close knit: the neighborhood yarn shop

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fair Isle Fun

Sally has been playing around with the Cascade 220 SportWe've discussed this yarn before, and Sally is pretty smitten with it.  Before she left for a well-deserved spring break trip, she grabbed five skeins of different colors and decided it was time to hone her stranded knitting skills.

Stranded knitting is the general term for the technique in which two colors are worked in a row to create a pattern, with one strand carried behind the work while the other is being knitted.  Multiple colors are usually used in a given project, but two colors per row is standard.  While the terms stranded and Fair Isle are generally used interchangeably at this point, Fair Isle knitting is actually a subset of stranded knitting focusing on the traditional patterns of Fair Isle, one of Scotland's remote Shetland Islands.  Technically, you are only doing Fair Isle knitting if your stranded colorwork pattern is one of their traditional motifs.

Brrr.  Image from Fair Isle website.
Colorwork is an even more general term for multi-color knitting, including stranded knitting, mosaic knitting, intarsia, duplicate stitching, and even basic stripes.

We have several pattern dictionaries for stranded knitting patterns, including Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting, Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting, and 200 Fair Isle Motifs, which we are restocking as soon as we can.  Sally pulled out a few basic motifs and used them to create her beautiful hats.  Her plan is to create 5 hats from 5 skeins of 220 Sport, which are $5 each.  Five for five for five!  Granted, the book is an added expense, but if you love stranded knitting, it's a good investment.

To keep the technique manageable, Sally used just a little bit of colorwork on each hat.  If you are feeling more ambitious, I highly recommend We Call them Pirates, a free pattern from Hello Yarn.  

Why, yes, those are purple Decepticons.
I have made this hat in the original skull and crossbones pattern a few times, and I have also used her blank hat template to create several of my own designs.

I love doing colorwork like this, especially on little projects like hats and mittens.  I find it hard to put the knitting down, because I want to knit "just one more row" to see the pattern develop.

We actually unpacked 20 colors of Cascade 220 Sport today, so if you come in this weekend you will really have your pick of the litter.  Come find your favorite five colors, and stay tuned for the pattern for Sally's sweet little hats!

Also, don't forget to send us photos of your mom for our window display.  If you are a mother, please send us a photo of yourself!


  1. I think all hats made for winter. In this used skull and crossbones is best pattern for baby hats and these all colours really too good. I am so impressed by that.

  2. I would really love to have the patterns for Sally's Fair Isle hats shown above, but I can't find the patterns anywhere on your site. Could you please direct me to them?

    1. yes I would love the pattern for the 3 beanies on top

    2. Me, too. And for adults too...all nieces and nephews are young adults.

  3. Can you post the link or the book that Sally's Fair Isle hats patterns can be found?

  4. Would love to know what the basic hat recipe Sally used was. Great idea to try out stranded knitting in small doses. I want to try it now!!!

  5. Does anyone have the pattern for Fair Isle Fun (the three beanies using 5 colours)?

  6. I just saw the hats at the start in this month's issue of knit simple magazine. And I have to say yours look better. Also did you write the book 5 for 5.

  7. I took a class on fair Isle Knitting just a few months ago and love it. My yarn of choice, Cascade 220 Sport! I can’t get enough of it. I just love it! The only problem I have is getting black and navy blue.