My current work in progress:

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


Still Knitting Fair Isle

Just in case you wondered.

Stephanie asked in the comments:
Do you ever feel that AS’s designs are just too big and boxy? I love her patterns and colors, but just can’t get motivated to make something so wide and rectangular. Would I be nuts to try to remove a couple of pattern repeats?

There’s no reason why you couldn’t alter a pattern to suit you.

Some of the AS designs are large and boxy, even for me, who likes ’em large and boxy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Happily, though, Mara is not one of those. The pattern has directions for three sizes and I’m making the middle one, which is about 42″ around.

And Mara has shaped armholes as well, so it’s not as boxy as some fair isles. Witness:


This is the start of the armhole shaping and steeks. You decrease on each side of the steeks for a number of rows, then every other row for a few more. I’m into the “every other row” part now.

And at the same time, I am decreasing every third row for the v-neck.


So, you have to keep track of where you are in the chart in several different places, as there are “holes” in the knitting for all this shaping. But it’s not really difficult. The chart pattern is pretty easy to follow, so you can see clearly where you are from what you did on the previous row.

As for recommendations for first fair isles, does anyone have any suggestions? I say to pick one you like and go for it. My first “real” fair isle was Alice Starmore’s Wave Cardigan, which, by the way, I substituted yarn for. Going by the picture in the book, I subbed Harrisville shetland for the Jamieson & Smith called for. I think it turned out pretty good.


That’s a photo of my Wave Cardigan from a blog entry from December 2002 — you can tell it’s an old photo because Izzy is in the picture. Awwwwwwww!

This segues nicely into a question from Priscilla:
I know from reading your blog entries that you often buy yarn online. Do you ever feel that the color of the yarn you bought is different than how it is presented on the site? Just curious because I have been avoiding buying yarn online because I never know if I am getting the exact color I want.

Short answer? Yes.

Sometimes it’s a bit of a surprise when yarn I ordered online arrives, as the color is different in real life from its photo online. Yeah, it’s a gamble.

I do, however, have color cards for a number of different yarns, and use them when ordering online.

The Other Knitting

Yep, still working on my sock in the oh-so alluring Falcon’s Eye colorway. I finished turning the heel on the train this morning, and decided to do something lacy on the leg.


This is “Fern Lace.” For those of you with the 365 Knitting Stitches a Year perpetual calendar, the pattern is “July 28.”


I think I like it, but I need a bit more progress to be sure.

There was a question in the recent past about what toe construction I use — I use a crochet chain and do a provisional cast-on, and execute a short-row toe. Always. I’ve tried the other methods, but what I really like about the method I use is that you are using two needles until you have the entire toe completed. I find it much easier to work on the fiddly little bits with two needles, rather than four.

Lucy sez:


Would you just put the freaking camera away and feed me? Sheesh!


  1. Is the cuff on toe up socks more flexable then in cuff down socks. I’m finding the cuff on my socks to be a bit tight even with casting onto two needles.

  2. Mara continues to look lovely. I’m working on my first fair isle now – Butterfly from Alice Starmore. Actually, it’s a Jade Starmore – from Virtual Yarns. It’s a vest so there are no sleeves to contend with and Jade says it’s a good first project. So far, so good.

  3. One of the reasons I like buying yarn online so much is just that – it’s the little bit of a surprise that makes it even more fun to get new yarn!

  4. Wow! Love the Wave Cardigan (Mara too). I have got to get going on some Fair Isle, but I knit so tight when I do it that my knitting looks very wonky! You still amaze me with what you crank out!
    Hi Lucy!
    Sheri in GA

  5. Priscilla says:

    My first fair isle is actually a headband designed by Bea Ellis Knitwear. It only requires two colors and is very simple to knit. Then I graduated to the “Fair Isle 101 Pullover” from the Winter 2005 issue of Interweave Knits Magazine – a gift from a co-worker. It turned out pretty well, and I had fun knitting it.

  6. 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.

