give this an A+ on the stashbuster pattern scale.  Can't wait to try it!

Chris@31 wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 8:39 AM

Kathleen, I loved the faux Isle hat and am wanting to knit it.  Is there any way you can post written directions for the charts?  I am blind and unable to read charts.  Unfortunatly that holds me back from a lot of things that I would like to try knitting.  Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks,


Mary Flowton wrote
on Oct 9, 2009 6:50 AM

When I saw your title Faux Isle I thought it was going to be what my aunt used to do when making me jumpers over 50 years ago - not too much wool around, so she undid jumpers and saved oddments, then knitted me jumpers with a black background and lots of coloured stripes - every 2 or 4 rows (depending how much colour she had). BUT to make it look more interesting she slipped a stitch every 4 or 6 stitches to run the black/colour into the row above.

I loved these jumpers and always made sure I told her in plenty of time if I was growing out of one!

Thanks for the regular newsletters. Mary Carter

Lavs wrote
on Oct 6, 2009 7:33 PM

thanks for showing my 'faux fair isle', Kathleen!  This was a great project, easy and fairly quick to knit.  I highly recommend it for those who are new to Fair Isle (or if you just want a great looking kid's cardigan).  Laurie

Sharah wrote
on Oct 6, 2009 10:01 AM

ooo... do you have any links or pattern names? I think i've done this before, but the site I got the pattern from is now defunct :(