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How to Knit Fair Isle Patterns
Article by KarensVariety.com

Fair Isle knitting, also known as Norwegian knitting, is a knit design worked in stocking stitch using different colours of yarn. Instructions are given for knitting with a sample pattern for practise.

The instructions can be written but are usually given in a chart. Each square in the chart represents one stitch. The design can be charted by colour or by different symbols.

Fair isle knitting can be done on two or four needles, or a circular needle.

Fair Isle on Two Needles:

Knit rows are the right side of the work and are odd numbered. Purl rows are the wrong side of the work and are even numbered. When beginning your knitting, after you cast on the number of required stitches, you read the purl row on the chart from left to right. The knit rows on the chart are read from right to left.

Knit Rows right side of work read chart from right to left
Purl Rows wrong side of work read chart from left to right

Fair Isle on Four Needles or Circular Needle:

Every row on your chart is a knit row and each row is read from right to left.

Two Methods of Carrying Yarn Behind Work:

The design is worked horizontally. The colour(s) not in use are woven or stranded across the back of the work. Usually, a combination of these two methods is used.


When you finish knitting one colour, you drop that yarn at the back of the work and pick up a new colour yarn to continue knitting. In this method, the yarn is carried loosely over the back. This method should not be used when the yarn is carried for more than 2 or 3 stitches as it will result in long strands at the back which can catch and pull.


As you knit, the colour your are knitting is placed over and then under the colour not in use on the wrong side of the work.  Knit one stitch with colour A, put colour B over the right hand needle at the back of the work, then knit next stitch with colour A.


Below is an example of a simple Fair Isle pattern worked in two colours of yarn.
Practice with this or another simple pattern before attempting a more difficult pattern.

* It is important to keep the yarn behind your work loose, if it is too tight, you work will pull.

* You must also keep your stitches even as uneven stitches will be easily seen in the stocking stitch pattern.

Example of Fair Isle pattern in 2 colours:

At the right is an example of a simple Fair Isle pattern. Two charts are shown, one in colour and the other using symbols.

Colour A
Colour B

With A, cast on 29 stitches.

Row 1: (right side)
Working from chart from right to left,
* k 1 A, k 3 B;
repeat from * to last st, k 1 A.

Row 2: (wrong side)
Working from chart from left to right,
p 2 A, * p 1 B, p 3 A;
repeat from * to last 3 sts, p 1 B, p 2 A

Repeat above for required number of rows.


A   B
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