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Knitting Colorwork: Fair Isle Style!

Sep 4, 2013

    
Bressay Dress by Gudrun Johnson,
from Fair Isle Style
Lately, I'm crazy for Fair Isle knitting. I have a cowl project on the needles, and lots of Fair Isle in my queue.

One of the projects that I can't stop thinking about is the Bressay Dress by Gudrun Johnson, from our new book Fair Isle Style. I love tunics with leggings, and this dress is especially cute, don't you think?

I love the pockets! And the sleeves! And the entire thing! I've never knit a dress, and I think the Bressay would be really great to add to my wardrobe. There will be a lot of stockinette to knit, but it's worked in the round from the top down, so it will be all knitting all the time, which is a little faster than knitting stockinette garments in pieces.

    
Peerie Weerie Booties by Carrie Bostick Hoge, from Fair Isle Style
Lumesadu Gloves by Nancy Bush, from Fair Isle Style
Mareel Shrug by Norah Gaughan, from Fair Isle Style
And since there's colorwork at the bottom of the dress, too, I'll have something to look forward to after I finish the yoke.

The tradition of Fair Isle knitting goes way back, and I like being part of the line of Fair Isle knitters. Here's Mary Jane Mucklestone, the author of Fair Isle Style and a Fair Isle expert, to tell you a little about the history of this beautiful style of knitting and her new book.

Fresh Designs for a Classic Technique

Originating in Fair Isle, a tiny island in the northernmost archipelago (Shetland) of the British Isles, Fair Isle knitting has been produced continuously for two hundred years or more. As popular today as ever, Fair Isle knits are routinely present on the high-fashion runways of Paris and New York. This seemingly complex colorwork knitting is surprisingly simple to create and great fun for the knitter.

True Fair Isle knitting never uses more than tow colors in any row, yet it achieves fantastic color effects from elegantly subtle shadings to wild riots of color. If you're new to the technique, begin with a simple project that uses just a touch of color—a two-color band that encircles a cowl, for example—and work your way up to a more complex color arrangement that includes many colors in the same pattern motif. Whatever your wish, these patterns offer enticing choices for ever skill level.

   
Farrah Raglan by Courtney Kelley,
from Fair Isle Style
Fair Isle Style is a collection of twenty patterns from seventeen talented and inventive knitwear designers, each of whom has used traditional Fair Isle knitting as a point of departure to create something unique, be it a dress, skirt, shrug, sweater, mitten, hat, or even a delightful stuffed toy! Every design offers and individual lesson in inspiration, technique application, and of course, style. As a collection, the patterns will give you new ways to think about Fair Isle knitting and provide you with ideas and inspiration for your own inventions.

After you have taken in the twenty designs, turn to the Design Notebook, where you'll find a discussion of the basics of Fair Isle knitting, including holding and managing two yarns, dealing with floats, and combining colors successfully. The seemingly terrifying technique of steeking is also clearly explained and will put your fears to rest.

—Mary Jane Mucklestone, from Fair Isle Style

If you love knitting colorwork, you'll love this book. As you can see from the photos I've chosen here, there are some really amazing designs to choose from. Get your copy of Fair Isle Style today!

Cheers,

P.S. Are a Fair Isle knitting lover? Leave a comment and tell us about a favorite project you've completed!


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Comments

Jlmckinnis wrote
on Sep 7, 2013 12:29 PM

Why is the "Knitting: Fair Isle Style" e-book 2x the price of the paperback? There is enormously less cost for production involved... Both Kindle and Apple are involved in class action lawsuits for overcharging for e-books...  Both those lawsuits ruled against the sellers, and are issuing refunds. Thought you might like to get ahead of  the curve.

judito wrote
on Sep 7, 2013 9:24 AM

Dear Kathleen,

I have a question, more than a comment. I had the urge to try stranded work this summer, but being lazy, I knitted a baby had in the round to avoid purling and sewing.  I now have a really cute hat and a really nasty jog in my little hat! How do I avoid having this jog in my next project? I hope to knit a Fair Isle sweater in the round with a round yoke.

I do know a way to eliminate the jog when knitting stripes in the round, but it did not do the trick for pattern knitting.

Help, anyone!

Judit

Djbekka wrote
on Sep 5, 2013 8:58 PM

I did a lot of Fair Isle years ago. I suggest that relative beginners start with something small and use 8ply/DK/light worsted rather than a smaller wool.  Seeing what you are doing and getting a finished project is the goal.  I made hot water bottle covers for friends.  They are easy to draft using a book of motifs and if you make a mistake, well not to much to pull out or 'save' using the creative imagination.  It will be used under the bedcovers or on the tummy during a period.   Then I moved on to vests - both from patterns and self drafted.  What happened next?  I discovered Kaffe Fassett and it became a whole lot more complex and fun.  I strongly recommend small relatively tradition first (even a baby item or hat) before jumping into a large piece or Kaffe and his team.

Have fun

RITA BHATIA wrote
on Sep 4, 2013 9:10 PM

Good Evening,

I am interested in just buying the pattern for Bressay Dress by Gudrun Johnson.

Do you teach INTARSIA?  I have to Knit a scarf  with a picture. My ENGINEER drew the picture on Chart paper but since I am a Beginner I have no idea how to do it.

She bought LION BRAND HOMESPUN YARN.  I CAST ON 35 STITCHES ON #10 needles. I knit  4 Rows of Garter Border so the Scarf won't curl.  But, Now I am Lost.

I am just a Beginner and I wish I could pay someone to knit the White portion of the scarf. But, it is probably expensive.

Can you help me?  No way for me to post the picture so you can see it.  Thanks.

FuzzyMeri wrote
on Sep 4, 2013 3:21 PM

Fair isle as a component of stranded color-work is definitely my favorite.  I love the weight of the fabric, the technique, the building of the pattern, and the historical aspect.  I'm currently spending most of my time playing with period V-neck pullover vests.  I've finished one and hope to get another one out soon.  I love how the color of the yarn changes based on what colors surround it.  

mariffin53 wrote
on Sep 4, 2013 1:41 PM

I love your book reviews, but I seldom buy the books because one little piece of information is often missing.  I wear a 'women's' size, and I can never tell if the book patterns include my size or not.  Adding information on the sizes included in the patterns would be so helpful!  If it's just S-M-L, then I'll know not to buy the book!  Thanks!

darius1953 wrote
on Sep 4, 2013 11:21 AM

why is the e-book more expensive than the actual copy?  

on Sep 4, 2013 9:04 AM

Dear Kathleen:  When my son (now 20) was a little fellow, I made a traditional fair Isle sleeveless V neck pullover which became known as his 'Shetland Sleeve'.  He wore it every single day through grade 2 and 3 and part of grade 4.  No need to talk to me about the merits of fair isle.  It is thin but warm, no bulky sleeves that children abhor especially when it is time to put on an over coat, but Mummy knows that the child is warm with all those little thermal pockets formed by the carried yarn.  

To manage the yarn, use a Shetland technique of knitting continental style with the one colour and English with the other, weaving your yarns constantly as you go.  You get a thermal fabric that is resilient to stretching as the carried yarns have the same curves as the used ones.  Those little Shetland sheep seem to produce a very warm wool having endured the climate of the Isles all this time.

Sincerely,

Wendy Leigh-Bell