Knitwear · Wooly knits

Fair Isle is not my thing

Too fiddly to knit. Takes too long. Mind- and finger-boggling all around. Enough reasons to do it. πŸ˜‹

This Rowan jumper is now in its fifth if not sixth year – since starting. I finished the cabled bits quickly enough and then got entirely lost in the Fair Isle. I’d put it away for months, then do a bit more, run out of swear words and put it away again. But now it is finished! With some alterations. Some five years ago I made the skirt that was meant to be worn with the jumper. It is knitted of the same wool as the cabled bit. I wore it with other things, but now I realised that I didn’t want to have the jumper over the skirt but rather I’d have the skirt extending the jumper… Hello, dress!

Sewing up Fair Isle is just as annoying as knitting it. You’ve got yarn ends galore. So, in order to dispose of the yarn ends, I decided to zig-zag over the edge, thus anchoring the ends in place.

This is a quilting foot, and the needle hole is centred. So I set zig-zag to half width and set the needle right. Not having to force all those edging knots under a foot helps with smooth sewing. 😊 I’m not worried at this point if some of the yarn ends are not secured to 200%. They will be secured again in the actual seam.

So now, having disposed of the mess with yarn ends, I can sew the pieces together and actually see how I’m aligning the design.

Again, the edge is a bit thicker than the main fabric, so no need to force that under a foot. πŸ™‚ This is plain straight stitch with Adler, using low tension on both threads. I kept decreasing the tension until the stretch in the stitching matched the stretch in the knitting. I did two rows of stitches along each seam for strength because jumpers get pulled a lot. I have no need for chain stitch now! 😯 (Vibrating shuttle machines can make a stretching stitch too, but their feed dogs are often too small to move the thick knit effectively. Find one with large feed dogs and you’re good to go! Except they still can’t do zig-zag.)

The reason I sew my knitting is two-fold. Firstly, I hate mattress stitch. It takes forever and I am not convinced the effort is necessary. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, I can never get the sizing quite right – the finished pieces always come out a bit differently sized after a wash. Yes, I wash the pieces before assembling them – this saves a lot of unpicking and re-sewing. It also doesn’t help that it usually takes me ages to knit a dress, and sometimes, like with this Fair Isle, my body size changes in the process. 😲 So once all the pieces are knitted up, washed and ready, I treat them as any other knitted fabric and sew them up creatively, rather than strictly along the edges.

With this dress it meant that the sleeve tops had to be redone. They came out larger and longer than expected, so I’ve sewn them up so they fit and cut off the excess. 😲 😡 Cut the knitting?! 🀯 Yes! And zig-zag over the edge, twice because this is a thick knit. The stitches are not going to unravel! It’s all secure and will remain secure also in future washes. Job done! πŸ˜ƒ

9 thoughts on “Fair Isle is not my thing

  1. This is very impressive stranded work! I can relate, but found a solution that works for me. I’ve given up knitting on standard needles, I hated the assembly bit, by hand or machine. I now knit on circular needles, the scandi way, there’s hardly any assembly, especially if the yoke is also in the round, as the sleeves are already included. A waist can be integrated with de/increases. Also purling stranded fair isle is a pain, with the circular needle you never purl so it’s very easy and quick. I can warmly recommend it. The only downside, you cannot alter the fit as you did above, but with enough fittings it’s fine, and so quick that we normally don’t change shape that much.


    1. I knitted the Fair Isle band on the bottom of the skirt on circular needles, and indeed it was a lot easier! But for the other pieces where I used straight needles, I didn’t turn the work either. I knitted from left to right instead. I do stranded by holding one strand in my right hand and the other strand in my left hand, and I combine English and Continental knitting. This means that going left to right is pretty much the same as right to left! But still, it’s too complicated for my liking. πŸ™‚

      I have also done some things that didn’t require assembly like what you do. I find it difficult to get the fit right, and fitting while knitting is not my thing. First, you have to take the needles out, and second, and possibly more important, I use manufacturing machine knitting yarn which is oiled for the machines, so the sizing while knitting is never quite the same as the sizing after a wash. I just cannot bring myself up to pay Β£7 per 50g for commercial balls of yarn when I normally pay Β£10-Β£20 per KG of prime quality manufacturing yarn. Plus, because it is finely spun, I can combine different colours for a tweed effect of my own choice. I also usually combine wool and cotton yarn together.


      1. Wow I’m impressed, ambidextrous knitting!! I agree the fitting isn’t ideal… it requires a spare round needle and lots of contortions… But for yarn you might check out the commercial Drops brand, 2-5Β£ per skein, even merino or alpaca, and it doesn’t alter much with washing. I’m quite pleased with their yarns. But yes, you’ll miss the cool tweed effects of creating your own!


      2. Ok, to be quite honest – I won’t be needing any new yarn for a while yet. I think I have at least 30kg in different colours… 😲 I’m trying to use it up!

        As for ambidextrous knitting, since I moved to England I had to learn English knitting of course, and although I find it slower than Continental, it does have better tension control. I started using both styles together for Fair Isle because for the life of me I could not juggle two strands in one hand…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Love cable stitch – I leave the knitting to mum though. Funnily enough my daughter knits (a little bit) but while she loves piling up fabrics for me to sew, she is not interested in sewing herself. As for clothes – double wow regarding turning it into a dress – I am hopeless sewing fabric clothing too!


    1. Well, we can’t do everything, can we. I’m not great at patchwork or quilting, although it is sometimes fun to do. It also tends to broaden my palette of swear words every time I do it. πŸ˜‰ How’s that long arm quilter coming on?


      1. Yep, wouldn’t be fair to be perfect at everything – makes people jealous! LOL!
        Well, the plans have been submitted – held back because our barn should have come under agricultural planning so a reshuffle (not impressed!) and the surveyor, knowing it was to be in a field, was apparently not qualified for the agricultural side of things. Soooo we wait. Longarm nowhere in sight yet. So back out with Jezebel Janome for some free motion quilting because of the bigger throat space. Daughter is getting married in November – I have 290+ days to make a quilt! Chosen a scrappy Arkansas Crossroads because it looks like kisses. Started, so getting used to the blocks now. I’ve thrown some kiddie fabric in – waiting for some Pokemon fabric now!


  3. Wow, this is impressive! I thought the jumper alone was an exercise in skill and patience but to knit a skirt too……just wow. Well done, the outfit looks fabulous.


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