Perseverance is not a long race;
it is many short races one after another.

[Walter Elliott]


Watching a color pattern grow as you knit can be so enchanting you might not get your bed made or the dishes washed. You keep saying to yourself, “Just one more row and then I’ll go run the vacuum.” If you would like to add this technique to your set of knitting skills (and if you don’t worry about housework), go for it. It is worth the effort.

STRANDED KNITTING—I use that term because it is more general than the term, “Fair Isle.” To me, Fair Isle knitting uses a stranded-knitting technique to acheive color designs that are traditional to one geographical area. The same technique is also used for color patterns that are identifiably Scandinavian, Russian, etc. Stranded knitting describes the process of carrying two colors of yarn while knitting a color pattern. One color strands across the back while the other color is being knit.

Learning how to comfortably carry the two strands of yarn while knitting stockinette is not difficult—it simply requires perseverence. At first, it feels awkward but, given time and practice, it becomes a comfortable motor skill. Many people carry one color in each hand. I taught myself (slowly at first) to carry both colors over one finger. I can control the tension more evenly, and knit as fast as working stockinette with one color.

1. Start slowly. You can build up speed after your fingers learn the new motor skill.
2. Keep the strand at the back loose so it doesn’t pucker the fabric.
3. When working rows of one-color stockinette along with bands of stranded knitting, use a size smaller needle for the one-color areas. The stranded knitting is less elastic.
4. Likewise, when knitting a garment like socks in stranded knitting, use a size larger needles or more stitches than you normally use.
5. The complex appearance of the pattern is an illusion. Like all hand knitting, it is worked only one stitch at a time, one row at a time. If you focus on that, the pattern will grow before your eyes.

The vest in the photograph took about the same amount of time as knitting a pair of stockings. I used a sport-weight woolen yarn knitted on US #3 circular needles. This is a US size 12/14 garment.