Round Peg In a Square Hole-crafts

Monday, May 07, 2007

Fair-ly Hooked

Hello, my name is Bridget, and I'm a Fair Isle addict.

(Hi, Bridget)

We knew in advance that the 6th Sock Madness pattern was going to involve Fair Isle. This caused some trepidation on the part of some of the players, but I wasn't all that worried, as I had done color work before. But, it turns out that what I had done before was intarsia and this was to be Fair Isle and the two are VERY different, at least for me.

Basically, in intarsia you are doing blocks of color, and each block (roughly) has it's own ball or bobbin of yarn. Where colors meet, you twist the old and new color yarns together, to connect the two portions of knitting. It is harder to do in the round than flat, so isn't used in sock knitting all that much. Fair Isle, on the other hand, has the colors mixed on every row (say, 2 sts of color A, 3 of color B, 1 of A, 2 of B, etc.) so you carry both yarns continuously, making strings of yarn or "floats" across the back of the work with the yarn not currently in use. (As I child, I hated Fair Isle sweaters and socks, because I was always catching those floats on my fingers or toes or a button or something when I was trying to put it on.)

So, the pattern came out on Friday, and I immediately decided that the yarns I had planned to use wouldn't really work, as they didn't have enough contrast, so I decided to use some (eye-searing) lime green and pink (left over from Death by Socks) to do my Mad Fair Isle Batik socks and cast on for them immediately. (This, despite not having finished the Round 4 socks, nor even started the Round 5 socks! That should have tipped me off right then.)

As a "thrower" (I hold the yarn in my right hand and drop the needles to "throw" the yarn around the working needle to make a stitch) who can, though not as fast, knit "continental" (holding the yarn in one's left hand and "picking" it with the working needle), I was intrigued by the other Sock Madness folks discussion of doing Fair Isle by holding one yarn each way, and I did try to do this, but it just wasn't working for me. So, I went back to my standard intarsia technique, dropping each yarn to pick up the next one. But, somewhere along the line, I evolved a double-throwing technique, where I hold one color between my thumb and index finger and the other between my index and middle fingers and use a twist of the wrist to present the proper color at stitch-making-time. And, outside of a worry about getting an RPI, it has been fantastic! I can keep my tension pretty even, and go at a much greater speed than anticipated; I just never want to stop, which made me late to bed last night, up early this morning and STILL late for my workout, all because I had to do "just one more row". Amazing! Addictive after just one hit!

The other thing that I have found is that this would be a good pattern to knit both socks at once, alternating one row on each sock; this is because, once you get the pattern for a row in your head, it doesn't take nearly so long to do the following repeats. Unfortunately, I prefer double-pointed needles to two circulars or Magic Loop, which means that to do both at once, I would have to buy a second set of size 0 needles (I know the pattern says size 2, but I almost invariably need a needle two sizes smaller to get gauge). Since I had already decided that I couldn't afford a new set, even though I broke one of the 5 needles in my current set, buying a second set just to speed things up doesn't look to be in the cards. Ah, well.

In any case, I am thrilled with my new skill, and already plotting what else I can make with it. Hmmm, graph paper, yarn, needles, mumble-mumble mumble.....Be with you in a minute!

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