Fabulous Fair Isle

#01 Nordic Gloves  by Fru Soleng. Knit by my daughter (her 1st Fair Isle project!).

#01 Nordic Gloves by Fru Soleng. Knit by my daughter (her 1st Fair Isle project!).

Fair Isle Knitting really is fabulous. Daunting at first, knitting stranded Fair Isle quickly became something I enjoyed doing, for several reasons:

  • the charts are easy to follow,

  • following the chart made it knit up (relatively) quickly,

  • the results are amazing,

  • it takes just enough extra concentration to do to make it fun

There are rules that define what is a traditional bit of Fair Isle knitting, and there are some knitters that will argue those rules with you. Actually, I might be one of those people.  If you are calling something Fair Isle, but are NOT stranding the colors across the back, but instead are twisting them when changing from one color to the next, then you are knitting Intarsia. The other criteria for something being "Fair Isle" include: using only two colors per row, using only 5 colors or less in the project, and working in the round.

#08 Fair Isle Hat  by Mary Ann Stephens, published in Vogue Knitting, Fall 2011. Knit by me.

#08 Fair Isle Hat by Mary Ann Stephens, published in Vogue Knitting, Fall 2011. Knit by me.

Stranded Fair Isle knitting is commonly thought to have originated on a cold island in the north of Scotland. The double thickness of fabric created by the strands running along the back of the knitting gives an extra warmth needed for the harsh climate there. The bright colors of Fair Isle knitting also included indigo, which would have been, historically, natural indigo. (See? It's everywhere, once you start looking for it!) The actual origin of stranded knitting seems to be possibly Estonia or even Ancient Egypt, but the popularity of the design can definitely be traced to the tiny Fair Isle.

There are two specific spikes in the trend toward Fair Isle knitting: When the future King of England wore a Fair Isle sweater:

and when designers leaned heavily on Fair Isle in the 1960's:

Does this matter now? Well of COURSE it does. Ralph Lauren famously designed a hat like this one for the 2010 US Olympic team:

Team USA Reindeer Hat  by Helena Bristow. Knit by me for my daughter.

Team USA Reindeer Hat by Helena Bristow. Knit by me for my daughter.

And Brooks Brothers is awash with Fair Isle this season, even featuring this on a page of the Christmas 2014 catalog:

It's back and it's better than ever, especially since we can now knit it ourselves, thanks to wonderful yarn choices and patterns galore. Don't like wool (the traditional yarn for traditional Fair Isle)? That's OK, you can use other yarns as well. What? You say you don't really know the first thing about how to knit Fair Isle? No problem. I've been known to teach a class at the drop of a hat!

Mr. Deeds hat.  A pattern I designed to teach fabulous Fair Isle. Great beginner project!

Mr. Deeds hat. A pattern I designed to teach fabulous Fair Isle. Great beginner project!

This post has been dusted off and run as an encore in conjunction with my current fascination with Fair Isle.

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Local Yarn Store Day, 2019

The National Needlearts Association is celebrating the second annual Local Yarn Store Day on April 27, 2019.

KnitOasis (i.e., me) will be out at the lovely Wild and Wooly giving demos of fun knitting techniques, showing off patterns and random yarn skills, and participating in giveaways. I will, most likely, also be drinking tea and munching the occasional cookie, a Wild and Wooly specialty. Seriously, I am becoming so spoiled by having a freshly brewed pot of tea at each of my classes. Debbie is the best yarn shop owner!

Keep an eye on the FB events page for updates!

You won’t want to miss it!

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Brioche in Savannah--Field Trip Fun!

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On Saturday, April 6, I was the lucky guest of the Fiber Guild of the Savannahs. I was able to talk a bit about KnitOasis (aka my biz) with guild members. They asked great questions afterward and there’s nothing that makes a designer feel good about her patterns like having to tell everyone exactly which ones she has brought to show (Reversible Cable Wrap, Dagney Hat, Carousel Hat, Coosaw Cowl, Swirls and Stripes Tote, Aunt Dahlia, Charleston Indigo Scarf, Diamond Ringlet Socks).

Then I taught a brave bunch of knitters how to do some Brioche. They were very determined and patient and I can’t wait to see how their projects turn out. Brioche is one of my top-requested techniques classes, and it’s one of the hardest techniques I teach!

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The guild has a studio at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center, filled with looms, spinning wheels, books and supplies. Every year they work with the Oatland Island folks when the sheep need shearing, giving them the softest wool to spin and weave.

It was truly a pleasure to be invited to share the day with these incredibly gifted artists! Special thanks to my friend Wendy from Spinsjal for setting it up!


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Simple Knitting Tip: Lifelines

I'm not like Jeanette. Jeanette is sweet and funny and talented (OK, so I'm a little like Jeanette). Jeanette, however, loves to knit lace. While I don't hate it, I'm not quite to the "love" stage. I do it, I am even designing a simple lace wrap, the test-knitting of which is very instructive, and even, dare I say it:  fun.  Now, since I'm not like Jeanette, this pattern will not be on the same level of lace (read: pro) as her lace patterns. This is the kind of thing Jeanette designs: Seabrook on Ravelry.  She designs lace for people like her who are not afraid of lace and/or love it. I design lace for rank amateurs and those who struggle with paying sufficient attention to the project to keep from screwing it up. Like my mother used to say, It takes all kinds.

I'm not like Wilma Rudolph either (whose story is simply amazing) but her quote applies to me:

I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.

When you realize that she overcame the effects of a childhood case of polio to go on to on to be the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in track & field in one Olympic games, that quote takes on a whole new light, doesn't it? While my own struggles with complicated knitting techniques are literally nothing like her struggle to achieve her goals, I am inspired to embrace that part of my character that very stubbornly does not quit. I tell my students all the time, especially the beginners, keep at it. You're bigger than those sticks and that yarn. Don't let them get the better of you. Because really, how sad would it be to give up on mastering a knitting technique with Wilma Rudolph as your role model?

I've had good times with lace knitting and times that weren't so good. There was the lace shrug for my daughter's prom that ended up just being stockinette stitch, for example. There was also that enormous lace blanket that I knit, so I know I'm not beaten.

Perseverance then is the name of the game. Another word for perseverance is "Lifeline." (OK, I may have made that up) If you're going to make anything of yourself as a knitter of lace (or at least conquer the fear or master the technique, as the case may be), you're going to HAVE to run a Lifeline. I know it takes valuable knitting time to do it. Trust me, I understand--some days my knitting time is scarce as hen's teeth (as grandmother used to say) (you're picturing a chicken now, aren't you, trying to remember if they have teeth) (disturbing imagery isn't it?).  Take that extra time now to save yourself the heartache of having to start over from the beginning.

If you don't know how to use a Lifeline, do not knit any lace until you go to KnittingHelp.com and watch this video.

When you put in a Lifeline, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Write down the number of the row on which you put your Lifeline.

  2. Use a thread or a yarn that is the same size or smaller than the one with which you are knitting. Try to find something slippery (aka not mohair) because ideally you will thread that yarn through your stitches and never have to use it to save your project. Ideally you will just pull it back out and thread it through again further up on your project. Even if you never use it to prevent chaos, it's got to come back out again sometime.

  3. Make sure you have the correct number of stitches knit on that row (because if you have missed a YO, you will hate yourself).

  4. Don't put the Lifeline through the stitch markers if the stitch markers do not open. Don't ask me how I know this.

  5. Move your Lifeline every few rows. If your Lifeline is on Row 3 and you make a mistake on Row 26, you might need expensive therapy. Totally preventable.

  6. Put a Lifeline on a "rest" row. The project I'm working on now has a row of lace stitches, followed by a row of just knits and purls. This wrong side row is where my Lifeline goes and I run it after having completed this magic row.

  7. Also, lace knitting and lap cats are not always a happy combination.

Persevere. Put in your Lifeline. Conquer lace. You can do this.

Sometimes I use two Lifelines. Don't judge.

—>This post ran previously.

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