I had some of this Jamieson and Smith 25g jumper weight rolling around in the back of my stash just waiting for this Fair Isle bug to bite. At that point I knew just enough to be dangerous but I at least knew this was traditional Fair Isle wool. I ordered a couple more colors from Schoolhouse and started looking at hat patterns. There were some colors I wanted to use but only had one ball of, and all the patterns I could find called for more than one ball of any given yarn. That was the light bulb moment. Most light bulbs come in the form of a question, at least they do for me. Can I make an adult size hat that would fit on my big head from only two balls of this wool? I knew it wasn’t going to be slouchy, I knew it wouldn’t have a brim, but could I make something that would fit and keep me warm with only two of these small balls of wool?
Turns out you can. That was the first. There would be many that followed.
And it turns out they keep you very warm. I ended up with something that was very light weight (less than 50g) but because of the wool and the Fair Isle these turned out to keep me surprisingly warm. Turns out they also knit up super fast and they’re a great way to try out different Fair Isle designs. See that one on the bottom? I wasn’t quite following rule number 1 there (value matters more than color). I experimented with different motifs and length of motifs and how those designs factored into the crown. I didn’t want to get lazy with the crown and change to something that would be easy to decrease. And all this time I was battling with how long can I make the hat and still only use two balls of wool. I think that second hat, the teal on teal, pushed the limits the furthest. Somewhere around hat three or four I thought, maybe I should make this into a pattern. I threw in a third and even fourth color, which meant I made far more than was necessary to answer the original question, but I did end up with this:
Which I think works.
The pattern can be made with only two 25g balls of fingering weight, or more if you prefer.
Pattern published here: Gangbit
Somewhere along the line I thought, hey I kind of like this Fair Isle thing, maybe I should make a sweater. I like the Elizabeth Zimmermann method of instead of swatching for a sweater, make a hat instead. At this point I had many swatches, knew my gauge, and had even worn a couple of the hats for a period of time, so I knew how the fabric behaved after being stretched and worn.
Lession 3: Don’t swatch, make a hat, and maybe even make a hat pattern.
Next came the Egyptian Mittens. This was one of those patterns I saw while searching around two color patterns and just had to knit them. It’s just a great look. I used some of the modifications done by others and used the same pattern within the diamond just changed the direction. In the process of working on this pattern I ended up re-charting the pattern in Illustrator just for my own sanity. I thought the chart might be helpful so I contacted the designer and asked if she wanted the alternate chart since it was a free pattern. She was super nice and added my chart to the pattern PDF. You can find it here
For some reason colorwork seems to go quickly for me. I think it holds my interest. I want to see what the next pattern repeat will look like so I’ll do a few more rounds than I would before giving up. These turned out well, but almost too big. I have huge hands, so I went up in yarn gauge hoping the ladies medium would turn into a men’s XL and I got pretty close. I think as I use them and as they get wet and a little felted they will end up fitting me just right. I whipped these out in just over a week, although I did have the Thanksgiving break to help with some free time. I used the Wendy Guernsey 5 ply yarn which is already a beefy yarn and knit into colorwork on 3mm needles it’s practically bulletproof. These got a little bit of use last winter, they were very warm.
Lesson 2 in Fair Isle: Colorwork keeps it interesting.
I’ve started many blogs. Crafted just the right name that isn’t already used. Deliberated over the theme. Like setting up a perfect work space ready to be filled with ideas. In the same way I collect blank notebooks. I have mounds of perfect notebooks with high quality paper hand crafted with attention to detail. Some were quite expensive. Some are from Europe which means they are slightly different in size than what we get here making them even more special. The only problem is nothing ever feels important enough to fill them with, so they sit blank. In the same way I never quite know how to start a blog. For some reason I think if I get the thing up and running I can make it into a habit, but I’ve never been able to do it.
This is my attempt at forcing this thing into a habit. Who starts a blog in 2017? I might as well start a podcast while I’m at it and wait five years to put a daily vlog on YouTube. But I have started knitting again with a real passion, and it hasn’t showed signs of slowing yet, and I would like a record of my thoughts as I learn new techniques and ideas. This, hopefully, will be that record.
I’ve been knitting almost exclusively Fair Isle since I started back up and I started writing just one post of all the things I’ve worked on over the last nine months or so and it became so long I thought maybe it would be better to break it up into projects, or hopefully more interestingly, lessons I’ve learned along the way.
It all started with a pair of socks. I saw this pattern in Interweave and had one of those ‘I have to make this right now’ moments. They weren’t even in my size, I still wanted to make them. The pattern was written for six or seven colors of sock yarn, so I went looking. I picked colors that I thought were close from the LYS and started knitting. I’ve done stranded knitting before and have figured out what method is quick for me and after changing colors just a couple times I realized the colors were all the same saturation. There was no background or foreground. Everything was the same value even though they were different colors, which meant it looked like mud. I ended up going back and only using two colors that had some contrast.
Lesson 1 in Fair Isle: Squint, color doesn’t matter as much as value. Think of an oil painting up close.