You all have been very chatty lately: I love it! Finally, years after high school, popularity achieved! Mwah hah hah hah!

Seriously, thanks, everyone, for both your lovely comments about Spherey and your helpful suggestions on adapting to English knitting and two-handed fair isle. Here are a few of them:

  • Try it one-handed, keeping one color over your index finger and one over your middle finger
  • When knitting fair isle on DPNS, do it inside out to keep the floats loose (would you have to purl all the way around to do this?
  • Buy a "whatsit," "gadget," or "doohickey," also known as a yarn guide, that slips over your index fingers and keeps the colors in line.
  • Learn to crochet in order to get comfortable with something akin to the English style of knitting
  • Practice, practice, practice

    In the end, I decided to try the last tip first, and just practice, practice, practice. I got out another project and tried doing a few whole rounds English style, and that helped a lot. Then I tried alternating colors every other stitch for a few rounds. Then I returned to my swatch, to attempt following the main stitch pattern for the Norwegian Stockings:

    fair Isle Swatch2

    There are two things to say about this swatch that result from it being done on straight needles. First, there was purling involved. No purling will be involved in the final project, thank goodness. But for the purling I held both colors in one hand, and it didn't go too badly. Second, I continue to be nervous about doing two-handed on DPNs. In the end I may adopt the one-handed approach for fear that DPNs will make the English too "fiddly," but I am determined to teach myself this way first.

    Maybe it's worth buying a 12" Addi circular? That might work for the leg, at least. It could be too big, though... EDITED TO ADD: I've also been giving some thought to trying to learn Magic Loop, but the first times I tried it, the join was huuuge! I'm wondering whether it wasn't at least in part because the cable on the circ I was using (Inox, maybe?) was too stiff? Does a more flexible cable (i.e. Addis) help?

    Also, I wasn't concentrating too much on the pattern, and kind of messed it up in places. I'm not too concerned with that at this point.

    It did get easier to regulate tension as I got more comfortable with English style. The main adjustment that made it much easier was fooling around with the way I normally hold my right needle. My grip seemed to prevent my index finger from getting round to the needle, so I loosened my hold and moved my left hand further down, and things got much easier. Also, I don't totally lift my right index finger from the needle to "throw" the yarn. Instead I'm "picking" like I would with Continental.

    Here's a closeup of the swatch:

    fair isle swatch1

    The tension is all over the place, but there's a definite improvement, I think, in the top diamond and half diamond above it.

    It will be a shame to frog or store this swatch... maybe I'll turn it into a wrist cuff or something, announcing to the world that I am a badass fair isle conquering knitter (when I actually do conquer fair isle, that is!).

    Posted by jess at November 12, 2005 3:45 PM

I've been doing my Norwegian Knits-Along hat on with the magic loop method and loving it.

I had to learn to pick to do the two-handed method, but it really didn't take long to get the hang of things. I'm sure you'll rock at it in no time.

A 12" circ. will be plenty big to reach around the sock, but I find, at least in smaller needle sizes, that they're really hard to grasp through the stitches. I hate knitting with them. That said, if your project is knit on either a size 1 or 3, you are welcome to 12" Addis I have.

Posted by: Adrian at November 12, 2005 4:54 PM

Hi fellow Jess and law student! I'm working on the Norwegian Stockings right now, and am using the 2 circs method.

If you want to knit inside out to make sure your floats are long enough on DPNs, you don't purl, you knit on the far side of the needles instead of the near side. That way the right side is on the inside and you just turn it right side out when you're done.

Posted by: Jessica at November 12, 2005 5:40 PM

Wooohoooo! Looks like it's working. =) Keep at it. It'll look perfect in no time!

Posted by: Angela at November 12, 2005 5:57 PM

Looking Good! Keep at it, and keep adapting to what works best for you. Also, instead of trying to make all this work for you while using dpns, have you tried the magic loop? I too hate using circs that are too short, so that the needle is at least as long as the cable, makes for really challenging work - but the magic loop allows you to use way longer cable and isn't quite as challenging, then all you're struggling to master is the fair isle itself. Gorgeous color comination too.

Posted by: Marji at November 12, 2005 8:06 PM

Glad to see you are figuring it out. I have read that for a gauge swatch for a circularly knit garment you should make the swatch on a circular needle, float the yarn from the end of the row to the beginning and knit all rows. I have not tried this, but as I know that my knit and purl stitches are different it makes sense to me.

Posted by: Karin at November 13, 2005 12:48 AM

I recently fell in love with the magic loop method...the best needles I found: cheap-o Susan Bates. I hear Addis are good, but I find them too stiff, unless you have the really long ones. Good Luck, the stockings look like a great project...I'm just trying to find an outfit in my closet to warrant them...

Posted by: tara at November 13, 2005 1:18 AM

I think your fair isle looks amazing. I wonder if the tension will even out after you wash it?

