Introduction to Stranded Knitting (Fair Isle)

Introduction to Stranded Knitting (Fair Isle)
May 08, 2020

Stranded Knitting is a popular technique for knitting with more than one color yarn. With this technique, the knitter holds all of the working yarn simultaneously. For each stitch in the row, they knit with the desired color and carry (or strand) the other colors behind the work. These loose strands on the inside of the work are called floats.

A comparison of the front of a stranded project and the back, showing the floats of unused yarn.

You may hear it referred to as “Fair Isle”, which is a specific type of stranded knitting and a term that’s often used interchangeably.

What exactly is Fair Isle?
Fair Isle (named for the island on which it originated) is one of the most well-known forms of stranded knitting. Traditionally, it is worked in the round, with no more than five colors in a piece and no more than two in any given row. It also limits the length of a run of any particular color — not allowing, for instance, ten blue stitches in a row.
So, how to determine if any given sweater or other project is "officially" Fair Isle? Unless the pattern actually originates from the Shetland islands, it’s hard to say! The term is popularly used to refer to stranded knitting in general — but stranded colorwork is present in knitting traditions all across the world.
A hat with a colorwork octopus design

In this reading series I’ll go over some of the key strategies and potential pitfalls of stranded knitting.