Thursday, February 13, 2014

Adventures with Fair Isle - Follow-up

I was thinking about the post I wrote a few days ago with information about all of the sources upon which I drew to help me learn Fair Isle, and I realized that I left out a few. Recently, I found a great blog that inspired me to try Fair Isle again since the writer had knitted some glorious sweaters and had also taken the time to share her knowledge with others. The blog is called By Gum, By Golly, and the writer, Tasha, is an incredibly skilled knitter and seamstress. She loves vintage clothing, so her Fair Isle work is inspired by vintage Fair Isle patterns. I found her tutorial on stranded knitting incredibly helpful since she focuses on several aspects about which most beginners wonder:

  • How to hold the yarn using various techniques, depending on which suits the knitter best (I especially like that she admitted to dropping yarns, being careful not to let them twist, when she first began stranding. She asserts that this is actually a valid technique and that if one is comfortable using it, they should continue to do so. I have actually heard of prolific Fair Isle knitters using this technique, so it was nice to see it validated. As an FYI, I actually use the two-handed technique just because this is how I began.)
  • How to strand the yarn to avoid "puckers" and to produce "even stranding" (more on this below)
  • How to choose colors for vintage patterns
Tasha's writing on this subject has been especially helpful to me in calming me down a little bit about my worries that my stranding might be too tight (yes, I tend to be a perfectionist, but I always call myself the perfectionist who can never get anything perfect :) ). I can clearly see that my stranding on the wrong side looks very even and is not tight in any way, yet the front side still looks a bit uneven. Here is a photo of the wrong side to show the stranding:

It looks pretty even to me, and I even see a few spots where the floats actually look a little bit loose. That doesn't concern me, though, because Elizabeth Zimmerman always says in her videos "better too loose than too tight" because you can "snug up" loose floats. Please feel free to share your opinion if you see something here that indicates it might be too tight. Now here is the front.

I am fairly happy with it, but I keep having sneaking concerns that it might be a bit puckery. Here is where Tasha's By Bum, By Golly blog really helps quiet my inner-critic; she shared a post of the before- blocking and after-blocking photos, and the difference in evenness is distinct. Here is the link to the post: before and after blocking. This blog is the only place I have seen photographic evidence of the wonders of blocking on Fair Isle, so I am so grateful for Tasha for sharing. I am paying it forward by making you all aware of it, so hopefully I can help calm your own inner-critic.

Another source of constant help and inspiration to me has been WendyKnits. Wendy's writing on knitting has been so important to me for over 10 years, ever since I found her blog back in the very early days of blog writing. As you can see, she is very skilled at Fair Isle, and if you look at her archives, you will see that she has knitted many of the Alice Starmore Fair Isle designs. Her work is amazing! If you read the posts in the archives for some of her Alice Starmore designs (Mara comes to mind immediately), you will see that she talks about Fair Isle technique in many of them. 

Lastly, I just noticed that Spring edition of Interweave Knits has an article on Fair Isle knitting, and it seems to provide a lot of great information on it. I have yet to read it, but I am looking forward to a quiet evening without distraction to curl up and see what it has to offer.

As you can see from the scant progress made on the Ivy League Vest in the pictures above, I haven't had a lot of time lately to work on Fair Isle knitting since work has been busy, and family life has had me on the run. As a result, most nights I have needed something cozy yet simple to help me wind down from the day, which has allowed me to make significant progress on this glorious crocheted afghan by Lucy of Attic24, the Granny Stripe Blanket.

I am so grateful that I found Attic24 earlier this year since it has rekindled my love of crochet with the amazingly bright, adorable projects that Lucy shares with her followers. Being able to work on something colorful and warm in the evenings of this bitterly cold winter has been a blessing. Fair Isle also brings color to my life, but it isn't something I can do very easily in the evenings when I am tired since I am still too new to it for it to be mindless. Crochet, especially this type of repetitive, double crochet stitch, row-by-row crochet, really fills my need for color and mindlessness in the evenings. 

If any of you knitters have never tried crochet, I highly encourage you to do so. It is a lot of fun being "bi-crafty" (an expression I heard on one of the podcasts I listen to, but unfortunately I can't remember which one in order to give proper credit). I am loving crochet again so much that I have ordered a large quantity of Stylecraft Special DK (at Lucy's recommendation) on sale from Deramores so that I can begin another one of her afghan patterns as soon as I finish this one. I am considering either the Ripple Blanket or the Granny Patchwork Blanket. Crocheters out there, which one do you recommend more? They are both wonderful, so just let me know in the comments which one you like best if you have done them both or even if you are just looking at the pictures!

Happy knitting and crocheting, everyone!


  1. Hi there I found you on Rav and thought I'd take a look. Love your blog, your great at colour work, beautiful projects :)

  2. Homemade Helen, you have made my day with your comment! Colorwork is not usually something I view as my forte since I have generally been a one-color knitter and crocheter who has focused primarily on stitches instead of color. However, this year I decided to challenge myself, and I am really enjoying working with color. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!

  3. 200 Fair Isle Motifs, by Mary Jane Mucklestone, is a book I would not want to be without. I probably use it more than any of the Fair Isle books I own.

  4. Linda,

    Thanks for the great recommendation! I had never heard of this book before, but it appears to be right up my alley. Just what I need -- another book on my long list of "to-buy." Some people have trouble with yarn stashes, but my weakness is fiber-related books. Books often go out of print, so I feel an incredible urge to buy now when I see one I want; whereas, I figure there will always be great yarn around to buy.