How to Knit Fair Isle Knitting Patterns

As someone who loves to knit colorwork, I’ve discovered there’s a whole world of theory and science behind the fabric. Yarn dominance and color theory are incredibly important concepts to understand to create the best Fair Isle knitting project you can, but you can’t forget the first step: how to knit with two colors or more!

I am naturally an English knitter, meaning that I hold the yarn in my right hand, but when I was knitting my own version of the Bandelier Socks, I decided to try knitting with yarn held in each hand, sometimes called combination stranded colorwork. I held one color of yarn in my right hand as usual, and had to learn to tension the yarn in my left hand—and in the process I discovered that I tension my yarn differently depending on which hand it’s in! This style of knitting, also called combination colorwork knitting, was my first foray into Continental knitting (yes, I’m insane), and I certainly discovered the benefits of knitting Continental style, though I still default to English style.

If you’re taking your first steps into Fair Isle or stranded colorwork knitting, figuring out the best method for holding your yarns is the first step. Daniela Nii’s video Stranded Colorwork Styles teaches you how to hold both yarns in your right hand, or both yarns in your left hand, or, like me, one yarn in each hand! Daniela introduces viewers to the different kinds of stranded colorwork knitting, from traditional Fair Isle patterns (identified by small colorwork pattern repeats, called peeries) to more widely recognized or modern styles with longer floats. She also demonstrates the best ways to tension yarns while holding them both in one hand, so that you don’t have to drop one color to pick up the next and can quickly and confidently knit your own Fair Isle patterns. She even touches on that tricky concept, yarn dominance, which is something I still struggle with myself. 

Do you have a preferred style for stranded colowork knitting? Continental, English, or combination colorwork knitting? Let me know in the comments!


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