Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Intricate Fair Isle For Cheats

Over the years I have had a go at most styles of knitting. There's the traditional plain and purl alternate rows, Aran with its complex cables and and plaits, lace knitting with its lightness and fragility achieved by the judicious insertion of eyelets throughout the work, and Fair Isle where a pattern is achieved by using wools of various colours all in the same row.

Earlier this year I knitted myself a jumper that had the appearance of being a Fair Isle pattern but wasn't; the effect was achieved by clever dying of the wool.It's quite clever but it's not really the real thing. Of course, the benefit is that there is no need to weave the various colours along the back of the knitting so that they are ready for use when stitches of that colour are to be knitted in the pattern. Fair Isle patterns are usually quite complicated and can use five or more different colours to achieve the effect; this means that they are also slow to knit and prone to mistakes which can be difficult to spot when you make them and glaringly obvious if left uncorrected.

I have some more wool like that which I have used for the scarf and mittens that I wrote about here. It's in different shades, and rather than have lots of hats, scarves and mittens that were all the same design, although different in colour, I decided to have a go at a different pattern for the next set of winter accessories that I was to knit.

After several false starts, I have managed to progressed my hat to the stage that the pattern is starting to show rather well. The difficulty is ensuring that the run of colours in the two balls of wool that you use (so it is a bit like traditional Fair Isle knitting) are sufficiently different so that the pattern is not lost through the colours being too similar in hue.
Here is one of the balls that I am using at the moment. The colour is called Autumn Rainbow and it is a mixture of greens, browns and reds; real autumn colours. Because the lengths of each colour in any given ball of wool are different, you can find yourself knitting with two balls of wool but all the stitches appear to be the same colour because of the way the subtle changes in each ball occur. This was what caused me to have to repeatedly unpick what I had done and start again, but I seem to be have got it right this time and my hat is progressing nicely.
Yes, it can be called Fair Isle because it uses more than one ball of wool in each row, but the pattern looks more complex than it actually is because of the clever colour changing in the balls of wool themselves. I'm almost up to the point where I start to decrease to form the crown of the hat, but having measured it I realised that I probably needed to knit another inch to make sure that the hat would be of sufficient length to ensure that it covered my ears, after all I don't want cold ears in winter.

I was working my way through the rows and knew that about four more would get me to the point where I could actually start to decrease when a chance glance at the knitting showed that I had made a mistake. Not one stitch in the wrong colour; that would be easy to correct. I had inadvertently knitted rows 4 and 5 of the six-row pattern twice so I have to unpick two rows. I have unpicked the first one and I'm halfway through the second one, and then I shall get the pattern back on track before I pack it up for the night.

After the hat, it will be mittens to match (I have a free pattern from the yarn's creators that has them both on it) and I have enough wool to make a scarf so I shall create that myself as a simple tube with the pattern on it and then sew up or crochet together the openings at either end to finish it off. It should look rather attractive when the set is completed.


Laurie said...

This will probably sound strange but I would love for you to take a picture of your yarn collection one day to show us. My friend has her "knitting basket" which is just about the most calming sight I have ever seen with dozens of colors and textures nestled neatly together. .. I always love to see the madness behind the beauty I suppose lol.

Lily said...

Wow... you always knit such lovely looking things. I still haven't got much further with the sock, I'm starting attempt 8 after I finish catching up on blogs.