Fairisle Knitting

I've been in love with fairisle knitting ever since I made the whimsical decision to leave California for college in Maine and discovered something I had never worn before:  Sweaters. My housemates had an abundance of gorgeous sweaters.  Brightly colored shetland fairisle yoke sweaters from Talbots, Icelandic wool Lopi's from L.L. Bean and pretty hand knits in Norwegian patterns.  The knitter in me fell instantly in love and even though I live in Alabama now, I still wear my Lopi on a fairly regular basis in Winter.

image from images4-d.ravelrycache.com

Personally, I'm not an accomplished fairisle knitter, but when I do knit fairisle, I give myself over to it unambiguously and I tend to snappishly hint about takeout when it gets to be dinner time.  I adored knitting the Peerie Floers hat, still one of my favorite projects, and have compiled the yarn for a Sjølingstadkofta sweater, which I plan on starting once I finish Mithril.

I've never used the yarn I dye in a fairisle project, so when I learned that a couple of the knitters who have been doing some test knitting with me were interested in fairisle knitting projects, I decided it was time to give it a go.  I'm too excited about the results to wait for official picture taking, and thought I would share a couple of in-progress photos with you this morning.


First up are these lovely Nikoline socks, knit by Raveler Dover.  They remind me of the patterning on those long ago Norwegian sweaters.  The Old Linen colorway is surprisingly perfect here, although a-non traditional choice for this kind of pattern which you usually see in navy blues or bright reds. And Leuntje is working on a Denim and Brocade hat, knit with Elliebelly Merino Sock in Cavern and Lady Mary.  I was a little bit worried about the contrast with these two colorways, but I'm delighted with the result.

Denim and Brocade

Leuntje has also completed a Winter Blumen hat, using Lagoon and Muslin as the colors.  You can see it first in progress.


And here it is finished.


It is a treat to get to work with such stunningly good knitters!

One note about managing fairisle knitting.  I typically knit both hats and socks on double pointed needles or DPNs, but am seriously thinking about upping my magic loop game and using it for fairisle.  It's not that I don't like magic looping, but I love knitting with DPNs.  There is something about having your knitting hanging off of five different needles and zipping around that makes me feel very accomplished.  But recently, I've been contemplating the folly of traveling with half knit sleeves on all those tiny, slippery,  little needles, and thinking that a I really need to give magic loop more of a try here.  So I'm going to work on that.

Thinking about trying fairisle for the first time?  Remember to keep your floats LOOSE.  Floats are the strands of yarn that run behind your knitting as you switch from color to color. The Philospher's Wool has a lovely video introduction to fairisle that is perfect for getting started.  Here is a video on weaving in your floats as you go (bonus: I use this technique to weave in ends when changing balls of yarn as well.)  It also helps to understand yarn dominance in fairisle knitting, which is discussed here.  Now you're all ready to start!  Although you may want to test the waters with a simple, limited bit of patterning like that is the Boy Meets Girl Hat, which I loved knitting, I suggest you jump into the deep end of the pool and knit a pattern you've fallen in love with.  I hope to hear about your fairisle experiences and favorite patterns.  I think I'm going to have a "Fall of Fairisle" knitting binge this year.



One thought on “Fairisle Knitting

  1. Between dpns and Magic Loop there is the two circulars method. If you don’t want to invest in doubles of your needles, you can use interchangeables with the ‘right’ size on the right and a smaller size on the left hand side. I find it stretches the knitting less and is easier when transporting your work in progress. Speaking as someone who has to drop her knitting at a moment’s notice at work.

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