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.

Christmas Yarn Haul

Knitting in the New Year

Out with the old, in with the new! Well at least that’s how I feel about going from 2013 to 2014. But before leaving 2013 entirely behind us, I wanted to share with you a few knitting projects I finished up over the holidays.

Baby Sophisticate Knit Sweater

This free pattern on Ravelry looked like the perfect gift for my rapidly-growing nephew. The little love bug (as I like to call him) would be going on nearly 11 months by the time Christmas rolled around, so the idea was to make something big enough for him to grow into.

My friend Caroline from over at De Mailles et de Mots made this sweater for a friend’s baby and she warned me that the pattern tends to run small. To compensate (and, knowing that I have a very tight stitch), I chose a machine-washable (very important!) Berroco Vintage Chunky yarn in a gorgeous sea-green-blue color.

I was pretty pleased with how it turned out:

Baby Sophisticate in Vintage Chunky
The result!

To make sure it was big enough, I compared the smaller and larger sizes in the pattern and using the stitch proportions, I made it one size larger.

Three Little Hats for Three Little Chaps

On the Spanish side of the family, Chico and I have three nephews ages 13, 10 and four. Though Spain hardly requires the same cold-weather gear that North America does, I thought they would each enjoy a little knit or crocheted hat.

Three Little Hats for Three Little Chaps
I say “little” but the two oldest nephews really aren’t that little…

Again, I went with Berroco yarn, this time just the regular Vintage (worsted weight). Berroco Vintage is my current favorite because it’s affordable, pleasant to work with AND machine washable (it’s an acrylic-wool blend).

I can’t find the pattern for the little blue and yellow hat, but the other two are a crocheted reversible pattern by Nancy Smith on Ravelry.

Though sadly I don’t have a photo, I also made my lovely sister-in-law this knitted headband in the same gray used on the two older boys’ hats.

Traditional Knitted Dishcloths from VeryPink Knits

For the Stitch n’ Bitch Christmas gift exchange, I picked up some 100% cotton wool in lots of fun different colors to make these traditional dish cloths.

Knit_Dish_Cloths
Photo courtesy of Ysabelh at Métro-Boulot-Tricot

For the second year in a row, my friend Eva from OuaKi Dou (a fabulously talented knitter and crocheter!) got my gift.

Knitting in 2014

It would seem that my family is enjoying my newfound passion for knitting, because I got two beautiful gifts of yarn from my parents and from my sister-in-law.

Currently, I’ve gone back to crochet and am working on an afghan for my boss’s little girl (pattern from Afghans for All Seasons from Leisure Arts – sadly not available to link to online).

On the list I also have a cabled hat and what will be my first attempt ever at a sweater! I’m looking at two patterns to use with the luxurious yarn from my parents, so I’ll keep you posted!

Christmas Yarn Haul
I still have a lot of this yarn to knit…

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Don’t forget to check out TheBrainInJane on Ravelry to see my queue of projects!