Adding stretch to Fair Isle?

I love Fair Isle, and I love knitting socks. Trouble is, the two don’t play well together because Fair Isle is far less stretchy than stockinette. So the socks look pretty but are hard to get over the heel. Is there a way to add some stretch to a knit stitch? I know there are cast-ons that are stretchy by virtue of some added wrapping or twisting; the extra yarn used builds in some stretch. Is there a similar trick for a knit stitch? If there were, you could incorporate it in stranded color work. :think:

I think I’ve heard that increasing stitches or bigger needles for that part would help. May not always work withthe pattern to increase though. Hmmm… Also e careful not to make the floats too tight.

The thing is, I already did all that, and it wasn’t enough. So now I’m looking for a different approach.

It sometimes helps to do your fair-isle work in the round, INSIDE OUT. This way, the right side of your fabric will always be on the inside of the circle, naturally causing that side to be tighter, and the floats will naturally stretch out a bit more. A lot of fair-isle knitters use this trick.

Inside-out Fair Isle. Makes sense. Good idea. I’ll have to give it a go myself. Thanks for tip, Shandeh.

I’ve got some cotton & elastic thread and was wondering how it would work for FI knitting.

I’ve never tried using elastic stretchy yarns in fair-isle. Not sure if it will be good or not. Give it a try, and let us know!

I learned Fair Isle from Nancy Schroyer. She taught a class at SAFF, and was just amazing! She owns Nancy’s Knit Knacks.

She recommended using yarn in a DK or finer weight, because anything thicker than that usually makes the finished item too heavy and thick to wear comfortably. No mention of anything besides wool, so we are on our own trying different fibers.

Right now I’ve only got black in the cotton-elastic yarn but when I get another color I think I will try it. If I do, I’ll post something about it somewhere…assuming I remember to do it. I’ve been practicing with cotton yarn, thin for worsted but I’m not sure it would be dk and it works just fine. Stretchier might distort the pattern. :shrug:

Yeah, I think stretchiness will distort the design. But, sometimes I think something won’t work, and then when I try it, it works just fine! Experience is the best way to find out.

Thanks. I’m going to try that on the next pair. My floats look nice and loose (i.e., they actually float) already, but it won’t hurt to try it inside out. For socks, I think what might do the trick (if that doesn’t), and which I’ve heard another sock knitter recommend, is to increase about 10 sts along the way to the ankle hinge, then decrease once you don’t need them any more.

As for which fibers to use for Fair Isle socks, I would steer clear of 100% cotton, linen, or silk, because they don’t stretch. And I probably wouldn’t use alpaca unless you’re going for extremely warm socks. So far, I’ve just used 100% wool and then added woolly nylon in the toe and heel to reinforce the areas I tend to wear out.

I don’t think it’s going to happen with Fair Isle. I did do a hat with it, but I made it a little bigger than normal because it didn’t stretch. I did see a slipper pattern in a sock book using Fair Isle. It was knit with all wool and then felted. The slippers looked like boots with a zipper on the front. I’ve seen other patterns like the loafer type father’s slippers from the 50’s. Here’s a no pattern tutorial for mittens. Fair Isle is supposed to make them warmer for cold climates. Also, my Fair Isle hat.

Oh, that hat worked out beautivully! Very well done and warm looking too. That double layer of yarn certainly does make Fair Isle items retain heat.

How’s the ribbing on the hat done?

It’s just a k1, p1 ribbing but alternate the colors. The yarn is variegated so it looks more complicated than it really is. I used a white Caron One Pound yarn and a smaller Caron worsted weight called Jetstream. They have a special 10 oz line that’s supposed to match every no dye lot Caron One Pound color. I also knit and sewed a small pocket for the inside of the hat to keep my bus pass dry when it rains or snows. If the passes get wet, they get stuck in the machine. The pocket keeps it dry but handy so you’re not hunting for it when the bus arrives.

I’d never have thought of a bus pass pocket, excellent! It does look complicated. Thanks for the explanation.

Here’s a hint for Fair Isle to keep it the right tension and not too tight or loose. I hold my yarn in my left hand Continental style. I usually only do two strands at a time but it would work with more. I hold both strands in my left hand. I use the tip of the needle to “pick” the strand in front. I then rotate my hand toward me and “pick” the second strand. I alternate the two hand movements. This twists the two strands around each other anchoring them in place. The back of the work looks nice and neat with nothing to get snagged on.