My current work in progress:

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


Life During Fair Isle

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco
this ain’t no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey
I ain’t got time for that now

Well, heck no! No time for anything but fair isle! All fair isle, all the time! Woo!

Why all the excitement? Because, dear readers, I have reached the point where I can start the v-neck shaping on Mara. Again, woo!


You do the decreases on either side of the front steek. I have placed a pin at the first decrease so I can more easily see where the v-neck shaping starts. This becomes important after I cut the front steek and pick up stitches for the neckband. The pattern directs you to pick up “x” number of stitches from the bottom to the beginning of the shaping, et cetera.

Ten rounds after the start of the v-neck shaping — the armhole shaping! So from this point forward, all sorts of exciting things will be happening in the knitting.

Mara is currently on an 80cm (approx. 32″) needle. I find that most comfortable for fair isle work. The 60cm (approx. 24″) needle is a tad too short and my stitches are smooshed up too much for my comfort. However, there will probably be a point when I will need to move this to a 60cm needle. When starting the armholes, you put some stitches at each side on a holder and cast on for a steek. Then when you get to the back neck shaping, you put all the back neck stitches on a holder and cast on for another steek. All the while you are decreasing for the v-neck as well. At some point, this baby will not fit on my 80cm needle.

Thank you for all your nice comments on this design. I’ve had the yarn for Mara in stash for a couple of years, and I’m not sure why I’ve not knitted it up before. I really do like it quite a lot, and the designer’s use of color is amazing, I think.

By popular request, a photo of the inside:


I’ve got yarn for another Starmore fair isle in stash as well. so there’s at least one more that will make an appearance at some point in the future. (Can you guess which fair isle it is?)

Lately I’ve hauled out my old Starmore books for a look-see — to see if there are any more of her fair isle designs I have a burning desire to knit. Apart from one or two, I think I’ve knitted all the ones that I like. This makes me sad. But I may at some point get the Virtual Yarns kit to make the Oregon cardigan in the Autumn colorway — it’s different enough from the original colorway (which I’ve made) and I love it.

Several of you have remarked on how fast I am knitting Mara. I find that I always knit fair isles faster than other stuff because I enjoy seeing the colorwork develop so much. It entertains me!

But speaking of knitting other stuff . . .

My new sock-in-progress. Made from Socks That Rock in the “Falcon’s Eye” colorway.


Lucy seems impressed, doesn’t she?



  1. I wish Alice Starmore (or her daughter, Jade) would begin publishing patterns again. I feel like the knitting world needs some innovative patterns to combat all the crap being published right now.

  2. What does the pillow behind Lucy say?

    And Mara is gorgeous! Wildly colorful.

    So did you seam up Deirdre?

  3. Rona from In the Hebrides.

  4. I’m actually quite an excited spectator on this sport of fair-isle knitting! I was even thinking about it last night – trying to remember if I’ve seen you complete a fair-isle jumper in the last wee while, and if I had, trying to remember how you complete the sleeves (up or down – round or flat) nup couldn’t remember so am eagerly watching! Also can you tell me, does anything else knit up like the shetland yarn? It appears to have a coarser/fluffier texture than most yarn which I imagine improves the grabbiness for colour change? I imagine the most accessible yarn here (merino) would be too smooth for a lovely fairisle.

    thanks genny (from NZ)

  5. Lovely. And Lucy looks very impressed.

  6. Thanks for the inside pic! And I LOVE the STR colorway!

  7. Priscilla says:

    I think the pillow says “No sweater is complete without cat hair?” Just an educated guess. Or we can substitute “sweater” with other items, such as blankets, afghans, and socks.

  8. anne marie in philly says:

    who let the talking heads in here…david byrne rocks!

    the inside of mara is VERY neat – no long floats.

    I am 3/4 through reading your book; have identified stash bits for catnip mousies for my cat kids.

    message from my kids to lucy – mrrrrow!

  9. Oh, come clean! You don’t have itme for a full time job and knitting Fair Isle. Lucy is secretly helping you, right? It’s all gorgeous either way. Your choice of the blue and green are perfect together.

  10. The fair isle is beautiful! I can’t wait for each update to see where you are! Although, I do feel a bit slow- I don’t understand how you progress so quickly! I feel like I am flying on the sock I started Saturday night, but I am only at the arch. My boys must slow me down!

  11. Mara is looking very fair indeed – and my guess for your next Fair Isle project is the Oregon Cardigan (or vest?).

  12. Wheeeeeee…….it is exciting to watch your progress…….and inspirational……there’s an old Doris Day / Rock Hudson movie where he is a song writer, she’s an interior designer & they share a phone line (olden days!)……and he sings to every one of the ladies he’s wooing: You are my in-spir-a-tion, ……and YOU are!…….fun to watch & Lucy is soooooo blase!

  13. Hmmmm, I think I’m approaching a dilemma. I’ve always been fascinated, but a little scared, by fair isle. For example, I love the Ingrid sweater in your book (if you’ll recall, I was reluctant to part with it after the shoot). Lately I find myself studying fair isle patterns with great intensity. So, regardless of small needle size or fear of massive tangles, I think the time is nearing when I will just have to jump in and do some color work.

    And, I think I’m going to try Ingrid….

