More Fair Isle experiments

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. 0548-mothers-fairisle-reverseWhen 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.

0548-my-fairisle-reverseFor 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. 0556-circular-knitting-right-sideI 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. 0556-circular-knitting-reverseI 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. 0556-flat-knitting-right-sideand the reverse. 0556-flat-knitting-reverseIt 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.

Addendum

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.

 

Just add a Hat!

After I made the cowl, I decided to offer it to my daughter as I still have all the hats and scarves that have featured on this blog and much as I love the cowl, I wasn’t sure if I really needed it.

However, I also had about half the yarn left and thought that it would be fun to make a hat to match the cowl. My daughter said that she would like a hat as well so I only hope her head is the same size as mine! 0553-hat

Now when I say match, I wasn’t going to use the same fair isle patterns as the cowl except for the rib. Google is always good for ideas and I copied out some of my favourites.

Traditional fair isle patterns normally have vertical or horizontal symmetry or both but some of the designs on the cowl only have rotational symmetry so I wanted to incorporate some of those. 0548-chart-for-cowlI am very fond of the Greek Key pattern so I included that early on for the hat.

Although I worked on the design on my computer, I copied it out onto squared paper to use a guide.0553-new-pattern

In the event I decided not to use both of the blue zig-zag on green parts of the design and replaced the second with a smaller purple on green section. (I didn’t use the last red and green part at all.)

Now what have I learned in the process of making this hat? Well a couple of things!

Firstly

If you are planning on making a hat it is much easier if you start with a pattern.

I started with the idea that the cowl although it slipped over the head easily was quite snug so the same number of stitches would be a good place to start. I did use a smaller 3.75 (UK 10) circular needle for the rib but it was not until I had got fairly far on and was wondering if now was the time to start decreasing that I thought a pattern might help to make sure I got it right.

So I spent hours trawling through fair isle hat patterns on Ravelry only to find a whole variety of needle sizes and tensions even for DK yarn and a wide range of stitch counts and increasing and decreasing. None of them that fitted in with what I was doing!

I found a decreasing look that I liked in the photographs which involved: skip two stitches, knit one, pass both slipped stitches over.

However I did not like the look so much when I had knitted it so it had to come out. I had also chosen six decreases a round and since it seemed best to have one of these decreases mid back where the row changed, I didn’t like the slight point at the front.

Now life was so busy last week that I didn’t feel up to taking a photograph so you will have to imagine.

So I undid back to before the decreasing (more on this in a moment) and tried again.

This time I chose seven decreases a round – easy as 19 x 7 is only one more than 132.

But then came the moment of truth. The hat was going to be too big! 😦 I was a bit unhappy that I had to remove the purple and green bit that I had thought of as leaves and a sort of parallel to the leaf pattern in the cowl but it had to be done! So using the same method I had used before I decided I would have to reduce the length by a couple of inches.

Here is a quick photograph I took with my phone at Crafty Coffee on Friday when I was just beginning to pull out those two inches. 0553-ready-to-undoSince the method I used is something that worked well. I thought I would mention it for anyone who finds it helpful.

This is the second thing I learned

Risk free way of undoing several rows without doing it stitch by stitch.

I heard (reading US blogs I think) of people putting in ‘life lines’ when they were knitting in case they needed to undo part of it later. I wasn’t sure what they were but it gave me an idea.

I took a needle and a piece of thin string and carefully went under the front part of every stitch on the row I wanted to go back to. (I chose a row where I was only using one colour.) I counted the stitches to make sure I had the right number then took a circular needle and threaded it through the same stitches and counted again. I then felt confident enough to remove the original circular needle. Finally I removed the string. In the photograph you can see how it looked just before I removed the string. I then undid the rows and sure enough when that was done all the stitches were neatly on the needle ready for me to start knitting again.

I added in a couple of rows in blue and then decreased after a red row. Originally I had thought I would just use two or more of the colours as stripes for the top but then I realised that I needed to continue the fair isle patterns to make the top as thick (and warm!) as the rest. 0553-top-of-hat

This time I decreased by a combination of K2tog through back loops and a normal K2tog.

And here are the hat and cowl together. 0553-hat-and-cowl

I still have about a quarter of the wool left but I don’t think it would be enough for mittens!

The cowl is fnished

I am pleased to announce that I managed to finish off the cowl this last week. 0549-finished-cowlI have to admit that I haven’t finished the ends and I haven’t ironed it but I wanted to show it to you today.

Just a bit better ironed. But really pleased with it!

0549-ironed-cowl

I have learned a lot!

When I continued the cowl after last week’s post, I did allow myself to not catch the yarn even when doing three stitches as  a way to speed up the knitting.

However when I got to about half way, I started to read advice on how to knit these two colour patterns and found that there were a lot of differences which was confusing but, reading what it said in the needlework encyclopedia I inherited for my mother, I did manage to start knitting with one lot of yarn held in the right hand and the other in the left, whereby the yarn on the right is thrown and the yarn on the left is picked up. It was more of a strain on my wrist but I even managed to work out how to catch the yarn for longer runs without leaving the yarn twisted. Here is the back. 0549-wrong-sideI find that there is more than half the wool left and so making a hat to match might be in order but this leaves me with a dilemma.

Next time I would like to try knitting more traditional fair isle patterns but they normally have reflective symmetry horizontally or vertically or both whereas the patterns in the cowl mostly have rotational symmetry so a hat done like that might look non-matching even if the colours were the same.

However I am going to have a break from knitting now and so plenty of time to think about it.