My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Happy Valentine’s Day

Izzy sez . . .

Happy Valentine’s Day!


The Votes Are In!

It was a close race, but as I write this, Henry VIII wins the vote for “What Should Wendy Knit Next?” St. Mortiz made a valiant comeback with 101 votes, but Henry got 110. Frogner received 60, Marina 39, and Roscalie was in last place at 38. Thanks for voting!

Warning: Opinions Ahead

Here’s another book I got in the mail recently:


Isn’t this wild? Fair isle in Japanese! The author is Margaret Stuart and a little bird told me I could order it from a Japanese website, (It helps if you have the ISBN number when trying to find it, and it is: 4529027813.)

So this books is all in Japanese, but contains charts for a number of fair isle designs. The colors used are in Japanese, so you’re on your own there.

But that brings me to my opinion.

I think most of the color combos in this book are butt-ugly.

Well, maybe that’s a tad harsh. But so are the color combos. Harsh.

But a lot of fair isle knitting museum pieces are also butt-ugly, in my oh-so-humble opinion. Bright clashing colors.

Y’all have seen the portrait of the Prince of Wales wearing a fair isle pullover — it was painted in the 1920s perhaps? This one:


While I think this is a wonderful painting, I also think it’s an ugly sweater.

Which brings me to another strong opinion.

I think Alice Starmore is an exceptional artist when it comes to color. I’ve never seen such amazing mixes and shades. Look at my Oregon Cardigan, for gosh sakes!


There was a discussion on the Knitflame list about The Scottish Collection recently. Someone posted a message asking what the big deal was about it and why it was so sought after. A couple of responses to this were that it was nothing special and if you’ve seen one Starmore you’ve seen ’em all.

Not my opinion! Apart from the fact that her designs in that book are all so different from each other, I think they are glorious. I think Luskentyre is incredible. I think Marina is magical.

All this is just my opinion, but after seeing the staid and uninteresting color combinations in the Stuart book, I felt it had to be said.

Don’t get me wrong — the Stuart book was a worthwhile purchase for me. The charts are great and the entertainment value of the photos of the dorky looking family modelling the sweaters is well worth the twenty-something bucks I paid for it.

A complaint against Alice is that her sweaterdesigns have boxy shapes and are uninspired. Personally, I prefer boxy sweaters. Fitted sweaters are simply too warm. I’ve learned from experience that if I’m wearing wool it should be loose.

Like I said, just my opinion. Your mileage may vary!

February Contest

Contest ends this afternoon! Get your entries in before it’s too late!

Sock Progress
Almost done with the first sock:


Have a good weekend, everyone!


  1. Happy Valentines Day to you and Izzy [and Ian ;-] ] too.
    I agree about AS’ use of colour. Try working out an alternative colourway to one of her designs ,keeping the same tonal flow [light-dark,,or whatever ] and hue values ,so that the pattern still reads well. It really isn’t easy !
    Garish doesn’t do it for me either.I think we all see colours differently [ or not at all in some cases ! ]. And I’d vote for loose,boxy ,comfortable and ‘unstructured ‘ [ =silly fashion phrase. All garments have structure ] .

  2. I agree with you about Scottish Collection. Some of her best fair isle works are in this booklet. The color combinations are just incredible.

  3. I think one of the problems is that the work doesn’t seem to be well photographed — now, I would expect that *I* would be unable to get true colours, but I do find it interesting that every Starmore I’ve made or seen in person looks different from the book photo. I can’t get Henry photographed well for the life of me, and the same problem I have happens in the book — the blue and the orange-y tones stand out like a sore thumb in the photo, whereas they are more subtle in real life.

    Emma makes a good point, too — I’ve been trying to “analyze” what Starmore does with colour to try to figure out what to do for a fair-isle idea I’m working up for my husband. But it’s a real challenge. And it’s not just the backgrounds or foregrounds, it’s also how they work together, while all the while colours are changing in both.

    I think it’s all too easy to dismiss her for a variety of reasons, but it’s unfair not to recognize that she has some real strengths.

  4. Me too! I consider myself pretty artistic, but I’m rendered speechless by Alice’s color sense. I can put together a decent fair isle pattern using maybe 5 to 7 colors but I can’t imagine being able to whip up a pattern for a twenty-color design like oregon. I think Jade’s color sense is awesome too, but I don’t care as much for her recent designs — her fair isles are tending toward the abstract, wherein I like traditional motifs.

