Sunday, March 23, 2008

Siena Hat: Fair Isle is Fun, I promise

The Siena Hat from Knitwhits did not take me a month to do. In fact I finished it in a few hours of knitting time, only to realize that I had missed one line in the instructions and flubbed one of the hat stripes. Duh!

See where the missing stripe should be? Another magenta-green stripe should be in between the two blue-green stripes.

So I took apart the top of the hat, just below the first bluish stripe near the center, picked up all the stone beige stitches beneath it, and added the correct stripe as the pattern so clearly described.

Remember, Fair Isle is Fun, right? I got a another chance to use my two-handed Fair Isle technique -- definitely fun -- which I learned from a Philosopher's Wool video.

I had never learned to knit Fair Isle as a child from my wonderful grandmother who could knit anything without a pattern. No, instead, I learned to change colors by watching her, and I figured out how to knit Fair Isle patterns by reading a book.

I learned to use more than one color, first by trying intarsia patterns (like the Jester hat I posted about last time). Learning Fair Isle became a mission when I turned 18, went to London, and found some amazing hot pink mohair wool that I had never seen in the States.

With passion in my heart, I designed a pullover with a Fair Isle band around the chest, and fuzzy pink mohair trim. I remember finishing the front and thinking, wow, I can really do Fair Isle!

Actually, what I had learned from a book was how NOT to make holes when changing colors. This was accomplished by flipping one yarn over the next, like in intarsia. For Fair Isle, I basically did the same thing, and at the end of every row, I had to detangle the yarns. Inefficient! Time consuming! In fact, the memory of picking up my sweater by the yarn and dangling it out in front of me to spin around, stayed with me for years, dissuading me from ever doing another Fair Isle sweater.

Oh, I did add color to my work and even did the occasional Fair Isle sweater for a baby cousin or two. But I didn't enjoy it. They looked pretty. They didn't pucker. But they weren't fun.

Later in life, I discovered "The Original Philosopher's Two-Handed Fair Isle" video. I have to say that learning how to do Fair Isle with a yarn in each hand felt awkward to me at first. I had always knit American style, with the yarn in my right hand. (I believe my English grandmother called this English style.) I had to become comfortable with a yarn in my LEFT hand, as well as my right, using both with equal dexterity.

With the gentle guidance of Ann Bourgeois in the video, I was able to master the technique. I felt like I had just learned to swim laps after dogpaddling all my knitting life! It made such a difference in my attitude toward knitting Fair Isle, that when I was at Stitches West a few years ago, I made a point of finding Ann at her booth and telling her about my elation when I learned her technique.

I learned something else: if you hate it, you're probably doing it the hard way. Learn to do it the easy way, and you'll be changed for life.


Jane said...

The hat looks wonderful! I tried stranded colors once and it was instantly clear that I would not be having a love affair with it. However, you look like a natural!

Pepi said...

me gusta tu precioso y el gorro es fabuloso., me gusta el colorido......felicidades.
te invito a ver mi blog.
gracias, Pepi