  7. SWOON. I’m daunted by such detailed fair isle — I’m a knitter who does patterned stuff simply to learn skills that I can then use/abuse for my make-it-up-as-I-go projects, which is kind of a hard place to be as a relatively new knitter. So thanks for the inspiration. Love the colors. (Which is to say, “Oh lordy, what’s she got me into now?”)

    And Lucy’s tail! Holy cow. Ever tempted to knit it? And what’s she doing complaining about you feeding her? I see food in that there bowl. And I’m guessing that she’s seeing two bowls …. (Love those crossed baby blues!)

  8. “Aaaaw” is exactly what I said upon seeing Izzy again.

  9. Betty J says:

    Mara is just beautiful! The thought of knitting with all of those colors at once kind of blows my mind. My husband has planted the seed of knitting Christmas stockings, so maybe I will think about fair isle for something like that, that nobody has to actually wear!, for a learning project.

    I have just finished the first sock of the second pair of toe-up socks and am lovin’ it! I tried to do the “little lace-ribby thang around the top,” like you did on “Donna’s Favorite Socks,” but mine does not look like yours. In fact, it looks really bad! I read in, Knitting in Plain English, that in prep for a yarn over, you should put the yarn where it goes for the next stitch, wind it around the needle for the yarn over, and then do the next stitch. For the first yo, I moved the yarn to the back in prep for the k2tog before I slipped the stitch. But then when I come back to it on the next row, it is backwards (front leg is in back). Is it supposed to be that way? If so, do you knit it differently on the next round, like tbl?

    Imagine, I grew up in Bath, Maine, where Halcyon is and never even went there. It was always just a big, rather ugly building in the center of downtown. Now that I’ve begun knitting, I can’t wait to go home and visit the store. Better remember to bring an extra suitcase with me!

  10. One reason I made the Rosarie vest of Jade Starmore’s was the boxiness of the sweaters. I made the vest a small size and it fit well. Often making a smaller size than normal will make the fit more ‘today’. Your sweater is looking very nice!

  11. I’m knitting my first toe up sock from your book. Question: Do you keep track of the rows you are knitting for the foot before the heel to make the second sock the same? I’m not, but maybe I should be…..

    Sheri in NJ

  12. Wow that is one beeeoootiful sweater!!
    So funny that you should be doing the “Fern Lace” from the July 28 entry as I have had that open for my next pair of socks for a while now. oooooo the twilight zone….

  13. Roseann says:

    All your pretty sweater pictures have inspired me to pick up this Fair Isle sock I put down a year or so ago. It was my third pair of Fancy Feet by Lucy Neatby in Koigu this time and the colors are not popping like I had hoped. Thanks to you, I will be getting them done!


  14. Do you ever have problems going back through your old pictures of projects past and seeing Izzy in them? I’m in the process of starting up my own knitting blog and have been unable to post photos so far as they all have my Oliver, whom I lost two weeks ago, in them.

    Mara, by the way, is lovely. I wish I had your colourwork skills.

  15. Aww Izzy!! You know Wendy, when Izzy died it was almost as if I had lost my own cat! I cried and cried all day! You and Izzy were my first visit every morning (when you used to post in the morning)for years!

    To Alisa: Sorry for your loss ๐Ÿ™ I lost my Jaxon a year ogo February and I posted about him for J in the ABC along…I’m still jolted when I see pics of him but it does get easier! Maybe start your blog with fresh pics until your wound has healed some!

    Mara is beautiful btw!

  16. I know how you feel about former cats. My beloved Ben just disappeared in ’90 and I still miss the little guy. The ‘new’ guy, Claude, isn’t the same. We found him at the shelter almost 11 years ago.

    The fern lace is perfect. With the swirly greens? Lovely. You could change your mind, but I rather hope you don’t.

    No no no, I’m not redoing my next in line fair isle. No matter how much you tempt me, it’s scheduled for Project Spectrum’s neutral month. That’s that and no gorgeous knitting of a Starmore design will sway me.

