Fair Isle Friday
There’s a lot to be said for fair isle, that lovely stranded color work technique that produces shock and awe responses in the uninitiated. Even intermediate knitters who have not tried fair isle can be intimidated by its polished and impressive look. While it looks daunting, it’s not as tricky as it seems.
In traditional fair isle, only two colors are used per row, with additional colors added or alternated in subsequent rows of a fair isle pattern. The other saving grace of many fair isle knit pieces is that they are done completely in the round, as in a yoke of a pullover or a hat. Circular fair isle utilizes only knit rows, making the alternating of colors much more accessible and easy. Fair isle knit back and forth requires knit and purl rows and, believe me, it’s just not as fun.
The truly hardcore fair isle knit is the one that is “steeked” to make a cardigan or armhole openings in a top-down knit sweater. This endeavor is for the knitter with a sewing machine, scissors and no fear! Steeking lets you knit every round of a fair isle motif, but allows for extra stitches within the body of the piece at the front where the cardigan will open. Generally these extra stitches are not patterned and are reinforced with vertical lines of machine sewn seams after the knitting is complete. The machine stitching on either side of the extra stitches locks the knitting on either side and allows you to CUT through the middle of the extra stitches. Once this leap of faith has occurred, raw stitches are picked up on either side to knit cardigan bands.
In the end, the beauty is obvious. Fair Isle and steeking aren’t for everyone, but Karen Brehm makes it look easy. Here is the progression of Karen’s baby sweater from Dale Booklet 142, Design 6 using Canopy Fingering from the Fibre Company. Sleeves were knit first on dpns, then body from the bottom up. Sleeves and body are then joined when it’s time to knit the color work yoke. In this piece, the picked up button and buttonhole bands fold over to the inside to provide a completely finished look. Bravo KB!!!