fair-isle-knitting

My First Try at Fair Isle Knitting

Fair Isle knitting is a technique that involves knitting with two different-colored strands of yarn.

Called Fair Isle because it originated in Scotland on (you guessed it!) Fair Isle, it is also known as stranded knitting, stranded colorwork, or simply colorwork.

Wikipedia tells me that it first became popular when that irrepressible fashion plate the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII of England, famous for abdicating so he could marry his American divorcée girlfriend) started wearing Fair Isle sweaters on a regular basis. What a fashion rogue.

Anyway, I thought it was HIGH time I gave this famous (and fun!) technique a try. So I picked out an adorable pattern: Anders, by Sorren Kerr (link to pattern page on Ravelry.com).

Learning to hold two strands at once

The first trick to Fair Isle knitting is to learn to hold two strands of yarn at once. I knit English style, which means that I hold my yarn and tension in my right hand, and throw my yarn around my needle to build my stitches.

Continental-style knitting is when you hold your yarn and tension in your left hand, and “pick” your yarn with your needle to build your stitches.

So to knit Fair Isle, it’s useful to know how to do both, and at the same time! Here’s a helpful YouTube video for doing just that:

Once you’ve got the technique down, you’re ready to go!

Knitting up the Anders jumper

I have loved this pattern since a lady at the Montreal Stitch n’ Bitch discovered it. But I had a few problems for getting started.

First, since I was using stash yarn, I only had my main color in Drops Baby Merino, and my contrasting color in cotton Kapok DK by Sublime yarns (now discontinued).

Knitting with two different fibers can be a problem. Cotton is not as elastic as wool, and will eventually stretch out. Whereas wool retains its shape thanks to its elasticity. For this reason, I decided to do the bottom edge ribbing in my main color, to make sure that the bottom wouldn’t stretch out.

My second problem was that I did not have quite enough of my main color. So I decided to make it a short-sleeved, mid-season jumper.

Finally, though I *love* my Addi Clicks Turbo circular needles, my shortest cable was not quite short enough for the 6-12 month size I was knitting. My stitches were stretched over my cable, which changed my tension somewhat.

fair-isle-knitting-anders-jumper
Please pardon the terrible lighting!

Despite these little setbacks, I soldiered on, and I am quite pleased with the result. I apologize for the terrible photo, but I have a tendency to finish things at night.

Not especially visible in the photo is the vickle stitch braid that lines the ribbing edges on the collar, sleeves and hemline. It’s a sweet little detail that I really enjoyed.

The buttons were pilfered from a spare button box my mother inherited from her mother. Due to lack of time, I did not do a full wet-block, but gave it a good go with the steam iron. We’ll see how it holds up in washing…

Final thoughts on Fair Isle knitting

I love it. It’s a little slow, and you have to be careful about carrying your yarn when you have large stretches of one color. But despite that, it’s a lot of fun to see an image emerge as you work.

I will definitely be doing more Fair Isle knitting, including at least one more Anders for one lucky kid!

Petite_Lisette_dress_front

Avery’s Petite Lisette Dress

Since I’m so bored with social media, it’s time I shared a knitting update with you all!

This delightful little pattern caught my eye on Instagram (yes, my feed is populated by my relatives, their babies, and yarn): Petite Lisette, by Lili Comme Tout.

It’s billed as a dress, but the finished product is much more like a tunic than a dress:

Petite_Lisette_dress_front
Petite Lisette dress, the front

Main Body

The dress is worked bottom-up in the round, first on 4mm needles, then on 3.5mm. I found the broken ribbing at the hem a little strange-looking at first, but now it’s grown on me. I did add a couple of centimeters in length, but it still seems too short to be a dress.

Next came the box pleats: The pattern includes some very helpful instructions, and I didn’t find it necessary to make my usual how-to search on YouTube. You might need to, though, if you’re more of a visual learner.

They are a bit finicky, and I found myself not breathing for several seconds at a time while I was working them. The fear of dropping any stitches had me holding my breath and sticking out my tongue in concentration.

Petite_lisette_dress_back
Petite Lisette dress from the back

Bodice & Neckline

To work the bodice, you knit up to a certain point, then put some stitches on hold while you work up either side of the neckline. This is done both at the back and the front.

It’s hard to measure well when all your jersey knit is curling, and I think I might have made it a bit lop-sided. It probably doesn’t help that I was knitting in moving vehicles, airplanes, and other such uncomfortable places that make laying a piece out and measuring it difficult.

The cast-off around the neckline is an i-cord bind off (link to an instructional video). It’s a pretty bind off, but it’s slow, and the pattern calls for making an extra length at either end for tying. I think if I make this dress again, I will skip the extra lengths, do an i-cord bind off and then fashion a little button loop and sew on a button for the closure.