    Sort of. Maybe I’ll just do some little mittens until then. ๐Ÿ˜€

  17. I agree… find something you like and go for it. Inspiration is (at LEAST) half the battle. If you want something bad enough, you’ll learn any technique to get there, and usually, a badly written pattern is the only thing that can hold you back.

    In regards to the colors of yarn online, you’re own monitor (and how you’ve set it) influences how colors look at least as much as whether or not things look as they should. We recently got a mac notebook, with a much more sophisticated screen and display settings than our old computer. “Properly” color balanced, I think everything looks a bit too orange, but when I tried to adjust it so my blog looked the way I THOUGHT it did, everything trends a bit too far to the blue. Now I really don’t know which is closer to correct, or HOW to fix it so that it truly is just right. Oh… and I’m afraid my blog looks like crap (if the “properly” balanced setting on the mac is correct, then it definitely does), and I may have been messing the colors up on the pictures I post all along. *Sigh*

  18. UGH! Posting after 1 am doesn’ make for good editing of posts. I meant to say that your monitor’s settings made at least as much difference as how well the company did at putting up good photos.

  19. Mara is looking really good. I just started knitting a sock using your Generic Toe-up pattern in your book (reading the book at the same time) & loved the way the toe shapes up – really clever of you. One problem that I am having is the picking up of the 2 wraps & knitting or purling them together with the stitch. It’s really difficult – the only way that I can do it, is by picking up the 2 wraps & putting them back on the right needle & then knit or purl all 3 together. Is this right?

  20. I’ve just ordered the yarn from Jamieson & Smith for my first “real” fair isle project. It’s a vest from Traditional Knitting edited by Debbie Bliss. The no sleeves part of this project appealed to me as being less commitment for a first time project. I’m also using the exact yarn called for in the shades specified.

    Only time will tell if this is really a good first fair isle project.

  21. Izzy looks just like my dear Smokey (senior citizen at 16). He also loves my knitting but has arthritic paws and can’t get his claws out of it once he’s shown his love! Poor dear.
    I really loved your book! very entertaining, readable, and I’ve got a couple of patterns earmarked.

  22. 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…

  23. Wow! That’s qute a first fair isle project. I don’t know if I’d be that brave =)

    I like the lace pattern for the sock. I’ll be interested to see how stretchy and comfortable it is.

  24. There was a pattern in the Winter Interweave Knits called Fair Isle 101 that I did as my first fair isle. It just has a stripe of fair isle near the bottom, so it’s a nice introduction without feeling like you’re never going to get to the end of the hard/new part. I substituted yarn and did it in KnitPicks Merino Style on US 4 needles and it turned out quite well.

  25. First Fair Isle – why Wendy’s Fearless Fair Isle, of course! It’s taking me awhile because I’m also working on other projects, but I found your instructions very easy to follow and I’m even modifying it as a cardigan (one extra steek up the middle – no problem).

  26. Hi, for a first time Fair Isle project, I would suggest Nancy Shroyer’s “From Swatch to Blocking
    -An Adventure in Fair Isle Knitting – “. She walks you through the process of choosing colors, knitting a swatch, and knitting the vest. It’s a good way to try a smaller project, like a vest. My friends and I have knit one and her kits are a good price as well. She sells kits on her site here: You can also buy her book at and choose yarn from Knitpicks for the sweater.
    I’m loving the colors in the Fair Isle sweater you are knitting right now Wendy.

  27. So glad to hear that there are others (you at least) who also like large och boxy. I would very much like to knit the Jane Seymour from Tudor Roses and have googled far and wide, but there does not seem to be anyone who has made it, not to mention the sad fact that I seem to stand alone liking it… With all your knowledge and connections do you know of a blogger who has done this as I would like to get some more knowledge before attempting it alone.
    My very best to Lucy and you – notice the order of greetings:) so give her a nice stroke over the head.

  28. Do you have to increase or decrease stitches for lace patterns, i.e. fan & feather, for fit or just to accomodate the lace repeats?