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Fair Isle Knitting

I have always admired Fair Isle knitting. It is a style of stranded colour work using two or more colours each row with a colour held in each hand whilst knitting. The unused yarn is carried across the back (called a float), this added layer creates a really nice thick fabric.

Traditional Fair Isle jumpers really became known thanks to the then Prince of Wales (who became King Edward) wearing one them in public 1921. A Fair Isle jumper involves the whole of the body of the jumper knitted in one tube. Stitching is then made around the arm hole, called steeks (Scottish for stitch or to close shut) you then cut open the arm hole through your beautifully knitted Fair Isle with the steeks holding it from unravelling. Stitches are then picked up for the arm and knitted down to the cuff in the round. Steeks are also used to cut open the front to make a tube into a cardigan. It is one of the most scary things I think you can do in knitting. When you think about all the time you’ve spent knitting this beautiful colour work only to then cut it open. It is something I am building up to. Maria Wallin is an amazing Fair Isle inspired designer (

Fair Isle itself is between Orkney and the Shetland Isles north of Scotland. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to Orkney courtesy my husband’s scuba diving and a detour from our tour of Scotland so he could dive a wreck site. It is a very long way away from Devon but stunning scenery.

I have done a spot of Fair Isle myself, using by Isabell Kraemer one of my favourite knit designers and was even brave enough to add extra pattern to the arms and bottom of the jumper.

Fair Isle is a beautiful technique, which with patience, is stunning. It's without doubt something I want to return to. Having got Maria Wallin's Shetland book there are lots of beautiful charts in there to create. In the meantime I designed a hat for the scuba diving husband using the Fair Isle technique with floats of yarn used over two colours If you’d like to see what others have done with the pattern here’s the link to it over on Ravelry where you can see their brilliant projects, I've also added a copy of the free pattern and chart below:

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