How To Knit Fair Isle

Fair Isle Knitting

Traditional Fair Isle knitting, the most intricate of colour techniques, is worked with two colours per row. A number of stitches are knit with one colour and the other colour is carried, or stranded, across the back of the piece. For this reason, if you look on the inside of a traditional Fair Isle piece, you’ll see that strands of yarn run horizontally across the fabric on the wrong side.

Stranding from the Right Side

Fair Isle patterns are worked in stockinette stitch, with the knit side being the right side. You keep the stranded yarn on the purl or wrong side. To work a Fair Isle pattern on the right or knit side of your piece, follow these steps:
  1. Knit with the first colour until you’re ready to work with the second colour.
  2. Let go of the first colour, and pick up the second colour. Notice in the following photo that the new colour you’re about to knit with is on top of the old colour.
  3. Now knit the next stitch with the second colour. Be careful not to pull up the stranded yarn so tightly that the front of the piece puckers. Let the stranded yarn rest easily in the back of the piece.
  4. When you’re finished knitting with the second colour and are ready to knit again with the first, gently pull the first colour across and knit with it. Again, be careful not to pull up the stranded yarn so tightly that the front of the piece puckers.

Stranding from the Wrong Side

Traditional Fair Isle is worked on circulars in stockinette, so you never need to purl. However, a non traditional pattern might ask you to use this technique on straight needles. You purl in Fair Isle almost the same way you knit; the only difference is when you’re purling you’re facing the stranded yarn. Here’s what you do:

  1. Purl with the first colour until you’re ready to work with the second colour.
  2. Let go of the first colour, and pick up the second colour. Notice in the following photo that the new colour you’re about to purl with is on top of the old colour.
  3. Now purl the next stitch with the second colour. Be careful not to pull up the stranded yarn so tightly that the front of the piece puckers. Let the stranded yarn rest easily in the back of the piece.
  4. When you’re finished purling with the second colour and are ready to purl again with the first, gently pull the first colour across and purl with it. Again, be careful not to pull up the stranded yarn so tightly that the front of the piece puckers.

Twisting Stitches

You shouldn’t strand a colour for more than 5 stitches. If the pattern calls for more than 5 stitches of a single colour, you will need to twist or anchor it on the wrong side to prevent long floats of yarn (which can get caught in fingers). Some people twist the colours every other stitch, regardless of whether they’re changing colours.

Twisting is similar to stranding; the only difference is that the yarn is anchored every 2, 3, or 4 stitches by twisting it around the working yarn.

To twist, literally twist the colour you’re not using around the colour you are using. In essence, you’re catching the yarn in the back of the piece. Alternate between twisting clockwise and counterclockwise to prevent the yarn from getting tangled. I tend to twist on every 2 or 3 stitches.





 Have fun, and happy knitting!
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One thought on “How To Knit Fair Isle

  1. Pingback: Monday’s Points of Pinterest: Fair Isle fantastic « Black Cat Originals

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