  5. I am one of the folks that think Scottish Collection is ho-hum. It may be that as a former part-time employee of Tomato Factory (who published the book in conjunction with Broad Bay), that I’m just jaded with the designs in it. Or it could be that I think the entrelac sweater (modelled by designer Carol Lapin) is just hideous. Or it could be that I can’t believe that a small, paper-bound, over-sized pamphlet fetches prices of $500. Whatever it is, if I had a copy, I would have sold it when prices got to $50, figuring nobody would ever pay such an outrageous price once they came to their senses.

    That’s just one guy’s opinion, obviously a minority opinion at that.

  6. Joe you are certainly entitled to your opinion! And I agree with you about the entrelac sweater. I also would never pay $500 for any knitting book . . . ever.

    Unless the pages were made from gold leaf and studded with emeralds. ๐Ÿ™‚

    But I do love the fair isle designs in it.

  7. Starmore’s use of color (in this newbee knitter’s HO) is genius and partly why I’m doing Hank in cushion cover – so I can see it every day on my chair in the den.

    The other reason re cushion cover is my loathing of sweater assembly. Judy H kindly recommended the Wiseman book of finishing and reassured me I wasn’t the first new knitter with this problem. The two sweaters I’ve completed so far looked so ugly after my clumsy attempt of mattress and/or sewing maching stitching that I immediately frogged them.

    I’m wondering how other knitters have overcome this problem, what assemby methods are preferred and if there are any other resources to use. I would really love to be able wear something I’ve knitted – besides socks, shawls and hats???

  8. Caroline F says:

    I just got the book too – news travels fast! Of course I can’t read a lick of Japanese, but it was presented to me as patterns for sweaters in museum collections, and if you look at the pictures of the sweaters, dates will jump out at you of the year the sweater was made. I don’t know whether these are her colorways or whether they are copied from the museum originals. There are Margaret Stuart designs in the Madeline Weston book – do you feel the same way about those colors?
    Agree about Alice’s use of color, I like it so much better than Jade’s most of the time. I just don’t like those broad horizontal bands you see in many of Jade’s designs, where the color shading is abruptly broken.

  9. Hi,Wendy! My Lucky is wearing his best tuxedo today and wants to know if Izzy will be his Valentine?

  10. Roi, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that *now* I’m so embarassed when I look at some of my early work. Partly, it was a combination of knitting Paton’s everything (and I think a certain generation of Canadian knitters will understand me here) — you often didn’t get a lot of help with the final touches. Not having a lot of knitters around me (except other Patons knitters), AND being highly impatient, I ended up just slapping a lot of things together.

    Now, I’m meticulous about finishing — I don’t know a lot of good techniques, but I’m trying to acquire them as I go along. Some involve thinking ahead before I start a sweater — is there a way to handle ends/joins and things like that in a way that makes finishing easier? If so, I try it.

    I swear by mattress stitch, but I think it’s one of those skills (like kitchener stitch) that you have to do over and over again and get good at it. I also don’t hesitate to rip back a seam if I’m not happy with how it’s coming along.

    A dose of patience helps. Or, like last night, when patience fails, sit and sew while watching a movie (thank god, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was on, and it took my mind of all the DARN ends for a while…)

    I wish I were a better finisher, but it’s coming. And always remember, if all else fails, you can do like my mum, and have someone else (namely, me) do your finishing for you .

  11. Oh, by the by, Roi, thanks for mentioning that Hank Pillow, because now I have a good idea of what to do with my Henry leftovers …

  12. Caroline, I was thinking about the Weston book this morning. Apart from the one fair isle that’s in natural shades (which I knitted in shades of green and yellow) I do think the fair isles are gawdawful in there!

    L-B, Izzy is all excited, thinking about handsome Lucky in his tuxedo. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Wendy,

    What is the name of the yarn you are using to make the sock that is on this page? It is beautiful!

  14. Luskentyre, I agree, is one of Alice’s most beautiful garments. And, like Joe, I think the Entrelac sweater is wicked unattractive. But people did really like it back in the Tomato days, we were always waiting on some color for someone’s kit in the basement. I was recently in Shetland, where those old fashioned Fair Isle colors are quite the thing again. I sheepishly admit I adore them, garish though they are. A friend and I call them the “happy” colorways; he bought a handknit Prince of Wales (the one in the photo) and, in person, it’s fabulous. Alice is a color genius, and maybe the contrasty colorways work better in northern light after all, but, jeez, the olde timey ones make me smile.

  15. You know, you get to overrule us all and make what you want – nothing clarifies what you want to do like having someone else answer the question for you!

