Do you adore the look of Fair Isle knitting but aren’t quite brave enough to give it a try?
Perhaps you have started a Fair Isle project but quickly given up because your work didn’t look quite right or you found it too fiddly?
You are definitely not alone. Many knitters are intimidated by Fair Isle, thinking it an extremely complicated technique to work with, and something that only very advanced knitters can accomplish.
This is, however, not the case. Fair Isle knitting, also known as stranded colour work, is actually pretty easy once you get into the rhythm of it, and the beautiful results are well worth the effort.
Read on to discover our top tips that will help build your confidence and encourage you to pick up your needles and learn how to master Fair Isle knitting.
Tip 1: Start small
As you learn and practice, choose Fair Isle knitting patterns for smaller items, such as headbands or baby hats. Boot cuffs or coffee cosies are also ideal first projects. All of these would be great items to practice on as they don’t involve any shaping – leaving you to concentrate on the colour work.
Another idea for honing your stranded colour work ability is to add just a little of it to a larger project. This striped scarf, for example, is really lifted with the addition of a few pretty Fair Isle hearts.
Tip 2: Choose a design with a two colour pattern
Using just two contrasting colours in Fair Isle work looks lovely, and utilising more than two can be fiddly when you want to learn and practice. You can build up to using more colours in time.
Tip 3: Do not knit tightly
This is extremely important. If you are a tight knitter and want to master Fair Isle knitting, you need to loosen up! Knitting tightly, especially when changing colours, is one of the main reasons that project attempts fail. Many a knitter has given up on Fair Isle because their work puckered up, not realising that all that was needed amending was the tension.
Tip 4: Study your chart
Before picking up your needles, take a good look at the chart that you will be working with. You need to know how often you will be changing colours, and get a feel for the pattern. Doing this will really minimise making mistakes.
In general, Fair Isle charts start from the bottom up. If you are working in the round, you will always follow the chart from left to right. This not, however, the case when knitting on straight needles. When knitting flat, knit rows will be worked from left to right, and purl rows from right to left.
Tip 5: If you can, work at a desk or table
This will REALLY help you as you learn to perfect your Fair Isle knitting. Place the main colour to the left, and the contrast shade to the right. Keep it this way as you work your piece, and don’t get all tangled up!
Tip 6: Untwist your yarn at the end of every row
In Fair Isle knitting, you carry your strands of yarns along the row as you work, and with every colour change you place the old colour behind the new one. This is to avoid holes. As you do this, the yarns will twist. If you are working at a table (Tip 5) you can quite easily untwist and start afresh at the beginning of each row.
On larger projects you may find it beneficial to tidy up your strands before the end of the row – what is important is that you keep on top of it and don’t end up in a hot, twisted mess.
Tip 7: Watch plenty of videos.
This is probably the most helpful tip of all. YouTube, for example, is full of tutorials about Fair Isle knitting. Watching how other people work is by far the best way to learn new skills.
We have shared some of our favourite fair isle knitting videos in the past in fact; you can watch this video to learn how to read a fair isle chart, or how to knit fair isle with two colours. These knit-a-long videos are also a must watch: how to knit a fair isle capelet and knitting a turtleneck sweater.
Thanks so much for reading this article about Fair Isle knitting. Hopefully it has given you helpful tips and some motivation to start working on some lovely, colourful projects. Happy knitting!