The Fair Isle, finalised.

(I originally entitled this post ‘the final Fair Isle’, and then I realised that made it sound as though I was never, ever going to knit another; who knows, that may well be the case, but let’s not make any rash assumptions.)

So, having been through all my Shetland shots and all the wool I bought in Jamieson’s wonderfully refurbished shop in Lerwick,

Colour matching

that’s this lot, I have made some decisions. At last… I know, I know, that doesn’t look much like wool but bear with me.

It’s been fiddly. For one thing, I  could have chose to approximate the colours in the original pattern (Orkney, by Rowan), but I didn’t because I didn’t particularly like them, and I wanted to echo Shetland colours anyway.

I sorted my colours into earthy, leafy, land-based tones:

earthy, woody tones

and the sometimes astonishing colours of the coast:

coastal colours

and, finally, the monochromes:


And I have managed to use all the colours I bought (happily the pattern uses 13 different ones, though I was prepared to rework that), and I’m pleased with what I’ve got. And I could have chosen a more trad pattern, one which used the same colour repeat on arms and body. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to play with tradition instead.

So the first step was to work out from the original pattern charts which colours were placed together in Rowan’s colour way (no image here, but boring lists do not an interesting photo make). Then I began sketching to see how my colours worked with each other – and that’s the chart at the start of the post. Then I got the actual wool out to check that they worked in reality in much the same way as they had on paper, and they did.

My work on listing all the colours had thrown up one break with tradition that I wasn’t happy with, however. It’s an accepted convention that there are only two colours to a row in Fair Isle knitting, and I think that’s ‘accepted’ for a reason: more colours mean much more bulk. There was one band of pattern which used three, and which also carried the colours across a large number of stitches (another complication I felt I could live with out – yes, I’d be weaving them in, but that would just add even more bulk to something already bulkier than the rest). So I decided to find an alternative pattern.

The pencil sketch on the left-hand page is the original, the others are possibilities:

notebook 2

I went into my stitch library – various old books on Fair Isles – and found several compatible and comparable patterns which also ran across 9 rows and 16 stitches. The middle one on the right-hand page above was quite like the one I was replacing, and because it runs over the same number of rows and stitches, it will be quite straightforward to substitute. I won’t need to mess with the shaping provided I start it in the same position.

Then came the really fun bit – working out the colours for the new panel:


That’s them, done. Due to the rather funky variation in colour between sleeves and body I had to do this twice, but I am happy with what I’ve finally got. The sleeve pattern, in the original, is brighter and so will mine be; plus, I love the Jamieson’s colour ‘ruby’, and my new pattern will give it extra prominence on the body. And I won’t have that extra bulk just where I don’t need it – I forgot to add that this thicker panel would have come right across the boobage.

Now I can knit my tension square – and I’m going to do it using the new pattern. Just to see if I’ve got it right…

(You’re probably thinking that I’ve lost my mind, and wondering why I can’t just knit a pattern as given. I don’t know, but I’m not good at doing that; it’s part of the reason why I knit. And I know that this will be truly original – there’ll never be another. Possibly because no-one else would be so daft. Which reminds me, one of my fellow attendees at a Fibre and Fabric Fair this weekend just posted a comment – that adding ‘and shit’ to a phrase like ‘I do crochet’ makes it sound so much more, er, street. So I do Fair Isle and shit, right?)


14 thoughts on “The Fair Isle, finalised.

  1. nanacathy2

    But of course! I am so impressed and can’t wait to see this amazing creation. I didn’t know that about only two colours in a row. The only fairisle jumper I made did have three colours and blooming hard it was too.

    1. kate Post author

      I’ve done the three colours and it really is a pain in the neck (not to mention the hands), isn’t it? Two it is!

  2. sawp2013

    Fascinating as ever, and yes I can’t follow patterns (or recipes) either. ;p On the three-colours-in-a-row thing, I had two thoughts. 1. I carry one colour on one hand and one on the other, I’ve never worked out how I would cope with three without megatangles. but 2. I could see why one might want thicker across the nipples, having lived now with Cumbrian winds for a few years :0

    1. kate Post author

      Hah hah ha!

      I never thought of that. Perhaps they function as a sort of modesty panel (though it’s difficult to see how that theory could be applied to the sequence on the upper arms, unless you had a very strange fetish. Or extra nipples…)

  3. spinningsheepfeathers

    Anxious to see your progress and finished sweater!! The colors and your drawings are
    So pretty!

    1. kate Post author

      I wouldn’t hold your breath – I am now a rather slow Fair Isler, but it will get done. Hopefully before next spring!

  4. Lydia

    Wow! What a privilege to read your notes and variations on a theme…. I think your Fair Isle project will be exquisite and yes, as you say, truly unique. I never totally follow a pattern either for various reasons – often using it as a point to step off along a different path. I love your little graphs – an inspiring read for which a big thank you – and – I am greatly looking forward to some progress updates over the coming months…

    1. kate Post author

      I’m sure there are as many of us ‘non-pattern-followers’ out there as there are people who not only follow a pattern carefully, but who also like to knit t in the colour/s shown in the pattern image – just two extremes of a long thread.

      I’m looking forward to progress too! Currently I’m in a local craft pop-up and I’m running / knitting hard just to keep up – cowls are flying out, which is probably a tribute to our lovely (heavily ironic) summer over here.


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