Because yes, the cowl and hat were in their own way experiments in knitting fair isle.
Now, looking back, I don’t think that my parents were very good teachers, though I learnt a lot by watching them. However my mother knitted too fast for me to learn much by watching and so fair isle knitting was a matter of picking up that you used two colours for a row and twisted them together every so often so you didn’t have long hanging strands but also twisted them back the other way so the yarns didn’t get tangled plus seeing the back of my mother’s fair isle.
As in this photograph. When I tried, even years later when I was an adult and was desperate to learn, what tended to happen was that the stitches were very uneven and the foreground colour tended to pull. As well, I could never sort out a method of twisting the yarn that I could remember, so at the end of the row the yarns were wound round each other many times.
For the cowl and hat I let myself have strands across the back for one to three stitches and so there wasn’t the same pulling.
Deciding to put the balls of yarn, one on the right and one on the left helped to remember which was which and I soon started to think of the one on the right as the ‘top’ yarn and the one on the left as the ‘lower’ yarn.
Having later read about fair isle on line I found that this was a distinction that was made.
And thus I learnt to twist the top yarn ‘under’ the other and then on the following stitch to pull it over again and so lose the twist. Doing the opposite for the lower yarn.
Now it was time to see if I could knit fair isle like my mother
In THIS POST I talk about how I was using the English way of knitting for the right hand yarn and the continental for the left, although picking up the yarn continental fashion hurt my wrist.
But now I decided to hold both yarns in my right hand, holding the yarn with three fingers while the forefinger separated the two yarns and the thumb helped with the twisting.
I started with a circular needle as then every row would be knit. I used the checkerboard pattern my mother had used for the knitting bag and some of the patterns from my plan for the hat, including the one I didn’t use. The reverse looks like this. I was pleased that it looked as if I had finally cracked it! So I decided to undo my sample and knit up some more fair isle with straight needles. and the reverse. It took me a while to feel comfortable with the purl rows. In the end I decided that treating the right hand yarn as if it was the lower yarn for the purl side and vice versa seemed the most natural.
All I need now is a reason to knit something which requires fair isle knitting! Plain colours next time though so that the patterns show more clearly.
For anyone who like me finds the instruction of twisting yarn for fair isle that merely says twist clockwise and then twist in the opposite direction is not helpful enough here is what I do.
When I am using the left hand ‘lower’ yarn and wanting to make a twist, I pull a loop of the yarn back towards me under the other (right hand – top yarn) and use this yarn to wind round the needle, thus moving it above the other. For the next stitch I pull the main part of the yarn and knit with that. Restoring the status quo.
When knitting with the right hand ‘top’ yarn I pull a loop forward under the other yarn and knit with that, then pull the main yarn up and over and knit as normal. This removes any twist.
This way you undo the twist as soon as you make it and so never have to remember what you did last time.
If you want to twist frequently like my mother used to do this is the way I think of it.
If all you are doing is knitting one stitch of a colour in a sequence, you knit as normal. If you are knitting two stitches you knit the one after the other as described above. For three or more stitches: if it is an even number you simply work every two stitches as above. For odd numbers work the first stitch as normal that the rest of the stitches as for an even number.