Fair Isle Knitting / Stranded Knitting

Stranded knitting

Fair Isle Knitting, or stranded knitting, is knitting with two or more colors in the same row. The colors that are not being worked are carried loosely along the back of the work creating ‘floats’.

Stranded knitting

Traditional Fair Isle designs are very small and the colors change frequently so there are never very long floats. If you knit up a design where the unused color has to span more than 5 stitches, you will need to catch the loop into a center stitch or two to keep the floats short. This is called ‘weaving in’. This process is also shown in the video below.

When stranding or weaving in there may be a tendency for the unworked color to pull the fabric in a little more tightly than the knitting should be. This will cause puckering and the piece of knitting will not lie flat. To avoid this from happening, keep spreading the stitches out along the needle to maintain the correct tension.

To keep your floats neat and tidy and prevent lumps or colors from getting twisted and tangled, it is important to always lie one color over the other on the reverse of the work.

Because you are only using two or three colors in any single row you do not need to wind off short lengths of yarn, just work straight from the balls.

As you work, remember to turn the work in opposite directions to avoid tangling the yarns. For example, always turn the work in a clockwise direction at the end of a knit row and in an anticlockwise direction at the end of a purl row.

Fair isle knitting pattern example
Fair isle knitting are often repeating designs with only two different colors per row.

You will also need to carry all colors to the ends of every row by catching the unused yarn into the last stitch. If you don’t do this, the fabric will be thinner at the edges and there will be a tendency to holes where the yarn pulls back in the other direction on the next row.

As you knit, always pick up the main color over the second color while you should always pick up the second from below the main color. This will keep the floats lying correctly and avoid tangles.

Fair Isle knitting patterns are always charted and the charts are read from the bottom right-hand corner with knit rows read from right to left and purl rows read from left to right.

Fair Isle Knitting How To Video

The video below Rokolee DIY gives a great introduction into Fair Isle Knitting for beginners. It tends to get super detailed but gives a great introduction to stranded knitting. You can just skip parts of the video, if you are already familiar with some of the techniques.

Fair Isle Knitting / Stranded Knitting
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