Fair Isle

Hi all. i looked throught the forum and couldn’t really find an answer to my questions.

I know fair isle is mostly used for a pattern of color changes, but can it be used to knit pictures into a piece as well? for example, knitting a picture into the middle of a sweater or something along those lines. I’ve done some intarsia and i’m not too fond of it. I was hoping there is a way to make pictures with fair isle. But how is it done? Do you cast on with both colors? Fair Isle confuses me a bit…

Fair Isle and intarsia are two different techniques which give different effects. With Fair Isle, two or more colors are carried all the way across each row.
Working from a chart, you knit some stitches with one color, then hold that color behind the work while you knit with another color. This creates a thick, warm fabric because of the extra strands carried across the back. You can get some spectacular geometric effects with Fair Isle, but you can’t do pictures with it.

For that, you need intarsia, which uses individual strands, small balls or bobbins for each color block. You also work from a chart, but do not carry unused colors across the back. Instead, when you change colors, you twist one color around the other color to prevent holes from forming at the point of change.

Every good reference book has full directions for these two techniques, and there are videos on this site. (Look for "Knitting With Two Colors at One Time.)

Thanks! I heard… or i supose i was mis-informed- that intarsia and fair isle were somewhat interchangeable. And since working with all those strands of yarn is a little unruly, i thought it was possible to work fair isle for pictures. Thanks!!

There are times when you can mix the techniques a bit – such as when you are doing a picture knit with some very thin lines. Then it may make sense to strand a few stitches across the back. Sometimes you have to sort of make it up as you go along. There’s a good explanation of this in Sally Melville’s book, “The Knitting Experience:Color.” I don’t mind all the strands in intarsia. If you keep them no longer than 18" you can just comb out any tangles with your fingers. It seems easier to me than having a lot of bitty yarn balls or bobbins hanging off your knitting and getting inextricably scrumbled up with each other. What makes me nuts is all the ends to weave in. I try to weave as I go but am not very good about it.

Fair Isle is a great excuse for learning to knit both Continental and English style. You hold one color in the left hand, one in the right, and off you go. I find it great fun.

I guess i thought they could be interchangeable because in amy’s intarsia video she comments on the fact that she liked stranding better because there are no loose strands. this made me think you could use stranding to do pictures in the middle of a piece.

Nah, sorry.
I agree with Amy, though: I enjoy Fair Isle (more properly called stranding) more than intarsia. But sometimes intarsia is the only way to go. If you tried stranding many colors across every row of (for instance) a multicolored picture pattern on a solid background, you’d end up with an unholy mess of long floats across the back, not to mention a lumpy, misshapen fabric. The rewards can be well worth the trouble. Suggestion: Try a small sample of both and you’ll “get” the difference instantly.

Thanks! once i get up the nerve to do some stranding/fair isle… i’m sure it’ll all be clear to me. i think i want to practice my continental knitting first do i can double fist it!!!

This is absolutely right. If you look at the picture in my sig right now, the top and bottom of the heart was done fair isle and the center was done intarsia. For the top and bottom parts, I didn’t strand both colors all the way to the ends of the rows, nor did I have mulitple bobbins. I still call this fair isle, though, because I was stranding the unused color across the back. If someone has a better name for this, please tell me.

It is possible, I think, to make pictures to a certain extent using fair isle. I could have done that heart entirely in fair isle if I had wanted to. To keep from having ridiculously long floats,you would have to weave in the unused color at the back of the work every few stitches, at least every inch or so. It’s technically possible, I think, to carry along a color you weren’t going to use for many many rows without having floats of more than 4 stitches and without the unused color showing through, though I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that. Fair isle will make any extra warm and thick fabric that intarsia won’t because there will be two strands all/most of the time. This also means that it uses WAY more yarn than just doing intarsia would.

I understand the intarsia dislike. Even with just the middle part of that heart, having two brown balls on either side and a multicolored ball in the middle, I was annoyed. Fair isle has its annoyances, too, though.

Thanks! i think the more i do, the more i’ll understand the differences and the possibilities. i’ve made a skull and crossbones with intarsia and it was maddening. so many strands on bobbins trying not to get all tangled, then having to weave all the ends in. I figured if i could make pictures with stranding(fair isle) i’d rather do that as i wouldn’t have numerous bobbins or have to weave in.

hmmm… I don’t find intarsia annoying at all, I do it all the time, and I don’t really like Fair Isle that much, stay away from it as much as possible, bbllluurrgghh.

Although there are some lovely things made in Fair Isle that I guess I will have to do at some point, like it or not :doh:

I suppose it’s just a matter of practice. The more intarsia i do the less annoying i’ll probably find it. That first experience was trying though!! :slight_smile:

hmmm, i would have to say though, if your skull and cross bones were small i would have done it Fair Isle. I only use intarsia on large areas, so there isn’t tiny stitches to get tangled around each other, if you get me, they have some acreage between them…

The skull and cross bones was fairly large… probably about 20 stitches across at the widest point, so i think intarsia was the way to go with that one.