Fearless Fair Isle Knitting

Fearless Fair Isle Knitting

SKU# 071320

30 gorgeous original sweaters, socks, mittens, and more

Kathleen Taylor


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Other Formats
  • Product # 071320
  • Type Paperback
  • ISBN 978-1-60085-327-2
  • Published Date 2011
  • Dimensions 8 1/2 x 10 7/8
  • Pages 176
  • Photos 70 full-color
  • Drawings 32

Why “fearless”? In the past, knitters have considered Fair Isle knitting, or stranded knitting as it’s also known, to be an advanced skill that involves the frightening task of taking scissors to your hard-won work. As intimidating as this may seem, the cutting process, or steeking, is actually not something to worry about. In Fearless Fair Isle Knitting, best-selling knitwear designer Kathleen Taylor walks knitters of all levels through the technique. With Taylor’s simple patterns and large, easy-to-follow charts, the projects yield delightfully vibrant results. The 30 stunning designs, which represent Taylor’s updates on classic Fair Isle motifs, include sweaters, socks, dresses, vests, mittens, hats, and bags. With this book, Fair Isle knitting has become more accessible than ever — and serious knitters will agree… that’s a beautiful thing.

About the Author
With over 30 years of knitwear design experience, Kathleen Taylor is the author of the best-selling The Big Book of Socks, I Heart Felt, and Knit One, Felt Too and has published over 500 craft and needlework articles in such magazines as Spin-Off, Crafts ‘N Things, and Knitting World. She has designed many knitwear projects exclusively for the Knit Picks yarn company and has appeared on HGTV’s Smart Solutions.

Table of Contents

Taking the Fear Out of Fair Isle

Chapter 1
Fair Isle Basics

Chapter 2
Geometric Dazzle Children’s Cardigan
Geometric Dazzle Bag 
Geometric Dazzle Floppy Hat
Geometric Dazzle Reversible Scarf 
Geometric Dazzle Fingerless Mittens

Chapter 3
Stripes, Checks, and Curlicues Hoodie Vest 
Stripes, Checks, and Curlicues Felted Bag 
Stripes, Checks, and Curlicues Women’s Socks 

Chapter 4
Holiday Fun
Reindeer Romp Christmas Stocking 
Pretty Presents Drawstring Gift Bag 
Shining Stars Drawstring Gift Bag

Chapter 5
Dakota Dreams Women’s Cardigan 
Dakota Dreams Women’s Mittens 
Dakota Dreams Women’s Socks 
Dakota Dreams Men’s V-neck Vest
Dakota Dreams Men’s Hat 

Chapter 6
Nordic Snowflake Pullover 
Nordic Snowflake Gloves 
Nordic Snowflake Hat 
Nordic Snowflake Dress 

Chapter 7
Genevieve’s Graduation Cardigan
Genevieve’s Graduation Gloves

Chapter 8
Prairie Earth and Sky Women’s Cardigan
Prairie Earth and Sky Women’s Vest
Prairie Earth and Sky Socks

Chapter 9
In the Flower Garden Children’s Dress 
In the Flower Garden Tam
In the Flower Garden Children’s Cardigan
In the Flower Garden Children’s Pants

Chapter 10
The Dragon Ride
Dragon Ride Shawl 
Standard yarn weights



Take a deep breath and repeat after me: “Fair Isle is fabulous. Fair Isle is fun. Fair Isle is easy. I am not afraid.”

Yeah, you heard me: Knitting Fair Isle is easy. It’s fun. And it can be fearless, whether you’re using just two yarns or going wild with forty.

If you’re new to stranded knitting, we’ll walk you through the basics: yarn selection, swatching, tension, and the bugaboo of all beginning Fair Islers: steeking. You’ll learn traditional methods for knitting Fair Isle designs, and you’ll learn some not-so-traditional techniques, which will take the mystery, and the fear, out of colorwork.

Newbies can get their Fair Isle feet wet with easy patterns that need no steeking, like mittens and hats. Advanced stranded knitters will love our beautiful patterns and charts. And adventurous knitters will find ways to simplify their Fair Isle knitting even more.

I promise, you will learn to cut your knitting fearlessly.

What Is Fair Isle, Anyway?
Technically, Fair Isle knitting is multicolored stranded work, done in traditional patterns that originated in the Fair Isle, near the Orkneys and Shetland Islands. Most knitters use the term “Fair Isle” to describe any stranded, multicolor knitting.

Whatever you call it, Fair Isle knitting is not as complex as it looks. In any given row or round, you are only working with two colors, and you are only actually knitting with one color at a time, switching colors on individual stitches according to a predetermined pattern, which is usually drawn on a grid or chart.

Choose your yarns carefully. In any Fair Isle or stranded project, it is very important for the two yarn colors that you are using (in any given row) to have a high contrast. If you can’t easily see the difference between the colors before you knit them, you won’t see the difference afterward.

Of course, the recommended yarns will work just fine for the designs in this book. But if you plan to substitute yarns, a good way to know if your yarns have enough contrast for stranding is to photograph or scan your yarns together, and then turn the picture into a black-and-white image (see the photo below). If you can still tell which yarn is which, then your color contrast is sufficient.

Choose firm, evenly spun and/or plied yarns, with little or no halo or fuzziness or bumps, so that the pattern in your finished fabric will be crisp and visible. Some tweediness is okay for stranding. If you select self-striping or variegated yarns (either paired together, or with a solid-color yarn) make sure that all of the colors in your striping or variegated yarn contrast highly with the color(s) of the other yarn.

If you are substituting yarns for a pattern that uses steeks, or cutting, select yarns with some grab: wool or wool blends. Those yarns, even the superwash versions, will hold on to each other and help prevent raveling when the steeks are cut. Some all-wool yarns, such as the Shetland varieties, are known for adhering so well that traditionalists do not reinforce the cut edges at all.

Yarns that are very slippery (such as pure cotton, pure silk, and many man-made fibers) can be used for steeked projects, but the chance of raveling after cutting is much higher. I do not ever recommend cutting slippery yarns without reinforcing the steek edge first.

Swatches? Really?
Okay, there’s fearless. And then there’s foolish.

It is totally foolish to knit a large Fair Isle project without first knitting a swatch, not only to test your gauge against the listed pattern gauge (recommended needle sizes are just that—recommendations—and you may need to go up or down one or more needle sizes to get the same gauge in your knitting), but to make sure that the colors look good together, and that they have enough contrast to make stranding worth the effort.

And even more important, you want to be absolutely certain that your yarn colors won’t bleed. Trust me, you do not want to spend months knitting a red and white Fair Isle sweater only to have it become pink and pinker after washing.

In addition, the gauges listed in this book are measured and calculated after the fabric has been wet-blocked. Washing and blocking changes not only the look and texture of the yarn, but it can also change the final gauge and measurements.

Knit a swatch. Wash it. Block it. And dry it. You’ll be glad you did.

In the pages that follow, I’ll show you the essentials of knitting Fair Isle patterns. You’ll read all about changing yarn colors, knitting from a chart, holding the yarn strands for the floats, wet blocking, laundering, steeking, and shaping. It sounds like a lot, but it’s simpler than you can imagine.

Happy knitting,

Kathleen Taylor

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