Kathleen Taylor says there's nothing to fear when it comes to Fair Isle knitting, and she aims to convince other knitters of that fact with her book Fearless Fair Isle Knitting: 30 Gorgeous Original Sweaters, Socks, Mittens and More.
The book covers all the basics knitters need to know before they get started with Fair Isle knitting, as well as a few "fearless" tricks having to do with working steeks, knitting sleeves and other necessities of Fair Isle knitting.
Learning Fair Isle
The beginning of Fearless Fair Isle Knitting offers an overview of the skills required for Fair Isle knitting, including increasing and decreasing, joining new yarn and working with two balls of yarn at once, knitting from a chart and floating the non-working yarn at the back of the work.
There aren't a whole lot of illustrations in this section, but enough to understand what's going on.
A longer section of this introductory material is devoted to the whys and wherefores of knitting, cutting and finishing a steek, the thing that strikes fear in the hearts of many would-be Fair Isle knitters. Despite her fearless attitude, I think the only thing that's going to get someone over their fear of steeking is to actually do it once and have them see that the world does not end and the fabric does not unravel if you treat it properly.
She also covers fearless methods for knitting sleeves, picking up stitches, shaping necklines (or any other part of a knit garment, actually) and fixing mistakes, including the advice that a permanent marker of the proper color can be used to fix a colorwork mistake (which makes me itchy almost as much as the thought of a steek used to before I'd made one).
The 30 patterns in Fearless Fair Isle Knitting are arranged around the motifs that are used in the designs. The book starts, for instance, with a pattern called Geometric Dazzle, which uses easy boxes, rectangles and stacks of stitches to make colorful patterns.
The same basic design is then used in a children's cardigan, a bag and a hat, scarf and fingerless mittens set that are worked in a different colorway to show the versatility of the design.
In all there are eight different designs used in the book for projects ranging from a giant wrap festooned with dragons to cardigans, vests and a Christmas stocking, to name just a few projects.
One project, a child's tam, is rated for beginning knitters, while eight are rated easy, seven for intermediate knitters and 12 are called advanced projects, mostly because of the use of steeks in the design.
Some of my favorites are the geometric fingerless gloves I mentioned earlier; the lovely and colorful Hoodie Vest (pictured on the cover), which is much easier than it looks thanks to the use of two different colorways of self-patterning yarn; a cute pair of drawstring gift bags worked with holiday motifs; the Nordic Snowflake Dress, which gives a longer look to a classic yoked sweater; the leaf-covered Prairie Earth and Sky Women's Cardigan, worked in a multitude of colors; and the super-cute, springy In the Garden Children's Dress with matching hat, covered with flowers and diamond motifs.
The final project in the book, the Dragon Ride Shawl, is a huge, dramatic project with large dragon motifs. It's worked in the round with a steek that's cut open to make the shawl lie flat for finishing and wearing. Some of the floats are longer than allowed in more traditional Fair Isle, but the project sure is a looker.
Fearless Fair Isle Knitting is a good book for those new and somewhat new to Fair Isle knitting who want someone to coach them through the scary bits. It would be nice if there were a few more patterns for the truly new stranded knitter, and perhaps a little more variety in the motifs used to make the book more attractive to people who don't want to knit matching sets or use the same design over and over.
Still, it's a pretty book and it does offer some really nice patterns and tips that will give new and somewhat new Fair Isle knitters more confidence to try the scarier projects and finish them with ease.
Publication date: February 2011