Another old blog draft from 2011. I should state up front that I haven't followed through on those plans yet. But I will. Fair Isle colourwork is too beautiful to not do.
I bought this book a while ago with a plan in mind:
Since then I bought a hellofalot of different colours in Jamieson Spindrift. Think reds and pinks, think blue and greens, think some greys and a bit of dark brown and black too. Gorgeous!
I must admit that I bought lots of them from what they looked like on the screen (never a very good idea - of course I ended up with a couple of surprises. Shades I will be passing on to someone who can give them a good home). Then I realised that the shade card is back in stock and the whole process could have been a touch easier. So I bought that one too, and then of course I had to fill the gaps of those colours that had hidden behind less than well-matched shade graphics. I've got about 20 odd balls of yarn.
Plenty to design a pattern with!
I didn't want to start from scratch and this book is terrific because there are lots of patterns in there that can be used for Fair Isle knitting. The vast majority of those are written as black dots on a white background. Very good for counting out and not so helpful if you would prefer to see how different colour combinations will look like. There are a handful of examples in there.
Patterns for Fair Isle knitting tends to make strips of colour (the top half of the book cover shows this variation*), often this will be two strips that are quite different from each other (I will do one in reds and pinks and the other one in blues and greys, mixing in the greys where needed). Some of the time you have a third strip that's much thinner and gets placed between each of the coloured strips, also in a pattern but usually in very neutral colours with a minimal pattern, often just a cross or a star shape.
The coloured strips will incorporate patterns that repeat from right to left. These are usually symetric so you would only need to design and draw up a quarter of the pattern because it will be mirrored both across and up. If that makes sense.
Even though a Fair Isle pattern may look like a lot of different colours are used at one time, it is actually only ever two at a time. If you use a star shape then the star itself would be one colour and the background the second colour. But Fair Isle lives from shaded colours: the very simplest form of Fair Isle would be colourwork of say a pink star on a grey background. But in these patterns you use two colour for anything between one and two or three rows and then you switch to two different colours.
You have to decide whether you want more emphasis to the centre of the patterned strip or more focus on the edges of the strip. So say you start with a dark red for the star and a dark grey for the background. You would knit in pattern for two rows and then switch to say a dark pink and a mid grey, also for two rows. You could then have a third set of two rows in say light pink on a different shade grey. The middle row of the strip needs another two colours and then you repeat the colour choice from the lower half but mirrored. Starting with the light pink/grey combo, you then do the dark pink/mid grey colours and back to the dark red and dark grey.
That in a nutshell is how Fair Isle works. At least as far as I can figure out. And it's my plan for how to pick my colours, I've got plenty to choose from!
*: the bottom half of the book cover shows another variation of how colours can be applied in Fair Isle knitting. The effect isn't so much stripes but a more even cover of pattern across the available space. I will try this in a future project but right now I want to go with the stripes idea.
I am planning on knitting up a sample of my bigger stripe (in red/pink and grey) and where a single colour does not look so great, I might just embroider another colour over the top to see how those colours go together. Same with the second, slightly less tall stripe in blue and green (and some brown and black). I do wonder if I should put a very thin stripe of something suitably neutral so I don't end up with a jumper that's too bright and busy. Maybe something that's just five rows tall? My swatches should be very helpful.
I can't wait to get started! Only... I have too many other unfinished projects and it would be so very nice to finish at least one of those.
Wish me luck.