Fair Isle Knitting
Fair Isle charts are a wonderful source of ideas, This needlepoint instruction shows you just how easy it is to do.
I have long been a fan of Fair Isle knitting (it must be the inner preppy coming out). So a couple of years ago when I saw a couturier sweater in Fair Isle patterns in the bright colors, I ripped it out of the magazine and vowed it would become a needlepoint someday. I finally did it, as you can see.
Looking for Fair Isle Knitting Patterns on the Internet found me mostly ones which were not charted. You want to find ones which are. The charts, a free one is further down the page, look like cross stitch charts with the symbols in the grid squares. The needlepoint instruction to make them couldn’t be easier, just stitch them over the intersections.
In this type of knitting the background is one color and the motifs another, as you can see from this picture of another Fair Isle project I made, although the color used for the motif can change row by row. Far less common is Fair Isle with more than two colors in a row, although my inspiration sweater did that.
One cool way to adapt Fair Isle to needlepoint is to use an overdyed thread for the background, especially one which has shades of the same color. This adds a nice layer of texture similar to knitting with hand-dyed yarns. The solid colored motifs stand out nicely against it.
Here’s the chart for the piece with the red background above. To make it easier to see, I kept the background blank. The motifs are repeated on top and bottom with the blue motif as the center. Because these motifs are narrow, I made them all one color.
Fair Isle and related techniques are considered advanced knitting techniques because you are knitting with multiple colors in the same row. But for needlepoint, it is an easy technique.
There are lots of books of Fair Isle techniques out there. Some I like include this Dover book, Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, and a classic book of sweaters from the early 80’s called Fair Isle Knitting.
Fair Isle is one of a number of knitting traditions which use graphic elements in horizontal stripes to make sweaters. The Fair Isles are off the coast of Scotland, but there are similar traditions in Scandinavia, see them in a book called Traditional Scandinavian Knitting, and Latvian (Latvian Mittens is a book to look for here). Similar geometric motifs occur in many other kinds of embroidered folk art.
The patterns I used were taken from Fabulous Fair Isle (now out of print, but available used).
This needlepoint instruction in adaptation is so fun and so easy to do, I’ve been thinking about making more ever since I finished. Now I’m ready to make some Christmas ornaments this way — I’ll add the results to a gallery here.