To knit Fair Isle, you begin with the square in the bottom right corner of the chart. This square represents the first stitch on your needle. Then you read and work the chart from right to left, knitting it in whatever color the chart tells you to and working as many stitches in the first color as the chart shows. Then you switch to the next color and work the number of squares given in that color. What you do at the end of that row or round depends on whether you're knitting flat or in the round.
I If you're knitting flat, when you reach the end of your row, you turn the work and, reading the chart from left to right, you continue on.
I If you're knitting in the round, at the end of the first round, you proceed to the next row in the chart and work it from right to left, just as you did the first row.
Beyond knowing whether (and when) to work the chart from right to left or left to right, you also need to know how to change colors. As with stripes, when you start a new color at the end of a row, you can simply work the first stitch with the old and new yarn held together or tie the ends in a temporary bow until you weave in the ends. (Refer to Chapter 10 for details on this and other yarn-joining techniques.)
kBEff The real key to successful color knitting, however, is maintaining an even and elastic tension over your stitches. If you don't allow enough slack on the new yarn when you change colors in a row, your knitting will gather in and pucker. Too much slack and the stitches at each end of the strand will become loose and sloppy. Spreading out the stitches between colors and gently extending the new yarn over them before you work the next first stitch are usually all you need to do to ensure a flexible and even fabric.
Fortunately, loose stitches are easy to fix: If you find loose or sloppy stitches at the beginning and end of color areas, give a little pull on the strand on the wrong side that connects them (called a float) to tighten up the stitches. Alas, there's no such easy fix for fabric that's knitted too tightly, however. If your floats are too taut and cause the knitted fabric to pucker, the only solution is rip it out and start again.
As you practice Fair Isle knitting, work with a medium-weight wool yarn if possible. Wool is forgiving, and the fuzzy fibers will work themselves together, covering any little holes where color changes don't quite meet up. A shot of steam from your iron further evens out any minor imperfections in your finished fabric.
One handed or two? Ways to work Fair Isle
You can work Fair Isle with one hand or with two. When you work Fair Isle with one hand, you knit and purl as you normally do, dropping and picking up the different yarns as you need them. This method is a bit slower than the two-handed method, but it's one you already know how to do, which means you don't have to learn anything else before you start knitting Fair Isle patterns.
If you plan to do a lot of color knitting, you should learn how to knit with two hands. You carry one yarn in the right hand and the other yarn in the left hand. The benefit is that you never have to drop one color to pick up and work the other color — you have both colors in your hands at all times! When you knit with two hands, you really cruise along.
^ Knitting with two hands is nothing more than being able to knit in both
Continental and English style. Presumably, you've already mastered (or nearly ■ (oj■ mastered) one. Now you just need to learn the other. Pick a quick pattern, like a hat or scarf, and work it up using the technique you're not familiar with (see Chapter 4 for instructions for both techniques). When you've completed the project and you're proficient (if not perfect) at knitting with the other hand, you're ready to try two-handed Fair Isle knitting.
The next sections give you an opportunity to practice knitting Fair Isle patterns using just one or both hands.
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