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  • Fiddlehead mittens are also a great project and in the end you have the warmest pair of mittens ever!

  • Dear sweet, glass-is-full, Fair Isle is doable Ann: I’ve watched you talk about pumpkin seeds and playfully manipulate the colors in your WIP, the soon-to-be cowl. You are so dang convincing I just might believe in myself.

    • LOL Vesia! You’re totally intrepid–I see Fair Isle in your near future . . . Must Make Stuff again soon.

  • Thanks for the encouragement!

  • You must be a mind-reader. We were at SAFF yesterday, admiring some Fair Isle samples and having the “Could we do this?” conversation. We decided that it might be possible, but there was still hesitation in our voices. Fear of the unknown!

    Now, here is the encouragement we need! What perfect timing.

    • Lucky you, getting to SAFF. Good luck with diving in…

  • This is my newest project, in tribute to the wonderful town I stayed in for this year’s Rhinebeck trip: my first Fair Isle


    Thanks for the pep talk!

    • The color-shifting yarn creates such a great effect–more color with no extra effort. Supercute pattern, another great one to start out with.

  • In my fearless youth, I knit with two colours much more. And I’d never heard of this “hold the other colour in your other hand” nonsense. Pick up one colour, knit, put it down, pick up the other colour, knit with that. Twist the yarns together, because that’s what my old Patons books told me to do — before I realised that was how one tangles yarn. Now I am better at stranding and don’t worry about that twisting business, but I still just use my right hand to throw the yarn. I bet your way is faster, but my way would work for 25 rows…

    • Love it! I think your way can actually be faster–there are definitely one-handed stranders, though I haven’t seen it in action myself.

    • If you don’t want to switch colors with the same hand thought the row, you can gain a little speed by knitting with one color and just slipping the stitches that will get the other color. Then do that round a second time, slipping the stitches you just knit and knitting the slipped stitches into the color that THEY get. Presto, no switching off during the round, but just one color at a time. =)

      • That is a mind-boggling idea! I like to have multiple options and will add that to my list. Thanks 🙂

  • Start with a hat because

    (a) stranded hats are wonderfully warm
    (2) you get a chance to have fun with colors and easy patterns while you are learning but you won’t get bored
    (c) just starting out stranding you will find it 10X easier to use a circular needle and 16 inch are easy to handle. If you want to avoid dooming your budding ambitions DO NOT TRY TO LEARN FAIR ISLE WITH DPNs OR MAGIC LOOP.

    I think the easiest patterns to start with are the ones with small repeats (e.g. 4 to 8). There are many good sources of these around – one is Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified (Bourgeois) – just take the motif from a sweater, convert your gauge to 19-20 inches and knit a tube till it’s long enough for a hat, then close it up.

    • Brilliant advice!

      • Actually, my first colorwork was mittens on DPNs. I was already a whiz with DPNs (socks!), so the small circumference was really comforting. I just had to get around a relatively few number of stitches per round. If I remember correctly, I made three mittens – the second one looked so much better than the first that I ripped the first one out and reknit it!

  • Your timing couldn’t be more dooming. I’ve fallen for Wendy Johnson’s Crazed Scandanavian Cowl, but convinced myself it would be insane to even consider such an undertaking as a first project of this type. Of course, it’s only two colors…

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  • Just Do It is my advice too :-). My first Fair Isle was a hat that I just jumped into – stranded one-handed with my left hand, and my LYS said it looked great! Still scared to knit stranded in the round though 😉


    • Oops, I meant scared to knit it flat LOL

  • I’m still not ready to knit Fair Isle with capital letters (skinny yarn, multiple colors), but I love stranded colorwork with worsted weight gradients or variegated yarns. Or semi-solids! I made a tutorial on carrying two colors with my right hand; I learned from Anna Zilboorg at a Stitches class way back in the 1990’s! http://pdxknitterati.com/2009/09/21/knitting-with-two-colors-right-hand/

    • Hey everybody in the universe: watch Michele’s video tutorial. So cool! Am going to try this.

  • First of all, I’m SO happy you’re both back – I checked every day and missed you even more as time went on! Thanks for coming back!
    I took my first series of knitting classes ten years ago, and my first ever project was an Icelandic sweater (had to learn the most I could in 8 lessons!). Stranded knitting is really very easy…if I could do it as a beginner knitting, trust me, anyone can learn! I found a wonderful tutorial on Peace Fleece (I’m sure there are a zillion on YouTube by now!) showing how to use two hands to hold two different colors.
    No reason to hold back…just try it! I’ve ripped out more knitting than I care to admit over the years, but not fair isle. Have fun and enjoy learning something new!

  • Good God, I can knit fair isle but can’t write a sentence. Obviously, I was a beginning knitter – not a beginner knitting… there’s one of my many “blondie mistakes” for the day!

  • Sure a happy to see someone else here learned to carry 2 colors in the same hand– since I have knit Fair Isle that way for years …and until now I thought that was how it was always done! — just taught myself years ago…

  • My mom taught me stranded knitting using both colors in the right hand, dropping to switch colors. It’s slow has heck, but hey, it works! Now I (usually) use one in each hand.

    If the colors scare you in the multi-color true Fair Isle, try a Noro yarn or similar stranded with a contrasting black or white. Someone here in town cranks out hats made that way and sells them. I love how they look.

    • I learned to hold both colors in my right hand, but I don’t drop them—I hold the pattern color under my index finger and the background color over it, so it’s laying on the pad of my finger. (The pattern color is touching my fingernail.) When I need the pattern color, I straighten my index finger out, and when I need the background color, I hook my finger toward me, in the same motion you would use when you say, “Hey, come over here.” I love to use self-striping yarns in fair isle too—you get so much more bang for your buck. I think holding both colors in one hand is SO much easier than learning a whole new style of knitting to do colorwork. Plus, if you want to use three colors in a row, you can use that third color continental style with your left hand. I live in Iowa, and colorwork mittens are the only good part of winter.

  • Thanks for the info, Ann. Now I’m sure I won’t be “stranded” when embarking on my first Fair Isle!


  • The pattern that has almost (almost!) lured me down the garden path is “Winter Twilight Mitts” by Laura Rintala. The last time the urge hit I knit this slip stitch hat, instead. (With roughly one million different colored yarns, and yes, black.) I suppose if I can do that, I can do stranded knitting. http://www.ravelry.com/projects/laumayunlimited/mermaid-slouchy-tam

  • Very happy to have you back. I ‘ve knitted Fair Isle hats and socks recently and years ago knitted a Kaffe Fasset design jumper (sweater to you). I hold two yarns in my right hand, main colour on my index finger and second colour on the next finger – it mostly works well. I love that bird hat.

  • The bird hat is pure awesomeness!

  • Good to see you back in gear!

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  • Thanks for the push. I really want to knit that bird hat. Saw it on Ravelry and just zoomed right past. Now here it is again with reassurance that I can do it. I’ll try already. I will.

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  • You got me at birds on a hat…I’ll let you know how it goes!

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  • It’s so lovely to have you back blogging. I’ve missed you!

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    • Love the blog–so happy y’all are back!–and the fair isle encouragement! Thanks!

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