A note from Kathleen:
|Fair Isle swatch
I think Fair Isle is one of the most satisfying knitting techniques to master. It's so eye-catching, and the color palette possibilities are endless. I have a sweater on the needles now that has a Fair Isle yoke, and I'm almost to the colorwork section. I can't wait.
The Spring 2011 issue of Interweave Knits
has a really interesting article about overcoming Fair Isle fears, and after I read it, I felt I could conquer my sweater with ease.
editor Eunny Jang to tell you more.How much do I love Fair Isle knitting?
Walking into a store
that stocks shelves of glowing Shetland wools makes me feel like a kid in the
proverbial candy store—my candy just happens to be hairy and soft. I love
modern stranded colorwork, too, knitted in unorthodox yarns and with striking,
geometric patterns, as well as new-wave knits in allover motifs or pictorial
patterns—basically, I just love color in knitting. Nothing (with perhaps the
exception of crazy cables) is quite as satisfying to watch grow under your
You have to walk before you can run, though, and stranded colorwork can seem
overwhelming to those tackling it for the first time. Or maybe the pictured
colorway in a pattern you'd like to try just isn't for you, and you'd like to
substitute. Where do you begin?
Enter Mary Jane Mucklestone. She's a prolific designer who's explored many Fair
Isle variations over the years, always bringing her own fresh spin to a
traditional technique. In "Beyond the Basics: Fearless Fair Isle Knitting" in the
Spring 2011 issue of Interweave Knits,
Jane presented a collection of tips and tricks to get you over the initial
hurdles and on to the fun part—knitting!
Here's an excerpt from her article.
Overcoming Technical Fears
There's an approach that addresses every Fair Isle knitting fear. Here are
some common anxieties and ways to overcome them.
Too Many Colors
. In traditional Fair
Isle Knitting, you never have more than two colors in any row, ever. One color
is for the pattern and motif stitches, and the other is for the background
stitches. You have only two yarns to work with at any time.
Simply keep one ball
of yarn on each side of your body, well away from each other. Unless there are
only one to three rounds before you use a yarn again, break it each time you
finish with that color.
As you happily knit
along, stay relaxed and spread out your work along the right-hand needle as you
go. This way, when you strand the unused yarn behind the working stitches, it
will automatically be the correct length. With practice, smoothing out your
just-knitted stitches will become second nature, and you'll avoid the puckering
that occurs when the floats are too short.
Does your work still look bunched? Proper finishing will eliminate the worst of
it. Give your item a good wet blocking. Wash it carefully in a mild soap and
rinse thoroughly. Gently press out the moisture between towels and dry flat,
pinning it into shape.—Mary Jane Mucklestone
Mary Jane has some sage advice on choosing colors, as well. Here I am outlining
some of her tips.
For the full article, check out the Spring 2011 issue of Interweave Knits
. We love exploring and demystifying traditional
techniques—subscribe today to make sure you don't miss a single issue