Friday, November 23, 2012

Fair Isle Rules

Fair Isle Jacket from Teddy Bear Sweaters
This one by Kaffe Fasset
Fair Isle (AKA Stranded Knitting) is one of my favorites. I love the color-work, the traditions, the rhythm of the knitting and most especially watching the pattern grow as I knit. It is much easier to knit than it looks. It is all stockinette. There is a little bit of intarsia in this sweater but it is mostly stranded. The technique for intarsia is different.

Intarsia may involve any number of colors in a single row. The various yarns are not stranded across the back of the work but used only in the area required in the knitting to create a picture or design. The yarns have to be twisted around each other or there will be holes.  The individual colors may be on bobbins or just lengths of yarn.

Modified Pattern from Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting
This sweater uses only two colors and yet there are more than two colors in the sweater thanks to the hand-painted yarn. The pattern yarn (the yarn in the motif) is from a hand-painted wool roving that was handspun so the colors are subtle and blended. The background yarn is a commercial wool yarn in a color similar to one in the hand-painted yarn. This blurs the motif and gives a watery effect to the Water Lily motif.

In Fair Isle the yarns are carried – that is stranded - across the back (wrong side) of the knitting. This creates a double thick fabric – desirable in cold climates.
Fair Isle Rule No. 1:  There are only two colors per row.  
There is no rule that you have to use 20 colors - you can, of course – but you only carry two colors in a row. New colors are exchanged with the previous colors as desired at the beginning of the work.
With only two colors in the row the knitting is easy as you can carry two colors either in one hand or one color in each hand.
           It is best to be consistent in keeping one yarn carried on top and one underneath. This will keep your gauge more consistent and the motifs neater. The yarn coming underneath is usually the pattern yarn as it will be more prominent in the motif.
This photo shows the stranding on the inside of the sweater above.
Rule No. 2: No stranding the yarn over more than an inch or 5 to 7 stitches.
        Long strands can be caught by fingers and jewelry and they tend to make the knitting pucker. Motifs are usually designed to avoid long strands. Yarns can be woven in the back of knit stitches to catch the strands if necessary according to the pattern.  
        Stretch out the knitting on the needle as it is worked. I do this every 2-3 stitches, pulling the stitches across the right hand needle as it is worked. This lengthens the strand of yarn evenly across the back of the work to prevent puckering.

Rule No. 3: Knitting is done in the round.
           The tradition is to knit in the round and avoid working flat – that is knitting across and purling back. Just knitting and knitting – how lovely.  Of course it can be worked flat but it is harder to see the pattern on the purl side – sort of diminishes the fun of knitting Fair Isle and changes the gauge of the knitting.
          To avoid knitting flat above the armholes, steeks are used. Steeks are not a rule but a great technique and worthy of a whole blog – next time.

Upcoming Classes at Kiwi Knitting:
Snowflake Cowl – Brighten your winter wardrobe while staying warm with this cowl which
features a ring of traditional snowflakes bordered in garter stitch edges. Materials: 120y of light
worsted yarn in each of 2 colors; US10 16” circular knitting needle; a marker, & the pattern from
2012 Knitted Gifts. Cost: $32. Teacher: Holly Harper. 10 – Noon Wed Nov 28 & Dec 5

Custom Fit Dog Sweater – No matter what your dog’s size or shape, Brigid can teach you how
to make him/her a sweater that fits beautifully! Materials: 200y – 400y yarn depending on size
of dog; knitting needles suitable for the yarn; markers; measuring tape; paper & pencil.
Cost: $32. Teacher: Brigid Connolly. 10 – Noon Sat Dec 1 & 8

Toddler Ballet Wrap & Ruffled Leg Warmers – The budding dancer in your life will love these additions to her tutu and ballet shoes. The wrap features a dainty eyelet pattern and the leg warmers a ruffled edge at the ankle. Materials: 90 – 180y of medium yarn & US7 double points for leg warmers. 270 – 310y medium yarn; US8 circular & double points; Sz H crochet hook; & 3 stitch holders for the wrap. Both patterns are available free at 2 circulars or 1 long circular can be substituted for double points if desired. Cost: $20 leg warmers/ $32 wrap/$48 both. Teacher: Kendra McNally. 1 – 3 PM Fri Nov 30 (leg warmers), Dec 7 & 14 (wrap).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Knitting Tools and Notions

What are the absolute essential tools we need for knitting? Knitting needles are the obvious first choice.  In the past people made them with wood, bicycle spokes even precious metals.( I assume this based on the story that Helen of Troy had a golden spindle.)  I know of a few desperate knitters who have used toothpicks, coffee stirrers and even pencils.

 We are so lucky today to have not only gorgeous needles but ones that have nicely tapered points, smooth surfaces and smooth joins on circulars and a plethora of choices – woods, metal, plastic, glass, gorgeous or beautifully simple, colorful and playful. We get aesthetic enjoyment from beautiful needles and tools.
From the top: Clover Bamboo, KnitPicks Harmony, Addi Turbo Lace
We can choose knitting needles to suit a slippery yarn or a toothy yarn, fine tapered points for lace and double points, circulars or straights for the need of our project or our own personal style of knitting.
The next essentials are scissors and tape measures. These can be just functional or beautiful or cute like the little critter tape measures here.
Once we get past the bare essentials then the next needed item is something to hold our knitting – a basket or a bag. Some just use paper bags or the plastic grocery store bags. Some of us like gorgeous bags.
Nantucket Bag - photo from Nantucket Bag website
Some bags are made for knitters and others are totes knitters have borrowed – multi-pocketed totes for garden tools or builders tools or totes with logos that mean something to us.
Then there are the project bags. These can be little purses or designed especially for knitters. Sometimes there are so many bags and pockets we cannot figure out where we put stuff. Or maybe that just happens to me.
Gauges from Debra's Garden and Kiwi Knitting
I think needle gauges are essential.  Most knitters who use double points or circular needles agree. Even if I label the cases I always find one lonely double point or circular that has no identifying mark as to what size needle it is.
Another useful thing about needle gauges - they can help you choose a needle size appropriate for the yarn you plan to use - such as, when substituting a yarn different from what the pattern recommends. Double the yarn and lay it on top or underneath the needle gauge without stretching the yarn.  Find the opening in the gauge that the doubled yarn fills. Whatever needle size is filled that would be a good starting needle size for that yarn. Please, swatch it to be sure.
Notions are the most fun of all. I love the wonderful stitch markers we have now – little dogs or sheep, precious silver rings, beautiful beads. My vote for the most useful is the locking stitch markers - those are the turquoise and coral plastic ones in the case above.Not only do they work on the needle to mark pattern changes but they can be pinned into the knitting to track decreases or increases, hold a dropped stitch until it can be repaired, act as a little stitch holder, help with seaming and on and on. This notions case from Nancy’s Knit Knacks is perfect for holding these tiny things as well as tiny scissors and another essential – tapestry needles.

Buttons could be added to the list. So could stitch holders, point protectors, needle cases, highlighter tape, magnetic chart holders, cable needles, crochet hooks, the dental pick tool from Patternworks, hand cream, pencils, graph paper …. Oh! And Yarn!