First time Fair Isle

First time Fair Isle

March 2013 saw that memorable time when the knitters met me for the first time. 6 of them arrived, zapped to see a greying, garrulous woman with short hair and jeans , terrified to be at the receiving end of my passion and persistence…It was not easy for them, especially when I insisted that they learn my way of holding the yarn, the best method to join new yarn and those amazing circular needles.


Four years have passed. I have learnt to accept their way of holding the yarn, the knitters have learnt all the other stuff. Both of us have learnt to share, discuss and accept viewpoints with respect and affection. For me, that has been a huge lesson, especially after years of lording over staff in the defence services, my clinical practice and in my WHO days of working with the health services. This year, I find a new ease in accepting my goof-ups and sharing them with the women, without that earlier feeling of vulnerability when perfection deserted me.

This year, there are plans to bring quality Fair Isle vests into the limelight. The craving for a knitty/meaty challenge had been creeping insidiously into my mind. I could see the knitters settling down into a comfort zone too, and complacency settling over all of us.

Fair Isle , at the best of times, is a challenge worth its salt. Its all about working with two strands of yarn, keeping the work loose and light, remembering which yarn is where, looking at the charts and watching the pattern grow.

The motifs need to be charted, the colours have to get the tone and contrast value right and a small, fulfilling project needs to be planned. After much patience, talking and demonstrating, the caps emerged and weren’t we delighted!

The women learnt stranding and knitting in the round, I learnt that choosing contrast and complimentary colours requires more than instinct and impulse.  As you can see, some of the combinations are good, but the pink and blue cap (as well as the mauve and green one), could have been better.

The next step? Fair Isle vests, of course!! I charted patterns, selected yarn shades which I could part with, without remorse ( first time samples can be disasters), and handed out the projects.  There was circular knitting, steeking and finishing to be learnt, and all of us have gained insights into this method of knitting. The knitters have learnt to take scissors and cut their knitting carefully ( to release the neck and armholes), seam the cut ends neatly ( more about that in another post), and keep the pattern continuity going.

I have realised that I need to improve my charting skills to provide unbroken motifs across the fabric. I also need to give more explicit instructions ( two knitters figured out the decreases correctly, two of them figured that decreases happen on one side, and the rest just bleated for help).

I present the first vests which have been knitted seamed and completed by the women..I am inordinately proud of them today…We are going to take this forward, we are going to present some classic and some modern takes on vests at the online store, and we will not forget where we started from!

Watch this space!


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