Fair Isle Explorations

It’s been a week of knitting exploration for me. I mentioned two weeks ago that I signed up for my first ever sock knitting competition. Although the competition officially starts on July 15th, the bonus “warm-up” pattern was released upon signing up. It was a stranded colour-work pattern. Something I had not done before.

Since signing up I was motivated to complete the two pairs of socks that I had on needles. I finished them both and then proceeded to take on the warm-up pattern.

Here is a photo of the completed “Gimli” socks that I showed you two weeks ago.

I loved making these socks. The pattern was challenging; even more challenging because I chose to knit them in black yarn. I swear that black yarn truly sucks all the light from the room like Albus Dumbledore’s “deluminator”. If you don’t have excellent light your chances of messing up increase exponentially. Of course, the sense of accomplishment is fantastic completing something so challenging. These were a gift for my son and have since been sent off to him.

The other pair that I finished was Hermione’s Everyday Socks. If I do this pattern again, I will cast it on 8 stitches smaller than the size I usually do. There is not a lot of stretch in the pattern and they ended up bigger than I expected. They feel a bit like slipper socks on me. They were easy to do and I love the heel on them.

The warm-up bonus pattern for the sock competition is a secret to all but those participating in the Tour-de-Sock competition.

Because of this, I will not give the name or show any photographs of the sock or links to the pattern until after the competition completes in September.

I was excited to get the chance to do some colour-work without the pressure of competition. The last time I attempted colour-work was about 27 years ago so I thought I would do some research before I got started.

I’m so grateful for YouTube!

I found the following videos very helpful. The first link is to a playlist of videos about Fair Isle Knitting. It was definitely worth taking the time to watch numerous videos to take in the tips and get an overview of what to watch out for.

 

 

I learned a lot making this pair of socks.

Normally I like to knit socks two at a time (2aat). Because this was a new technique to me, I thought I would work one sock at a time to minimize any confusion. In future I will definitely knit them 2aat.

Adjusting the tension on the colour-work is a bit tricky. The floats (strands of yarn that span more than one stitch on the wrong side of the work) need to be kept loose enough and at an even tension so that they don’t make the sock too tight or inconsistent. On the first sock, because this technique was new to me, my tension was quite controlled (snug). It was loose enough that the fit was good and I managed to keep it even by tugging my row every 15 stitches or so to make sure it wasn’t too tight. The contrasting stitches didn’t show up quite as well with this snugger tension though.

The pattern recommended changing to larger needles for the colour-work section and I didn’t listen. So I guessed at loosening the tension and it shows in the second sock. By the time I did the second one I was much more relaxed and when I loosened my tension for those sections, I actually loosened it more than on the first. The contrasting stitches show up really nicely on the second one but the sock ended up a bit larger. I would definitely knit 2aat and change the needle size for the Fair Isle portions on future patterns that use this technique.

All that said, I’m very happy with how they turned out.

Fair Isle knitting (stranded colour-work) can be done holding the yarns in a few different ways. You can hold your main colour with whichever hand is normally your dominant knitting hand (left for continental and right for English) and the contrasting colour in your non-dominant knitting hand. You can also hold both yarns in your left as a continental knitter. I thought I would push myself to develop my muscle memory for English style knitting. I normally knit continental style and working one yarn in Continental and one in English style was definitely something to get used to. I did find that by the end of the first sock it was going fairly smoothly. Once I got kind of comfortable with it, the knitting actually went quicker than I expected.

It was definitely important to keep track of my rows. At each section of the pattern I drew two rows of little boxes to represent the number of rounds needed. I checked off the boxes as I completed each round. This way when I got to the second sock there was no confusion about how many rounds were in each section.

I am excited to try another project with a Fair Isle design so that I can fine tune these new skills. Perhaps I need to design a Fair Isle inspired hair band? Hmmm there’s a thought.

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