Deep Space Knit

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Location: Vermont, United States

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tutorial: Woven Fair Isle

Somehow my endless enthusiasm for Fair Isle has been getting out and about >.>  <.<

So, for the knitters of White River, here's some (hopefully easy) instructions on how to weave while you knit.



Woven Fair Isle Tutorial

Note: I work this technique using the "two fisted" fair isle method: holding the main color in my right hand and the contrast color in my left, knitting with both at the same time.  I cannot recommend this technique enough.  
Heck, even Elizabeth Zimmerman advocated it... and who can argue with her?  

If you are  unfamiliar with this technique, I suggest the following steps to learn it:

1. if you do not know both continental and English style knitting get someone to show you whichever style you are unfamiliar with, and practice it.
2. cast on 80 stitches to a circular needle and do a gauge swatch of *K2 main color, K2 contrast color* repeating around until you feel comfortable using both hands at the same time.

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Why Weave?

Traditional stranded fair isle has you carry the unused yarn in the back of the work until it is time to knit with it again.  It works smoothly for section where colors change every few stitches, but does not carry well across floats.  A float is a section of knitting where one color is carried along the back for an extended period of time.  
     Most knitters agree that it is safe to carry (strand) your yarn behind the work for up to 5 stitches.  Many traditional patterns put a tiny stitch (called a peerie) into long expanses of a MC to prevent stranding for more than 5 stitches.
     This method of weaving lets you lock the unused color into the one you are using so there is no loose strands hanging behind your work.  It also allows you to work more than 5 stitches between color changes, and helps prevent bunching and tightening of the fair isle work.

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The General Idea

The concept of weaving the yarn in the back of the fair isle is simple.  The yarn that is not in use needs to twist over the one being used to knit.  If you were knitting fair isle with one hand (say all English style) you could pick up the yarn you were not using and twist it around the one you were knitting with, similar to starting an intarsia color change.  This method is clunky, frustrating and slow, however.  It tends to get your yarn all tangled up.

So weaving with both hands is a matter of taking the yarn not in use and moving it's position from the bottom to the top, back to the bottom, back to the top and so on.  This creates an interlocking twist in the back of your work.

~*~*~*~*~

So how do you do this?

1. choose which is your Main Color (MC) and which is your Contrast Color (CC).  I prefer knitting with my right hand and weaving with my left hand, so I choose the color which will have longer continuous blocks of knitting as my MC.

In the pictures the MC is Burgundy and the CC is orange

2. Hold the MC in your right hand.  Hold the CC in your left.

3. Knit in your pattern until you come to a float of 3 or more stitches.  (floats small that 3 stitches do not require weaving unless you are really anal about your knitting)

4. knit the first stitch of the float normally

5. You will weave the second stitch and every other stitch in the float.  This will mean that even even stitch will have a weave.   

To weave the CC into MC knitting:

put the needle in as if to knit.

lay the CC over the top of the needle (you are bringing the unused yarn from the bottom position to the top position)

Wrap the MC around the needle the exact same way you do when you are knitting normally.  The MC should slide underneath the CC

Knit the stitch, making sure to knit only the MC.  The CC should slide off of the needle, now in the top position

Knit your next stitch normally.  This places the CC back in the bottom position, effectivily weaving the two yarns together in the back.

6. Continue on, weaving every other stitch until you reach the end of your float and then knit normally.

To weave the MC into CC knitting

sooner or later it will happen that you will have a float where your main color is placed to the back, and your contrast color steps up.  This technique is slightly awkward (which is why I tend to judge which is the MC by length of floats rather than amount of color used) but effective.

In these pictures the MC is orange and the CC is burgundy (the opposite of the above photos!)

knit the first stitch normally

loop the MC around the needle loosely

loop the CC above the MC on the needle

Draw the MC over and around the CC (this brings the MC to the top position)

knit the stitch normally with the CC

Again you will weave every other stitch.

~*~*~*~*~

Any questions comments or concerns about this tutorial, feel free to comment or e-mail me

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this tutorial. It is great. I watched a video on youtube in german using this technique. Here is the link: http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&safe=off&rlz=1B3GGGL_enUS248US249&q=fair%20isle&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv#

6:51 AM  
Blogger tiffy tuffington said...

this is exactly the technique i was looking for! thanks so much. i'm making mittens with a design on the front and didn't know how to carry the yarn around. great great!

5:37 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

thank you for taking the time to explain this, all the written explanations make it sound simple but I just was not getting it. cheers

8:07 PM  
Blogger madonnaearth said...

Thank you: I'll be back to check that out again.

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Flutterguy said...

It looked a bit tricky in the photos, but I've got it figured out now! Thanks so much for this post!

9:38 PM  

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