Last year, one of my creative goals was to finally learn how to knit Fairisle knitting patterns. I have lusted over beautiful designs and patterns for a few years now, and have been put off by rumours of tangled threads, bad colour choices making the design not work and tension issues. Basically all my knitting nightmares tied up in one project! So to get round this I would just dye really lovely multi coloured yarns and get beautiful projects that way. I saved a few patterns and filed them under ‘one day’. But then, at the end of 2018 I saw a beautiful Fairisle headband in a shop, and realised I could knit one exactly how I wanted, and decided that I wouldn’t be afraid any more! The head band seemed like a really great starter project as it wasn’t that big that it would take a long time, it didn’t have the risk factor of a jumper or a garment with sizing and it felt achievable. Best of all, it was such a small project that I could do it with scraps and tiny bits of yarn I already had so could get started straight away. So I dived right in and along the way learnt so many things I wanted to pass on to any other knitters who want to try Fairisle but don’t feel confident enough to.
I knew that I wanted to make a headband so I started on Ravelry, narrowing the search to knitted headbands with stranded colourwork. You can link to that search here if you’d like to have a look at the results. I wanted something that was quite quick to knit up and I had plenty of DK scraps in my favourite merino/nylon base ( this one) so I tried to focus in on headbands in that weight that would work for semi solids – if you have scraps in a certain weight this is a good way to use them up. There were some amazing patterns using gradient yarns that I have saved for next time! I didn’t have a preference for paid or free, as I really believe that paying for pattern not only support other creatives in their work, but also usually means a better quality product that makes the pattern easier to follow. As it turned out the one I liked was free, and came with great instructions and a chart too. I went for this one, the Snow-De-Lis by Beth Lutz
Now, pattern found I had to learn how to knit fairisle! I tend to take the ‘ get started and work it out as you go’ approach and this pattern is great for that as you start with a couple of rounds of ribbing, before you need to think about any colourwork at all. Once I got to that section I watched some you tube videos and read some blog posts to help me figure out how to hold the yarn, catch the floats and generally keep it all nice. Before I knew it a pattern was building up and I found I could remember the colour pattern for each row quite easily. As the whole headband is only 25 rows, including the first and last 5 rows of ribbing , it really did come together so quickly. Mid way through I took some time to get used to knitting with one colour in the left hand and one in the right, and certainly knowing how to knit continental helped out with this for sure. I cast off and was ready to block in just a few days, and I had used scraps of yarn from left over projects. My first Fairisle project – finished! I was pretty pleased with the stitch definition after blocking ( the Sprightly yarn is great for that!) and also the colours I chose, but next time I think I would stick to two colours for a first project as the third colour pulled the tension a bit in the middle and its tighter round the middle than the edges. Something to work on for next time! Of course now I am addicted and just want to knit ALL the fairisle, I have started a Pinterest board with so many lovely patterns, you can find it here.
Top resources for learning how to knit fairisle
Here’s the resources I used to learn from, and a few tips I picked up. I absolutely love Tin Can Knits tutorials so I started with their tutorial for how to knit fairisle. It covers the basics and some top tips, but I still felt like I needed to see it in action, and learn more about floats and how to catch them, so I turned to You Tube for some videos to demonstrate. I also needed to see how to catch the floats and this took me a little bit of figuring out, but the videos really helped with this.
- Tin Can Knits How to Knit Fairisle tutorial
- Another tutorial with great pictures that is full of good techniques and tips
- You Tube video that is great for beginners showing how to knit colourwork
- Another Youtube video great for beginners, to show you basic techniques
- There are some great tips again from Tin Can Knits on how to chose good colours for your project
- If you have never followed a knitting chart before, don’t be put off – this explains it
- To learn how to catch the floats at the back of the work, I used this video which is really clear
- All my favourite patterns and tutorials are on this board on Pinterest
Top Tips I learnt from my first Fairisle project
- Knowing how to knit continental really helps so if you already know how to do this, you’ll find Fairisle a breeze!
- Try to keep strands really loose at the back of your work so the knitting stays stretchy and even
- To help with tension, make sure that your stitches on your right-hand needle are always spread out and don’t become bunched-up.
- Stick with just two colours to begin with, and save more colours for later projects.
- Choosing good needles always help – I use these, and love them.
- When you get stuck, just ask for help as there are loads of great videos to show you what to do
- Go for it! It really isn’t that tricky and the results are worth it – it opens up a whole new world of patterns!
Things I love about Fairisle knitting
- The finished project is double stranded so its really cosy and warm, as its twice the thickness of normal.
- You can use up all your yarn scraps to add colour and interest, making it a great zero -waste knitting project.
- In traditional patterns the repeats are symmetrical so its really easy to remember the colours
- Concentrating on the colours and waiting for the pattern to emerge makes me want to knit faster!
- The patterns look really tricky but actually once you learn how to hold the yarn its super easy – so you can impress people with your knitting skills!
- You use a chart for knitting but as its usually only stockinette stitch its really easy to follow so you feel like a knitting pro for using a chart as well!
I would love to hear if you have tried Fairisle and what you have made, or if you have any lovely patterns to share, let me know!
Why not pin this image to come back to when you need some more ideas for your Fairisle projects