First Fair Isle

After practicing two-handed fair isle on a swatch, I finally started my Bea Ellis Traditional Norwegian Hat.


When I uploaded the first photo to my computer, I laughed out loud because at a glance it actually makes my fair isle look semi-decent. And you can see the snowflakes!! Wooo-hoo!! But I wish y’all could see the hat in person, because my fair isle has a lot to be desired. I’m not great at taking non-fuzzy close-ups, so here is the best I could do:


As you can see, my knitting is bumpy, and the stitches are different sizes. I thought about ripping the entire thing out and starting over after more practice, but I was having too much fun watching the pattern develop. And to be honest, I bought this kit in order to learn fair isle knitting, so I am cutting myself a little slack and letting it be the way it is for now. I may finish the entire thing first and then frog it, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Want to see the floats?


I have been trying to determine whether the floats are too tight. My gut feeling is that they are, but on the other hand I didn’t want them all hanging loose either. I’ve read that I should spread out my stitches on the right needle before twisting the yarns in the back, so I have been trying to remember to take that step.

Two-handed knitting has been fun and challenging! I’ve never knit Continental before, so this has been a slow project for me. At first I kept wrapping the stitches incorrectly with my left hand and thus twisting them. Then I switched to “picking” so that I don’t have to wrap, and it’s working a lot better. Until now I’ve never been inclined to learn Continental, but now I’m thinking that it’s worthwhile to learn it just so I can be better at two-handed fair isle in the future. Perhaps I will knit a felted Sophie bag using the Continental technique, because the felting will minimize my uneven gauge!

I started out using the true Philosopher’s Wool method, meaning that there are no floats and all the yarn in the back is woven in. It didn’t work for me because the contrasting color kept showing through. Then I started reading the posts for the Norwegian knit-along, and realized that floats are fine too. As a side note, I think the Philosopher’s Wool instructional clips (which can be viewed on their website) are really clear and good. I highly recommend checking out their clips if you’re interested in learning this technique.

Fair isle knitting can be addicting! I’m already thinking about trying a headband next!


21 Comments on “First Fair Isle”

  1. jillian says:

    I think it looks great! And we did the same pattern!! Too cool. Blocking will fix a world of fair isle ills, let me tell you.

  2. Elli says:

    I’m so impressed! Fair Isle is one of those things that I’d love to do, but I’ve got the continental knitting hangup. I’m going to have to give in and learn though…I keep seeing such gorgeus Fair Isle on everyone else’s blogs!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Oooh, it looks wonderful. I have the opposite problem – I’ve never knit English, so I’m worried about that. I have the Philosophers Wool dvd and I’m going to try that method on my gloves and see how it works.

  4. Mintyfresh says:

    But you don’t have to hold the yarn any particular way to do fair isle! I knit continental, and I hold both yarns over my left finger, one on the top of the knuckle and one farther back. It’s actually perfect for ensuring that I always cross the yarn in the same way (thus producing a pattern that’s consistently ‘raised’), and it keeps my tension even.

    I learned to stretch my floats every 5 stitches or so, and it definitely makes a big difference.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I think it looks great! As with everything else, you’ll get better with practice. I want to try fair isle this year too. So many goals, so little time…

  6. Gracie says:

    I think it looks great. I haven’t done much fair isle, but it does get easier the more you do it. And, people aren’t going to notice the unevenness when you are wearing it around, so I would wear it with pride!

  7. Agnes says:

    I think the hat looks lovely so far … keep going, it would be a great looking hat!
    Have you tried using the macro function of your camera? It would allow you to take clear pictures of objects very close.

  8. Purly Whites says:

    Apparently, great minds think a like. I just ordered one of these kits to practice 2 handed stranded knitting. Hee. I think it looks great, although I know the camera making things look better syndrome!

  9. KRSP says:

    I think it looks wonderful! I sent your “reveal” package this past week. Let me know when you get it. It’s been so fun being your KRSP!


  10. ruth says:

    hey girl!! it’s looking really good!!! i’m thinking of doing color knitting sometime this year, but i’m up to my ears in WIPs… grrr. but i’ll definately check out these resources when i get there. anyways, hope you are having a GREAT break off from work and just relaxing! =) (p.s. todd’s not back at work already is he?) =P

  11. blossom says:

    i think it looks really good. i am not good at knitting continental, actually, i tried once and i could not do it. though i’m interested in getting better too so i can do tow handed fairisle. i think that’s the best way to knit FI with a respectable speed.

  12. Shir says:

    It looks great!! Show we how to do it the next time when we meet.

  13. Julia says:

    I think your hat is gorgeous for a first Fair isle project! What a cute hat! I love those snowflakes. Someday I shall learn Fair Isle…I think I’ll take a class though, seems like there’s a lot of tricks to learn. Can’t wait to see your hat on, it’s gonna be cute!

  14. it is looking soooo good! yes, i have often thought that my projects look better on the internet thatn in person 🙂 i knit continental and when i tried two handed it was sooooo hard for me to hold the yarn on my right hand…

  15. Angela says:

    Looks great Caitlyn! I’m sure whatever looks wonky in person now will block out and look beautiful to you when you’re all done.

  16. Celia says:

    WoW this is amazing!! It looks beautiful.

    happy knitting

  17. Emily says:

    The hat looks great! Traditional stranded Norwegian knitting has floats. Fair Isle knitting does too. As long as they are less than 4 or 5 stitches long, they are fine and actually make the garment warmer. The tightness of your floats looks pretty good. They should (ideally) be a uniform tightness that allows you to stretch the fabric a bit, but not so loose that they hang down at all. The fabric should be a bit less stretchy than stockinette stitch. If your floats are too tight, you will see the fabric pucker on the right side. If it doesn’t pucker, you are doing fine. And blocking really will help hide a lot.

    knitting with one yarn in each hand does take some practice. But once you get the hang of it you will be knitting really, really fast. It might also be worth trying to hold both colors in the same hand. Some people think it’s easier.

  18. Phoebe says:

    I just got the same kit in the mail today! But didn’t get a chance to cast on…all of my 5s are in use on some project. Glad to know that I have a partner in crime w/my first fair isle too! Have you heard about Clover’s yarn guide? It helps keep the colors straight.

  19. trek says:

    Very pretty Fair Isle hat.

  20. MJ says:

    Oh, I think your floats look lovely. YOu’re doing the right thing. Get another kit. It’s sooo much fun!

  21. manne says:

    For me – as an Norwegian – it is rather fun to read about how you have to learn how to knit continental and practicing fair isle.. I know of no other way to knit than continental and have done so since the age of 5.

    Keep on practicing – practice makes perfect!