Skip to content

Have you ever wondered why some Fair Isle patterning looks crisp and snappy, while other times, it’s fuzzy or flat? There are variable causes to consider, most importantly the choice of foreground and background colors with clear contrast. (Tonal Fair Isle in close shades would be a tough trick to pull off.)  But even when looking at two examples of the same stitch pattern, in the same colors of the same yarn, there can be a noticeable difference in crispness.

You want the foreground, or “pattern” color to be stand out, and the background color to be just that: a background.

In this video tutorial for A Year of Techniques, Jen Arnall-Culliford demonstrates the simple way to get your Fair Isle popping. It’s a game-changer.

This month’s project, the Shaila Mittens, is by Ella Gordon, designer of the iconic Crofthoose HatOla Yoke, and other delightful colorwork designs.

Ella is born, bred and based in Shetland, Scotland, so this ain’t no Upper-West-Side-of-Manhattan “Fair Isle Style. ” No quotation marks required: this is the real deal.

How to Get in on These Mittens

Get the pattern. The print edition of A Year of Techniques is available in the MDK Shop. It’s been such a favorite that we’ve had to hustle to keep it in stock.

We’ve got a bumper crop of Felted Tweed colors that are PERFECT for Shaila Mittens. Put your new color combining skills to work on this palette.


  • That was very interesting. I like that she showed the comparison swatches. I actually liked the middle one best, with less popping, and knowing that I would do it the opposite way.

  • Jen’s tutorials are all so clear & concise. I really like how she shows the different methods of holding the yarn & how the stranding works in each of the methods. Thanks, Jen! I’m learning so much with my AYOT subscription.

  • I love all of the videos and the book. Now, I would like to know more about the jacket that she is wearing. It looks like a ruana that is sewn up the sides with armholes. Is it?

    • My jacket is by a local company here in Frome: It’s a rectangle with the sides sewn and neck split. Really easy to wear – I love it!

  • Wow! What an amazing era we live in that we have access to information that can make such a difference in our knitting. I never would have known that holding the yarn in a specific manner would have so much visual impact on a Fair Isle pattern. Thank you so much for this tutorial. Your information was concise and specific and your camera person is spot on in showing your demonstrations.

  • The timing on this is just perfect for me. I am somewhat inadvertently doing the #logcabinalong, in the the form of an Interesting Cotton Textile for a friend’s birthday next week. Next up, thanks to Sonya Philip’s encouragement, a stretch-my-knitting-wings project…simple stranded knitting! I think that I will try Jen’s first technique of two yarns in the right hand. Wish me luck!

  • Well isn’t that interesting and helpful! The comparison shot, especially – thanks for knitting all three!

  • I do see a bit of difference but both ways look fine to me.

  • Ahhh! This makes so much sense. I started working on snowheid by Kate Davies last month and put it aside because the snowflakes weren’t popping and I suspected that it was my background yarn choice. Going to frog it this weekend and reconsider yarn choices.

  • Brilliant video tutorial! Thank you 🙂

  • Do you expect to have the yarn back in stock in the shop?

  • Absolutely love the year of techniques book and all the patterns. I love doing new things so I can learn something new. I hope there is a “year of techniques two”.

    • May I cast yet another vote for AYOT, Part 2? This has been the best and most useful thing I have ever done to improve my knitting, EVER! I can’t begin to tell you how useful this concept is – not sure if you did it on purpose or not, but you designed it so that every single method of learning is addressed, from aural to kinesthetic, and that’s hard to work in a classroom, much less a knitting tutorial! The professor in me is very impressed, but the knitter that takes over and comes out to play every chance I get is having far too much fun to pay attention to the structured stuff!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This tutorial is exactly what I was looking for. I’m so excited to begin my Fair Isle project.

  • I enjoyed watching this tutorial. It was very clear. Also, showing the different styles holding the yarn and which yard would show more was very helpful. Thank you so much.

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping