How to Knit Fair Isle
Techniques | 2 min read time
Fair Isle is a color-changing technique which involves alternating between two or more colors of yarn in each row to create a pattern on the right side of the fabric.
The strand of yarn at the back is called a ‘float’. It's important that you keep these loose or your work won't lay flat. Your pattern may include a chart that will allow you to see more clearly which stitch to work in which color for each row.
In this tutorial we'll work in stocking stitch, knitting all odd-numbered rows, and purling the even rows.
Start reading your Fair Isle chart from the bottom right hand corner. The chart will indicate the stitches and rows. Carefully follow the count on the chart when working your Fair Isle pattern to ensure the finished work matches the chart.
Follow your pattern until the first row with the Fair Isle instructions start. Knit until you reach the first color change.
Insert your right needle into the next stitch, then wrap your contrast color yarn around the tip of your needle, and bring the loop through to the front of your work. You have now completed your first stitch in the contrast color. (Leave a tail end on the back to weave in later on.)
Work as many stitches in the contrast color as your pattern requires.
When reaching the next color change in your pattern, you will wrap your original color yarn around the tip of the needle and bring it through to the front of your work. This will create the float on the back.
Ensure the float is not pulled tight or your work will pucker later on and not allow for any stretch.
Continue knitting according to your chart, switching colors when needed, until you reach the end of your row.
When picking up the new color on a knit stitch, lay the new color over the yarn tail of the last stitch, then continue with the new color to create the new stitch.
When you have to carry the yarn over 8 or more stitches at the back, it is best to twist your yarns together to secure the float on the wrong side. When working on the wrong side of your project, you'll have the floats facing you.
Continue switching colors according to your chart, and keep the floats facing you on the wrong side of your work.
When picking up the new color on a purl stitch, you will again lay it over the working yarn of the last stitch, then continue with the new color to create the next purl stitch.
When changing colors at the beginning of a row, you will create a twist to ensure the new yarn is on top, before you start your first stitch in the new color.
You can now work Fair Isle patterns!
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