  14. There are some Starmore books listed on ebay. They sell for around $85. Are they worth it?

  15. Hi Wendy, long time fan of your blog! I’m currently working on a fair isle cardigan and your progress blows my mind! I’m quite jealous ๐Ÿ™‚ I have a quick question: do fair isle knits block out any larger after they are knit? I’m guessing ‘no’ since the knitting is so dense but I thought I’d ask the expert!

  16. I think the reverse side of your color work is almost as beautiful as the right side. In fact, it might even be more beautiful. AND you have time to work on a sock, too.

  17. I was just wondering what kind of toe you are using for that sock??

  18. OOOOO Oregon is my VERY FAVORITE Starmore, in both colorways!! Your Mara is lovely too Wendy! And isn’t Lucy always impressed? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. One thing that drives me *nuts* with Rowan is that they don’t provide any info on discontinued yarns. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except there are all these gorgeous design books out there, using Rowan yarn. There are about 5 Kaffe Fassett designs I’m panting to knit, but I cannot for the life of me figure out the colors of the 30+ different yarns he uses. Arrgghhh!!! How do you cope with this?

  20. Wendy, I just had to write to tell you how much I’m enjoying your book. Also, I am in awe of your Fair Isle prowess! Not only is Mara beautiful, but all your Fair Isles are gorgeous. I have the yarn for Starmore’s Marina and for Feitelstein’s Westerwick and am determined to start one of them this summer. Any advice would be greatly appreciated as this will be my first real try at Fair Isle. Thanks for any tips you can give me, and please keep writing!

  21. Mara is indeed designed in a very beautiful colourway. And your work is neat as always. I enjoy very much your new fair isle fever. Your knits are always beautiful, and it’s educating to read your blog, but your fair isles are in a class of them self.
    I have a fair isle question. I knit two-coloured work like you, keeping both yarns in my left hand, but I do always get the tangled up. When you say you always keep them in a certain order, how do you prevent them from tangling around each other? Do you keep one around the ringfinger and the other not? Or?

  22. I love your beautiful Mara (both front & Back) & how fast you have knitted it up. I am a regular reader of your blog & you have always given me the inspiration to knit Fair Isle. I did attempt a vest & did quite well & will love to knit Mara sometime in the future. Been reading your lovely book & enjoying your knitting adventures & once again you have inspired me to knit the toe-up sock (check my blog for progress). Keep on knitting, Wendy as we need people like you to share your adventures & spur us on. Happy knitting!

  23. I’m impressed! Your Fair Isle is so neat on both sides. I find it amazing that you get so much done in a day!

  24. I find Fairisle works up quickly, too. I’m sure it’s due to seeing the colours developing; you can see the progress so clearly. The inside of Mara looks very neat. The Falcon’s Eye has very smooth transitions. Almost peaceful.

  25. Lucy does seem very impressed. Looks like she knows a great thing when she sees one!Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

  26. The inside of Mara is almost as beautiful as the outside. I find that amazing. Almost as amazing as the rate at which you knit. You are super quick!

  27. Mara look wonderful but I think Deirdre may feel a little forgotten. Do we ever get to see a finished shot of her?

  28. it’s beautiful! steeks AND fairisle – you scare me ;-P

  29. The sweater looks gorgeous. You are really flying!

    I’m excited to see you knitting the falcon’s eye colorway. I have that colorway at home. Is that the lightweight or the medium weight?
    I love the greens, I can’t wait to get to it.

  30. Sheri in St. Louis says:

    First of all, it’s not fair that you accomplish so much knitting, so quickly. Nice for you, nice for all of us blog readers who tune in to see your progress, but overall, really not fair. Secondly, you have about swayed me over to trying a lace shawl of some kind, and now you’re attempting to get me fair isling. Are people allowed to retire in their 40’s in order to have more time for knitting? Just askin’……

  31. I’m so jealous of your steeking and your INSIDE view of Mara. My own fair isle knit-in-progress is um, neglected and inelegant – I bailed out on the steeking and split it at the armholes and the ends are still unwoven… but you (and Mara) are an inspiration.

  32. Patti O says:

    I’m so impressed with your knitting. Maybe someday I will get the courage to tackle fair Isle. Right now I’m bracing myself just to start my second sweater.. my first was a disaster, I was traumatized by it… But FAIR ISLE AND STEEKING!!! You are such a brave woman!

  33. Wendy- Your Mara is certainly impressive. Fair Isle is my specialty, it keeps your interest and does go very fast. AS is a genious with color.

  34. GORGEOUS yarn. Maybe sock hop will be my next add to stash…

    and I’m LOVING the Fair Isle.

  35. Your sweater is gorgeous. Question for you, do you ever deviate from the colors in a fair isle pattern. If so, do you use any guidelines, any tricks tos ee if what you want to use looks good together?

  36. Ditto everyone else’s comments on Mara. Wow.

    What I was REALLY excited about is the photo of the Falcon’s Eye sock. I have a skein of that exact yarn in my stash and had no idea that it knits up with those whitish stripey bits. Yum! I was planning to make some fingerless gloves for my son’s girlfriend, but now I’m trending toward being selfish with that yarn…

  37. Ummm, is it Russian River?