Perseverance is not a long race;
it is many short races one after another.
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.
Old Knitter said:
Your tension appears to be perfect….I am so impressed. Wonderful job.
Katherine Misegades said:
I have a friend who has arthritis in her fingers. It caused a bump to form on her index finger. So she uses the bump to separate the two colors of yarn. It reminds me of, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Like MarilynB, I keep my yarns separate by the way I wrap my yarn around my hand. My sister, Louise just offered to take photos this weekend so I’ll post them.
There are several ways to keep the two yarns apart on one finger. When I was at Katherine’s Mamma’s 90th Birthday party I saw a picture on the cover of a Swedish knitting book that unlocked the method I use. I tension my yarn by having the yarn travel over and under all the fingers of my hand. With the two color knitting I just make the two yarns travel different paths but both come together over my index finger. Those different paths keep the strands of yarn apart.
One path goes over ring finger, under middle, over index. The next yarn goes under both the ring and middle finger and over the index. I usually do one wrap around the little finger but not always. For me the easiest way to wrap the yarns is to take both yarns together once around the little finger, from palm side to top of hand and back to the palm, then stick my middle finger between the two yarns and let both come over my index finger.
A word of caution. Be sure to jot down somewhere the color placement of your yarn on your fingers. I mean which color is closest to you and which is away. Changing the placement will effect the look of your knitting.
Just keep in mind that this is not the only way to keep the yarns apart. You may want to try several until you find the one that works for you.
There is no wrong in knitting….just different.
That is beautiful! I learned to use both hands using the four stitch technique through the Philosopher’s Wool Co. I’m still trying to get my tension right. Yours looks great.
Denelle in TN
Katherine Misegades said:
When I can get someone to help me with photos, I’ll post more information about the way I hold my yarn. When I began, I made myself work deliberately slow until I finally got to the place where I could keep the two strands separate without stopping to arrange them.
I’m curious about how you handle both colors over o ne finger. I have tried it many times and always end up frustrated and going back to carrying a color in each hand.