Fair isle knitting - knitting with multiple colors

Björk icelandic sweater, knit in multiple colors

Have a look here if you are a new knitter and want to learn new techniques. Today and over the next weeks, we will be making blog posts, where we share some insight on some new techniques. We start with fair isle knitting.

Knitting with multiple colors is widely used in Nordic knitwear, and designers like Boyland knitworks have used it with hand-dyed yarns, which adds a completely different dimension to the more traditional techniques.

At Önling we have used multicolor techniques for instance in the designs Bjørk, Draka, Dagfrid, and Alva, which are examples of classic Nordic knitwear with multiple colors, and specifically Icelandic sweaters.

How to knit with multiple colors

Knitting with two colors is a popular method throughout the Nordic region. You can achieve incredibly beautiful results by knitting with two colors, whether you use contrast colors or two closely related shades. You typically knit with two colors when you want to achieve a specific pattern and when knitting with two colors it is quite important how you hold the two yarns. Read more here and learn more about knitting with multiple colors.

Control the fair isle technique

Depending on how and where you hold the two strands, you have the option of highlighting one color more than the other - this method is called dominance knit. The color that you do NOT want to show is placed on the back of the knitwear, behind the stitches in the dominant color.

Bjørk strik

Draka swater

Here's how you do it:

You knit dominance knit by holding one strand over your index finger as usual, while holding the other over both index finger and middle finger. The dominant color is the one you have over your index finger and which is closest to the knitwear. The strand over the two fingers should be placed furthest away, close to your nail, and you need to keep approx. 2 cm between the two strands of yarn. Keep in mind, that for two-color knitting, you will be using double the amount of yarn, compared to knitting with a single color.

A tightly-knit and thick result

When you knit with two colors, you get a nice, thick and tightly knit result, as you are knitting with two strands at once. The unused thread is carried on to the back side of the garment until it is used again, and here the strands cover the purl stitches. The threads on the back side can get too long, especially if more than two colors are used. If the threads become too long, they can get stuck in buttons, zippers and fingers when you put on the sweater. If there is a large gap between color changes, the threads can be stitched on the back as you go. Fair isle knitwear is suitable for warm sweaters, hats and the like and it is often used in Shetlandic, Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic pattern knits.

At Önling's web shop you can buy high quality yarn in many different qualities and materials, inspirational knitting patterns – many in multi-colors – knitting kits with a broad choice of yarn colors, books and knitting accessories. We ship world wide.