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Fair Isle Cowl

This cowl is the first step on my path to improve my fair isle skills which was one of my  goals for 2017. While pursuing this goal, I realized that I had never actually studied the process but had just blindly followed the habits passed on to me by my mother and other knitters I have known.  I have always twisted my yarns at the back of the row at every colour change as I was taught and could never understand why my fair isle looked so much lumpier than others!

I purchased Melissa Leapman’s book “Mastering Color Knitting” from Amazon recently, and found a few good resources at my local library also. Here are some of the hints I picked up:

1. Yarn tension is extremely important! Fairly obvious of course, but the idea that tension was greatly affected by dropping one colour whenever you begin to work with the next colour was new to me.  Keeping a consistent tension requires holding both colours at all times; one in each hand, both in the left hand, or both in the right hand, whichever feels most comfortable. I found that holding both in my right hand works for me.

2. It  is important to be consistent with the position of the strands of the yarns. Whichever colour you wish to appear dominant should be carried below the other yarn and this positioning should remain the same throughout. This also creates much more even, smooth floats on the reverse side.  In the past, I have paid absolutely no attention to the position of the yarns and am quite amazed at the difference it makes!

3. Carry your floats evenly and loosely across the back of your work.  I knew that this was important, but always felt that if I allowed my floats to be loose, my stitches would also look too loose and therefore had a tendency to pull my yarns too tight creating a puckered look.  Try spreading out the stitches where you are carrying your yarns to help create a looser float.

4. Most of the resources I used suggesting not carrying your yarn more than 1″ across the back of your work. I had always believed that it was a hard and fast rule to only allow 3 stitches before catching in the yarn being carried. When a longer float is necessary, don’t twist the yarns, just catch in the yarn being carried, bringing it under the working yarn on a knit row and over the working yarn on a purl row.

I don’t consider my fair isle improvement journey at an end just yet, this project was just the beginning!  My true test will be to try a much more intricate pattern with a finer yarn which I have planned for “M is for Mitten” in my “A” to “Z” Knitting Challenge!

Stay tuned…..


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