When I first started working on my Shetland Sampler Cardigan, I referred to it as "Fair Isle." I did this mostly because the chart I'm using is for the "Dyepot Fairisle Sweater" from Anne Field's The Ashford Book of Spinning.
Since then, I've been reading about Fair Isle, and discovered that not all 2-color stranded knitting is actually Fair Isle. I'll tell you what I've learned so far.
Fair Isle Knitting
- Knitted in the round (traditionally with long double pointed needles). This has a number of benefits:
- No seams to sew later
- No purling (except for the bands)
- Pattern is always on the right side of the work (no having to read charts backwards!)
- Tension is more consistent
- The body of the sweater is knitted first and then underarm gussets added.
- Shoulder seams are grafted and then
- Sleeves are picked up around the shoulder opening and knitting down to the cuff.
- Steeks - Extra stitches are added at the front, shoulder, and neck openings. These are later cut open to knit sleeves and border bands.
- Only two colors are used per round: a pattern color and a background color.
- The unused yarn is stranded across the back of the work.
- Strands are usually no longer than three stitches
- Traditionally, the contrast between pattern and background colors should be consistent throughout the piece. Actual color schemes vary.
- Designs consist of horizontal bands of symmetrical patterning:
- x's and o's.
- Peeries patterns of one to seven rows often separate the larger bands of pattern
- Border patterns have nine to fifteen rows. These are used at borders or combined with peeries.
- Stars - These have the same number of stitches and rows, often 21, 25, or 31. They can be single motifs, but often are repeated in a knitted band.
- All over patterns
- Seeding patterns which are used to fill in spaces between large patterns
- Peaks and waves patterns (shaded from light to dark.)
- Pattern bands usually contain an odd number of rows in a band pattern so that there is a center row. This center row often carries an accent color.
- Corrugated ribbing. This is a knit 2, purl 2 ribbing which uses different colors for the knit and purl stitches.
I've knit a few more inches on the Siamese sleeves, but am now very much distracted by the adjacent black and brown rows near the top.
They are just too dark together and keep pulling at the eye.
DH says it looks okay to him and to just keep going. I tried that for another inch or so, but now I just can't stand it.
Frog city, here we come.
Fair Isle Bibliography:
- Alice Starmore, "Fair Isle Knitting" from Knitting Around the World from Threads, Taunton Press, Newtown, CT, 1993
- The Celtic Collection, Alice Starmore, Trafalgar Square, Publishing, North Pomfret, Vermont, 1992
- The Harmony Guide to Aran and Fair Isle Knitting: Patterns, Techniques, and Stitches, Debra Mountford, Editor, Collins & Brown Limited, London, 2000
- Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, Shelia McGregor, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 1981
What I Learned From My Swatch - Calculating yardage for individual FI color patterns