Tuesday, August 09, 2011

My First Authentic Fair Isle Hand-knit

( While this photo was being taken, the vest was still wet/damp; but I couldn't bear to wait any longer to unveil my new FO - an Authentic Fair Isle hand-knit, though not made in Shetland. )

After stopped knitting for quite a long time, I decided to have a fresh start with something challenging, something that I had never tried before.

With almost no hesitation, I picked a pattern by 风工房, from her lovely book Kazekobo’s Fair Isle Knitting. I love the traditional red/blue/white/brown/gold color combination of that pattern. Also, I really appreciate that the charts in this book are printed in color rather than black-and-white symbols. It makes color changing much more straightforward. An extra bonus is that although Japanese patterns often provide only one universal size, but that magic size (usually a 36’ bust measurement) fits my body perfectly and so I don’t need to worry about sizing at all.

But since the color chart is written in Japanese and the suggested yarn is not available in Canada, I had to somehow substitute the yarn and do my best to select my own color spectrum that resembles the sample shown in the book. I believed that the best way would be going to a local yarn shop that offers authentic Shetland wool and choose my own colors while I am in front of the yarns.

But the “local” yarn shop is not local at all. I found none that carries Jamieson and Smith, and only one that carries Jamieson’s but which requires an hour+ of driving to get there. It’s the Camilla Valley Farm in Orangeville.

After two weeks of hesitation and procrastination, I made up my mind, installed a GPS in my car, and drove up north to that farm. Ah! The stupid GPS was outdated and didn’t realize that HWY 410 had recently been rerouted. I got lost at least 5 times on the way to the farm and back home. If it was not that I naturally have good sense about directions, I would have ended up in middle of nowhere on the small country roads and in between the corn fields.

Then, I thought it’s not very practical to knit a woolen pullover since all indoors are air conditioned in winter. Rather, a vest would be much more practical and required much less effort!

So I spent some time reworked the pattern to make it become a vest, and more suited to my silhouette (meanwhile I've already started knitting the body). One significant alternation I made was knitting the whole thing in the round and incorporated steeking techniques (the original pattern calls for flat knitting which is just unreasonable!). Pattern-vise, I also shorted the body and neck ribbing. I knitted with a smaller needle (3.0mm instead of the suggested needle size, 3.25mm) for the lower body because my hip is smaller than my bust (really weird because standard sizes always have bigger hips). In addition, I used the short-row technique to shape the shoulder line so the vest would fit my slanted shoulder : ( better.

The following colors of Spindrift 2-ply were used:

680 -Lunar

726- Prussian Blue

1010- Seabright (used only in the ribbing)

104 - Natural White

343 - Ivory

375 - Flax

425 - Mustard

880 - Coffee

525 - Crimson

526 - Spice

Needless to say, I enjoyed the knitting process so much and so vest was done in a relatively fast pace. Although the yarn is thin (Shetland Spindrift is thinner than 4ply), but the knitting is relatively fast since all is plain knitting. I could knit comfortably holding both yarns on my right hand, or one on the left and one on the right. The stitch pattern is logical and hence required almost no memorization. When a mistake was made, I could spot it right away; consequently, no bad ripping happened.

Below is a list of work-in-progress images.

I am more than pleased with the neat and well-defined stitches.

Even the wrong side is super tidy! And I meticulously "trapped" all floats that are greater than five stitches, using a secret method that I learned in Meg's knitting camp four years ago. (That method is truly magic and I would love to share on Youtube if any of you are interested!)

Beyond stitching and steeking, before CUTTING.

I was uncomfortable to cut the knitting open without any reinforcement, so I machined stitched the armhole and neck openings before the cut. My Pfaff did a great job!

The yarn ends along one of the armhole openings got trimmed, no weaving was necessary! For the body, I either trapped in new yarn in when only one yarn required changing, or simply knotted the new yarns to the old ones when both of the "old" yarns required changing (I've read that it is sufficiently stable as the yarn will be felt quite a bit after washing). In that manner, I eliminated 99%+ of the amount of weaving required if the vest was knitted flat.

Here it is!
Wow! The size is perfect!


Completely Frogged said...

Oh my goodness, your colour work is amazing!! JUst slightly jealous that I haven't developed enough knitting chutzpah to do that kind of fair isle...soon, very soon.

hyemi said...

Please share your technique for trapping floats! I want to try and make a fair isle sweater this year and I would love any tips you have.