November 2011

What is Stranded Knitting?

Stranded knitting is a technique for using more than one color in a project. It is also called “Fair Isle” knitting which is the traditional way of knitting in a small island north of Scotland. This type of knitting gained popularity when the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, wore a Fair Isle vest in public in 1921.

Many people erroneously call any type of color knitting Fair Isle. One technique is intarsia that is used for knitting large color patterns in your project. Although it is color-work, it is a totally different technique and I will address it in another article.

In Fair Isle technique, only two colors are used in one row and the non-working yarn is carried (stranded) in the back creating a double thickness fabric for warmth. Traditional Fair Isle patterns are worked in the round. Therefore the right-side of the fabric is always facing the outside. There is no purling involved. If the technique is used for creating a sweater, the armholes and neckline are cut after the tube is finished. The stitches for sleeves are picked up and knit as another tube, and the neckline is finished. Patterns used for this technique are small and stitches of the same color are placed no more than two or three stitches apart. As a result the strands in the back are not too long and do not catch on buttons or fingers.

Patterns for Fair Isle knitting are always offered in charts making them easy to follow and memorize. Changing the color of the pattern or the background color can create wonderfully different looks.

Although you can work two color knitting with one hand, but it would be considerably easier to use both hands carrying one color in your right hand and the other in the left. This is a wonderful technique to learn. I am glad to report that one of our teachers, Diane Sack, teaches this technique in K142 - Fair Isle Gloves. If you haven’t taken this informative class, I highly recommend taking it.

For more information about Fair Isle knitting, check out:

Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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