This comment to yesterday’s blog post from Marina really struck a chord with me:
As someone new to Fair Isle, I had numerous concerns … circular needles, finer yarn, using 2 hands, remembering to change yarns, etc. I started with a Philosopher’s and then Jade Starmore’s Medieval Tapestry where I added more colors. But you know, I wish I hadn’t read some blogs/forums where folks were making it out to be “difficult” and had someone who said “just do it” because really, Fair Isle is not difficult at all.
Amen, sistah! I could not agree with you more.
Back in the dim, dark days before the Internet, I bought Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair lsle Knitting. “Ooh, look at all the pretty sweaters!” I thought as I paged through it. I picked out my favorite one, the Wave Cardigan, and ordered Harrisville shetland to knit it. I knit. I cut steeks. I picked up stitches.
It never occurred to me that cutting steeks was scary, because I had never read anyone’s opinion of the process, outside of Alice Starmore’s description in her book. So I just did it.
All those colors might look a bit daunting at first, but in traditional fair isle knitting, you are only ever knitting with two colors at a time. Those two colors keep changing, but that’s the fun of it — fair isle keeps me entertained because it is always changing.
Granted, it can take a while to complete a garment because you are typically knitting at a gauge of 8 stitches and 8 rows to an inch. And if you have never knitted with two colors in one row, you might want to practice that a bit before embarking on a large garment.
But fair isle is totally not difficult. Honest.
What is your opinion of knitting a fair isle with plain ol’ wool yarn rather than Shetland wool? I know the yarn wouldn’t grab as well which would influence the steeks. There’s a pretty big difference between the price of J&S and Knitpick’s Palette. But, I might feel like I cheated by not using the real deal…and always look askance at the FO…
Okay, at $1.79 for 231 yards (50 grams), the Knitpicks Palette is definitely cheap!
By the way, if you buy shetland wool directly from Jamieson and Smith in Scotland, you will pay $2.20 per 25 gram skein at the current exchange rate. Which, in my opinion, is still pretty darn cheap for this yarn.
I should point out that Knitpicks Palette is available in 30 colors. J&S shetland is available in 141 colors, I think. So your color range in Knitpicks is quite limited, comparatively.
I have no personal experience with the Knitpicks Palette, but if I’m gonna knit a fair isle, I want to knit it in a wool that has the same properites as shetland wool, mainly, the sticky, hairy quality that makes the steeks knitted from shetland so obedient. You could certainly alter your steeking technique to accomodate the qualities of the yarn you are using. Heck, you could knit a fair isle in cotton and use Norwegian machine-stitched steeks and knit the sleeves separately. Me? I prefer knitting fair isles in shetland wool.
Finally, here is a report on my progress on Mara.
Here she is from the back.
You can see that the armhole shaping is coming along nicely.
From the front, it doesn’t look quite as neat, because the shaping for the v-neck is pulling it in. It’ll be much prettier once the front steek is cut.
And just for grins, a close-up:
My goal is to get the knitting of the body completed over the weekend. After that, I’ll cut the front steek and knit the neckband/front bands. I always like to get that out of the way before making the sleeves.
Lucy is all excited just thinking about it.