Managing long floats in Fair Isle knitting

Aijro Scarf from Vintage Modern Knits
The Ajiro scarf from Vintage Modern Knits

My UPS gal surprised me again the other day with several new Interweave books full of wonderful, inventive projects.

The project that that strikes my fancy for today’s post is from Vintage Modern Knits by Courtney Kelley and Kate Gagnon Osborn. The project is a scarf called the Ajiro Scarf.

According to designer Courtney Kelley, “This scarf was inspired by a picture in Handschuhe, a vintage knitting book from Germany by Eva Maria Leszner. The basketweave pattern is reminiscent of fishing nets, so I chose blue and natural colors to accentuate the ideas of sea and shore. The Japanese word ajiro describes a herringbone pattern in basketry, which seems fitting for a country known for its long fishing traditions and bold graphic representations of natural elements. This scarf is knitted in the round, which simplifies the Fair Isle patterning (no wrong-side rows) and creates an insulating double layer of fabric. This scarf will keep you warm even on the coldest windswept shore.”

I’ve never knitted a scarf in the round; it forms a tube and when you’re done knitting the main part of the scarf, you knit the front and back together with a version of the three-needle bind-off without actually doing the bind-off part. Then you finish with 4 rows of garter stitch. After steaming, the scarf is so cozy and warm! With this weather we’re all having, doesn’t this scarf sound tempting?

The colorwork pattern for the Ajio scarf calls for a 7-stitch float.

This looks like a really fun project, and the authors have included a little tutorial about how to deal with long floats, too, which is one of the challenges lots of Fair Isle knitting projects.

When you have a pattern that calls for long floats (the strand of yarn that you carry behind the color you’re knitting with at any one time), it’s a good idea to tack them, or “trap” them. If you don’t, it’s a good bet that you’ll pull the non-working yarn a little too tight, causing puckering problems. This pulling can also really tighten your gauge and make garments too small. (Ask me how I know!)

Here’s the tutorial for you!

Tacking Long Floats

When working a stranded pattern, you never want to carry the non-working yarn across the back of the work for more than about 5 stitches, or whatever constitutes about a inch at your gauge. Some patterns, such as the Ajiro Scarf, require that the non-working yarn is carried farther—7 stitches in this case (see chart at right).

To help shorten the floats while maintaining good tension, “tack” these long floats to the wrong side of the work.

Figure 1 Figure 2
Step 1. Knit 2 or 3 stitches with MC (2 stitches shown in illustration), insert the right-hand needle tip into the next stitch on the left-hand needle, place the non-working yarn (in this case, CC) over the right-hand needle (Figure 1), then knit the stitch with the working yarn (in this case, MC) as usual.
Step 2. Lower the non-working yarn and knit the next stitch to trap the non-working yarn against the back of the fabric (Figure 2). As with any stranded pattern, keep the floats nice and loose against the wrong side of the knitted fabric.

Here’s an extra special tip for you: I use the tacking technique to weave in ends as I knit all kinds of projects, color knitting or solid knitting! When you join a new ball of yarn, just weave it in for 1 1/2 to 2 inches using the tacking technique. Cut off the excess yarn, leaving about a 1/2-inch tail. You can clip off a little more after you block the piece. I’ve found that this method of weaving in works best with worsted-weight and smaller yarns. It can elongate the stitches a little bit because you’re adding bulk as you’re knitting the stitch, which is especially noticeable when using larger-gauge yarns.

I really love this scarf. I’m going to queue it up today and start looking through my stash for appropriate yarn (or I may just have to spring for the luscious Fibre Company Road to China Light that’s used in the book!). Get your copy of Vintage Modern Knits today and queue up your version of the Ajiro scarf—or one of the other 25 designs in this fab book—today!



  1. Donald P at 11:41 am April 28, 2017

    How can one get a copy of the pattern?

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