  16. Felecia, the yarn is “Dancing Feet” from Joslyn’s Fiber Farm, and the colorway is “treebark.”

  17. Caroline, The one I want to make next is Henry VIII — and I didn’t even vote myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Geane Helfrich says:

    I love Alice Starmore and I’m not afraid to say it. So there. My SIL bought me the Scottish Collection when it came out, and I NEVER thought I could knit anything from it. Oregon Cardigan went on sale at Tomato Factory and I splurged. Stared at it for a year or two, then put it deep in the back of my yarn stash KNOWING I’d never be able to knit a steek much less cut it. That was 1995 (I think). I’ve knit a few AS FI’s since then and still am in love with her designs.
    The point is; SHE alone made me stretch my knitting wings and learn a new thing. The Scottish Collection did that for me.

    True, yarnshop owners are mad at her, but I think opening Virtual Yarns was a ballsy decision and I, for one, plan to continue to support her and Jade as long as I have fingers that work.

    Thanks, Wendy, for the forum.

  19. Well said,Geane!

  20. Happy Valentines Day!!
    Maybe Wendy will knit St. Moritz after Henry VIII and we can steek together. I’m about that slow. I love AS designs, especially the textured ones.

  21. St. Moritz after Henry which is after Oregon is a definite possibility!

  22. Henry VIII is the next project I’m actually going to purchase. I had made notations for the yarn the day before your vote! So all I need to do is finish 5 projects off my WIP/UFO list, and I can buy the yarn. I must finish Inishmore first, and I want to finish my year old Salt Lake City 2002 sweater. So I should be buying the yarn about the time that your Henry VIII is finished.
    But I’ll take notes as you do yours so I know what I’m doing (HA! like I ever know what I’m doing).
    I can’t have an opinion on The Scottish Collection, as it is one of her books I don’t own. However, I have yet to see a designer match her color skills. The Henry VIII is quite simply one of the most beautiful color designs I have ever seen.

  23. wow. i guess i like things not as popular. i particularly like marina and i think frogner is awesome… oh well. henry viii will be fun to watch. am i the only one out here who thinks of wendys site as tv for work? hehehe

  24. I’ve always liked Alice Starmore because she includes alot of background info on history and/or techniques although I think her math formula (for figuring out how much of a different kind of yarn can be used) is much more complex than it needs to be. I like how she generally includes a section on designing your own sweater – reminds me of EZ. BTW, where can I get a Henry VIII kit/pattern?

  25. Re: Fair Isle and color. Many of the old FI sweaters that you see from museum collections etc. reflect the color sensibilities of their time period. What looked fresh and exciting in the 20’s…or the 50’s, 60’s, & 70’s look weird to us today. Then there is the matter of dye processes changing since the time of those “museum” pieces…our dyeing and blending processes have become a lot more sophisticated. Culture and geography also affect what we like and don’t like in color combinations. There are many beautiful pink and orange sari’s for Indian women…in which my fair European coloring would look ghastly.
    All that said…One of the innovations that AS took and really developed in her designs is the heathered blends of the shetland yarns that she uses. That is really the key to making the colors blend one into another in a fair isle design. It is also a hallmark of Scottish woolen yarns….think of Harris Tweeds and the flecks of many colors in a neutral yarn.
    IMO it’s fascinating to contemplate how geography is reflected in our color and design sensibilities. I remember being in the Outer Hebrides in the early 80’s (Before the AS craze) and looking out over a hillside that was the perfect example of a Harris tweed green. As I stood there and looked I could see greens, blues, browns….just like the yarns that hale from that area. The same was true of the rock cliffs and the sea….one general color…but many little flecks of other colors contributing. There was no mystery at all to why those Harris Tweed yarns and fabrics originated there.

  26. I love the rich tones of HenryVIII. I don’t enjoy Fair Ile knitting – I’m a Aran/texture fetishist ๐Ÿ™‚ but I can & do appreciate the skill that going into this kind of work & I look forward to following its progress – as much as I have enjoyed the progress of Oregon.

    So, Wendy, have you managed to knit 365 sweaters yet?? You must be getting close to it. hehe

  27. Sometime, somewhere (ancient Knitters, maybe??) I read an article about or a published interview with a famous Scottish knitter (could have been the lady with the mmmm…”unfortunate” last name).
    Anyway, she related that the traditional FI knitters favored intense colors and strong contrasts to brighten up their subdued brown/grey surroundings. IIRC, this lady was pictured in one of her (eye-popping, to say the least) FI cardigans layered over a bright green checked dress. (Perhaps it’s electric lighting that has made the older color combos seem garish?)

  28. I have done several AS sweaters and I love her subtle colorations but I think Ron Schweitzer is equally talented in the Fair Isle department.

    I’m with Joe–I would never pay $500 for any knitting book. And I own a few that apparently are now worth that, too. Incidentally, The Scottish Collection is the one AS book I don’t own.

    I’m not losing any sleep over it, either.