theraineysisters knitting and so much more

April 18, 2007

From Sally — Quick Answers to Some Questions

Filed under: Knitting Tips,Widdicombe Fair — surly @ 1:37 pm

Toby asked a few questions in the comments to my last post, and I thought I would answer them here to make sure she saw the answers.

1. I have never knit Fair Isle, but given your comments I think that I might try one of these one day. Would you recommend a class or is it possible to learn Fair Isle from a book?

That’s a hard one. If you want to try to learn how to knit fair isle two-handed (holding one color in one hand and the other color in your other hand), then you might want a class. True confession time: that’s not how I knit fair isle. I never got comfortable doing it that way and didn’t feel like taking the time to practice. (Thank goodness there are no knitting police.) When I did try it, I found that my gauge wasn’t as consistent as I’d like. I know that practice would greatly improve that, but — well — then I’d have to be practicing instead of knitting. So I drop one color and pick up the next; I’ve gotten very fast at doing that. I keep the dark color always hanging to my right and the lighter color to my left. It’s just how I do it.

Anyway, back to your question. The only tricky parts are cutting and finishing the steek. You might be able to find someone to give you a private lesson on that if you can’t find a class.

2. Do you order the kit from Virtual Yarns or purchse the yarn from your LYS?
Is the yarn in the kit a wool that is soft enough for a baby? Is the pattern available separately from the kit?

You can’t purchase these blanket patterns separately; they are only available as a kit from Virtual Yarns. Although it’s not the softest yarn in the world, it is much softer than other fair isle yarns in my opinion, especially after having been washed (by hand of course). Moreover, if you used a different yarn, you’d probably have to do some sewing in order to keep the yarn from unraveling after you cut the steek.

3. One thing I wasn’t clear on is where there would be steeks in a straight piece of knitting. I’ve read about them. I thought steeks were normally inserted in a sweater where the piece was knit in the round. Is the blanket knit in the round and then cut?

Yes. The blanket is knit in the round and then cut. It fits nicely on a 24″ circular needle. As I said in my first post, I started with a provisional cast on. When I finish all of the repeats, I’ll leave the live stitches on the needle. Then I’ll cut the steek, pick up stitches along one side, pick up the stitches from the provisional cast on, and then pick up the stitches from the remaining side. The border is then knit in the round as well. There will have be a LOT of stitches on the needle, at that point but I’ve done this before and the border is slow but not difficult.


  1. From Susan — I knit my fair isle like Surly — I drop each color. I have done it two-handed, but prefer the way I do it. I am able to spread out the sts nicely to avoid puckering. There are a lot of small patterns (purses, hats, etc.) that are nice for trying fair isle.

    Comment by lv2knit — April 18, 2007 @ 2:49 pm

  2. I used to drop and pick up but once I learned two handed I’ve never looked back. I don’t work about tension while working, it all comes out in the wash.

    Comment by LaurieM — April 18, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  3. That’s interesting to know, Laurie.

    I’m too old to learn new techniques but the #2 question from folks who read my blog is how to get the same tension for both hands.

    Comment by Marina — April 18, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

  4. From Susan — it’s a conundrum all right. I knitted a Norwegian style baby sweater years ago and did it with two hands without thinking about it, without a single problem. The trouble I have with true shetland fair isle is the stickiness of the yarn.  It is harder to keep tension.  I wish I could rest assured that blocking will fix all ills, but I have seen fair isle that never did get there.

    Comment by lv2knit — April 18, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

  5. I don’t know why I never thought of knitting a fair isle baby blanket. What a perfect perfect project and gift. I’m now all excited about the prospect of creating one.

    Comment by Francesca (Stuntmother) — April 18, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  6. I think you can learn Fair Isle from a book (I did), or from the video that Ann and Eugene Bourgeois sell. There’s a short clip from it on their website (, which shows the two-handed method. For traditional fair isle, though, you can largely ignore their recommendation to weave in the other color on each and every stitch. I float for up to 1″ (usually 8 sts in Spindrift) without difficulty. The floats really do felt in after washing and wearing a while. BTW, thanks to Susan for your lovely comment on my Alcea–I’ve been an admirer of both of your work for a long while.

    Comment by Amy (Eyeknit) — April 19, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

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