Sleeves

Picking up and knitting for the sleeves is always tricky, and I get this horrible gap between my main work and the picked-up stitches. I have no idea how to avoid this, so if anyone has any tips, I’d appreciate it!

My solution has been to sew them closer once I’ve finished the sleeves. Not ideal, but it works.

You can choose to make the dress with short, capped sleeves, or with longer sleeves. I did a three-quarter length. There is a box pleat at the end of each sleeve, which is a bit tricky, but looks very cute once it’s done.

The i-cord bind off on the sleeves posed another problem: How to graft the end of the bind off to the beginning so that it looks nice. I had some help doing the first sleeve, and that one ended up looking pretty nice.

But for the second sleeve, I was just winging it. Since I didn’t have internet access at the time, I couldn’t fall back to a YouTube video search. I have since found this video on grafting the i-cord bind off, which I hope others will find helpful.

Yarn & Notions

The yarn I used is Sweet Georgia “Tough Love” sock yarn in orchid. It’s a great fingering weight yarn, and it’s nice and soft for a little baby to wear. It’s also machine washable, a definite plus.

I used my Addi Click circular needles for the body, and some knitpick double-pointed needles for the sleeves and box pleats. I’m a huge fan of my Addi Click needles (I have them in metal).

And that is all she wrote! It is currently with little Avery, ready for her to grow into it this winter.

Swatch-knitting-gauge

My First Knitted Sweater

SUCCESS!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have done it. I have knitted my first handmade sweater. (I’m not counting the little sweater I made for my nephew for Christmas–that one was tiny.)

It started with a swatch

I got the pattern for the Alpenglühen cardigan on Ravelry. It was recommended to me by a friend for a first sweater, as she said the pattern was excellent and easy to follow. It really is! If you’re looking for a pattern for your first sweater, try this one.

Swatch-knitting-gauge
10cm x 10cm swatch

Since this was my first try at a garment, I decided to go by the book and make a swatch. It turns out my gauge was perfect.

The yarn is Studio Donegal’s Soft Donegal. It’s 100% merino wool with a tweedy, multi-colored flecked texture. My parents bought it for me in Dublin, Ireland last year and gave it to me as a Christmas present. It’s a gorgeous color, soft, and even the jersey knit gives a nice stretchy result. I love it.

Confounded By Cables

Though I’d done cables before, this was my first big cabled piece, and darn it if I didn’t make a mistake in one of my cables only to realize it 10 rows later. The horror!

What to do?! Rip out 10 rows of work? Ignore it and pretend it’s not there only to have it haunt my dreams? No. A solution had to be found.

Enter social media. The Knitting Lodge community on Google+ is a great resource where lots of experienced knitters hang out. I posted a cry for help there, and also contacted Staci Perry of VeryPink Knits on Google+. She kindly sent me her video for correcting a stitch.

After studying the blog posts provided by the Google+ knitters and Staci’s video, I was ready to pull off the most complicated knitting technique I have done to date.How to fix a cable mistake in knitting

Holding the stitches on either side of the three offending stitches on my needles, I proceeded to drop down to where I had forgotten to cable. Then, using a crochet hook and a knitting needle, I worked my way back up using Staci’s technique.

My Chico will tell you that I held my breath for about 15 minutes while doing this. Afterwards, when I had successfully accomplished my mission, I felt like the KNITTING QUEEN OF THE WORLD! Lots of high-fives ensued.

Jersey Stitch is Boring

The back of the sweater is nicely fitted. However, it requires what seems like MILES of jersey stitch.

It’s hard not to pull out your measuring tape every few rows to check how you’re doing. The best advice I can give is to try to get through this part of the process as quickly as possible.

Back of sweater
The back is wonderfully fitted!

Gaps in the Sleeves

I had some issues with the wrap & turn required for creating the shoulder cap of the sleeve. The wrap used to create the short rows caused a gap along the seam where I picked up from the main body to knit the sleeves.

I was unable to find a solution for the problem. I tried several techniques, including the Japanese short row technique, but none worked any better.

My final solution was, when I was putting the finishing touches on, to just sew through the seam inside out.

Pick Your Buttons Carefully

ButtonsOn a sweater like this, the buttons really bring it all together and give the final finishing touch. I wanted to splurge, so I visited Rix Rax here in Montreal.

The selection of buttons is vast, but expect terrible service with a healthy dose of bad attitude to go with it.

Finally Done

It took me about a month and a half to finish this sweater. And when I finally blocked it out and sewed on the buttons, I could not wait to wear it.

And wear it I did. I wore it to work twice in one week. My colleagues humored me by complimenting me every few minutes. Whenever I wear it outdoors, I can’t help but expect strangers to stop me on the street and say, “What a nice sweater!” I am inevitably disappointed when no one in the grocery store takes notice.

Finished alpine glow sweater

But… I MADE IT MYSELF!!