First Fair Isle
Olympics coverage has piqued my interest in Fair Isle knits – it probably all started with the US Olympic Team bursting onto the Opening Ceremony in their Ralph Lauren sweaters. That motif used reminds me of some good old Norwegian knitting motifs. Of course, I then start thinking about introducing Fair Isle (or stranded color work) to our awesome knitters at Wool & Grace. I think about how to introduce these projects to those in or knitting classes, and anyone ready to take on some new knitting techniques.
If you read my blog, you know that I like the idea of learning new techniques on small projects. Hats are particularly ideal, because you’re using 100-200 yards of wool (generally) and there’s not as much small circumference knitting as in something like a mitten. It just so happens that some great new patterns have been released, inspired by Olympics coverage to boot!
Susan Rainey published a free pattern, the 2018 Winter Games Hat, shortly after the Olympics began. This design is clearly inspired by that Ralph Lauren sweater worn by our awesome Olympians. Rainey has us use a worsted weight yarn for this project, so pick up something like Shepherd’s Wool, HiKoo’s Sueno Worsted or Pure Bliss Falkland for this one.
My favorite Olympics hat is the Latvian Team Hat – I love those clean, straight lines and the dramatic red and white color way that is used for this one. However, I’ve purchased this pattern (a whopping $1) and think it’d be a great stash buster to use up extra Shepherd’s Wool, Shelter and Sweater.
Another wonderful project is the Snowflake Muffler from Churchmouse. This scarf is knitted as a tube – which makes it reversible. The snowflake motif is just used at either end of the scarf, making it so you get a good introductory dose of stranded color work technique, without being utilized for the entire scarf. One important thing to consider with this project is that our tension when knitting color work is often tighter than knitting single-color stockinette stitch. I need to go up a needle size or two to get the proper tension for my color work section. Since it’s a scarf I wouldn’t labor over needle size ahead of time, but when switching between color work and the single-color stockinette, I might require a little trial and error (and perhaps a little ripping out of the single color section) while I settle on the proper needle size to match my tension between the two parts. The Snowflake Muffler calls for a DK weight like Brooklyn Tweed’s Arbor (ahem, my desert island yarn), but also consider knitting it up in a lovely yarn like Juniper Moon’s Dromedary or Shibui’s Maai.
For anyone wanting to experiment with stranded color work on a sweater, I recommend choosing something with a hint of color work around the yoke (and perhaps then some). I love a seamless yoke that utilizes stranded color work throughout the yoke. The simple act of knitting with the two yarns throughout the yoke will add a little strength and structure to the yoke of the sweater, which so often carries a lot of the weight of the sweater. In essence, the color work is almost like a seam.
I’m clearly in a modern mood, as both of my choices for this sort of sweater have strong, geometric lines throughout the color work sections of these sweaters. Katrin Schneider’s Beat Sweater is simple and uses just two colors on the yoke, at the sleeve hems and at the hem of the sweater. Schneider uses Brooklyn Tweed’s Arbor for this project, and once again, great substitutes include Dromedary and Maai. You could even use something like Aymara, Herriot or Kenzie for this project.
My standout sweater pick is the Tensho Pullover by Beatrice Perron Dahlen. I find the lines she draws in this design to be incredibly striking. Depending on how you look at it, the motif is anywhere from geometric to floral. Either way, it’s an elegant pattern. Dahlen uses a worsted weight yarn for this project, so knit it up in the likes of Falkland Aran, Sueno Worsted, Kenzie, Shepherd’s Wool and Shelter, to name a few.
These picks are meant to give you a dose of color work, and to give you the right amount to learn a new technique. Color work is fun, and it’s not difficult – especially as you get the hang of it. Check out these lovely patterns, or if you need further help finding the perfect project, you know to ask any of us at Wool & Grace!