Let’s talk Fair Isle

In the Spunky Club Ravelry group, we’re doing an along for Fair Isles. Spin it and then knit it. It doesn’t need to be a sweater or anything huge. It just needs to be handspun and use fair isle. There are so many patterns available. For experienced spinners and knitters picking out a pattern may be the tough part. For others it might be spinning the yarn or picking out proper colors. That’s what this posting is going to be about.

Spinning good yarn for fair isle.

What do you want to get out of your finished piece? Do you like the hazy watercolor look of some fair isles or do you want your pattern to be very defined? Watercolor looks comes from fluffy yarn. This could be light singles or plied yarn that is soft plied and just fluffy. You know the yarn I’m talking about right? It’s airy, it’s fluffy, you want to snuggle it and you can just tell it’s not going to make a very defined stitch. it has it’s place and that place may be in your fair isle if you want a hazy look.

If you want good definition then you need to work with something that is rounder and more defined. Think of a tightly plied 2 ply or a nice round 3 ply. That’s not to leave out singles entirely. Many fair isles use Jamiesons Spindrift which is a single. If you have ever looked at this yarn you know it’s not just any single. It’s fairly tightly spun and fulled. I’m actually going to make a replica of this yarn for my sweater. I don’t have samples yet but I will show you later when I do.

Here’s a couple of swatches:
The large one is lightly spun singles, the other is a tightly spun 3 ply. Check out the difference in stitch definition!

Picking out colors for your fair isle:
Some of these techniques might be hard to do if you’re looking at colors online. If you’re ordering from me (and I’m sure other indie dyers are the same way) you can, and SHOULD, message me with your intent. I can custom dye something or help make sure that your fiber will work in your fair isle.

That said, let’s look at some fair isles.
Neutral vs a crazy color.
This is probably an easy one to see how it will work out. I was still a little worried about the darker spots in the “Standing Stones”. I can squint and get the overall idea of how it will work. If I split these colors lengthwise a whole bunch and ply them into 2 or three plies, they colors will be more homogenized so that will help. Squint. Can you see it working? I might need to do a small test spin just to be sure. I dyed this up for either a Couronne or an Akebia.

Here’s the thing. The Couronne has big patterning that help make it so I don’t have to be so specific. I could even do a moderately spin single for that and have the pattern pop. Akebia needs a little more stitch definition to make the design pop and make me happy.

Let’s move on to the sweater I think I’m actually going to spin for this along. Venezia. I’m going to do a progression for the background and either white or “Oatmeal” for the design. BTW, I custom did my colorway for this and if you want to make a Venezia or something custom using a progression, message me on the business site for that as well. So let’s take a look at the fiber with the Oatmeal.
And with the white.
Here’s a camera trick that helps to see how the colors work….B/W
You can see how the brightest blue at the end doesn’t work so well with the Oatmeal but the white is fine, as one would expect. It might end up working out ok with the blue as the Oatmeal has some lighter spots and sometimes in fair isle there are blurry sections. I could spin and swatch or I can go with the white from the get go. Stay tuned.

Oh, and I greyed out the Mandy/Standing Stones sample
It mostly works out. Depending on how I spin it up or if I get rid of the darker spots in the Standing Stones, this could be wonderful.

If you aren’t a member of our group already, join us and we’ll all help you make a terrific fair isle.

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One Response to Let’s talk Fair Isle

  1. Barbara says:

    This is really helpful. I remember having a tool that you could use to look at fabric placement when putting a quilt together. It was a red thing that you could look through (have not been quilting in a while). Need to figure out how to do the gray thing with my phone camera….

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