I have never done fair isle, but I'm making the second sock of a my first pair of "magic loop" socks. I'm using the addis (40" long) and am finding it very comfortable to do. I love how flexible the cord is. About the join, I took the advice I found at a few sites, and that was to switch the two cast on loops at the ends, before starting around the first row. After I've got the cast on stitches done and divided I hold the stitches on both needles close to the tips, making sure to have them all straight and aligned evenly. I use a small crochet hook to pull the last casted on loop from the end of its needle over to the other end. Then I take the other first loop, now beside the one I just moved, over to the other needle. I don't know how to explain it exactly. I hope you can make some sense of it. But this helped me keep it from twisting, and helped keep the join tighter.

Good luck!

Posted by: Bethany at November 13, 2005 1:59 AM

For ML, have you tried swapping the first and last stitches? That works for me regardless of the type of cord.

Posted by: Angela at November 13, 2005 5:03 AM

You are so brave! And you are making excellent progress. I love how you are never afraid of a challenge.

Posted by: Megann at November 13, 2005 9:40 AM

I'm so impressed how you're trying out, and trying to learn, a ton of things for this. I'd just stick to the first thing that worked and not bother with the rest. I was in the swatcing stage of fair isle once and didn't even think to try learn throwing (still don't). It's fun to watch you.
Everybody else seems to love it, so here's a contrarian comment on magic-loop: major pain in the butt. I'm a die-hard dpn user and while I know how to make socks on two circs, I prefer not to. I don't understand what's so difficult about dpns (I use a set of five). I suggest not to use 12" addis, simply because the needle part is way too short and you don't get much to hold on to.
I found the "learn to crochet" tip interesting. I hold my yarn exactly the same way in crochet as I do in knitting. (continental)
The stockings are fantastic. May have to pick my experiment in fair isle myself.

Posted by: valentina at November 13, 2005 11:34 AM

I just wanted to say "Go, you!" and congratulate you on the swatch improvement. I am definitely not brave enough to try fair isle yet, but this particular pattern might be enough to get me there - you'll certainly have a gorgeous finished product!

Posted by: allison at November 13, 2005 11:48 AM

the join can be really huge with magic looping - but i've found that putting the first stitch of the CO back on to the right needle as the second to last stitch (i.e. to CO 60, CO 59, put 1st CO at the end of the row then CO last stitch) helps, as well as tugging the hell out of the last stitch in each section to avoid laddering - it usually evens out really well with manipulation or blocking.

if this did not make any sense, it's because i'm tired, sick, and got the finals punchies. sorry. :(

Posted by: heatherfeather at November 13, 2005 1:04 PM

The magic loop will be easier with Addis, but I also use it on cheap plastic needles. I find anything above 30" long usually works. Spherey is a cutie. The face is so cute, it makes me not scared of it.

Posted by: Lauren at November 13, 2005 2:05 PM

addis will definitely help with the old magic loop (I wouldn't use short needles for this). are you getting the hang of two fisted fair-isle?

I say save the swatch!

Posted by: yahaira at November 13, 2005 3:00 PM
I came across this tutorial today on Magic Loop and knitting with the right side inside, and immediately thought of you. Hope this helps

Posted by: Marji at November 13, 2005 4:39 PM

i have the 40" addi's and they are totally worth it. it makes knitting socks soooooo easy. (magic loop technique of course)


Posted by: joy at November 13, 2005 7:10 PM

also I use only *1* 40" circular needle for knitting tubesocks magic loop method. makes soo much more sense than the two circular needle deal.

/joy (again)

Posted by: joy at November 13, 2005 7:15 PM

also when you get addi's soak the string part in boiling hot water to loosen them up.

Posted by: joy at November 13, 2005 8:06 PM

It's odd that learning crochet is supposed to help you learn English knitting. I was a crocheter for years before I learned to knit, and the book I used to learn knitting was really terrible and didn't show the difference between English and Continental, but I just naturally started knitting Continental because of my habits as a crocheter. When I crocheted, I held the needle in my right hand and the yarn in my left. Maybe that's unusual and I just didn't know it.

Posted by: susan at November 14, 2005 12:22 PM

Hi, I found you from Erin's blog via I don't know who... Leah, I think.
I've knitted for 42 years (since I learned in Ireland at age nine -part of the cirriculum in my private school) and I taught myself to knit continental or left-handed this summer. It took about a week to be comfortable but my speed is amazing now. I find that I still tink with the working yarn in my right hand just because it's coming off that needle I suppose, and sometimes I get really "dyslexic' about which hand I'm using. -
I have to stop and look at my knitting and my hands and wait for my brain to decide which side is going to use the muscles this time(ha, ha).
All this to say I haven't tried Fair Isle yet but I'm hoping that my experience will make it an easy transition. Your swatch looks good to me... :)
LOVE Spherie! want one.!!!!
Oh, yeah and Magic loop - I bogged down after turning the heel on both kiogu socks on one circ. Got lost, frogged it and never went back. :( I think switching to left-handed knitting and trying the ML at the same time wasn't good for me. Magic Loop will be a Christmas Break project I think. It's time for koigu socks!
Happy holidays! Jeannie

Posted by: jeannie at November 14, 2005 3:05 PM

Finally time to admit that my first EVER sweater was a fair isle. Didn't know it should be hard, so it wasn't. Haven't done it since, though, so what does that mean, I wonder?

Posted by: bettina at November 14, 2005 6:03 PM

If you're looking to ML, the most flexible cables I've found are from KPs. I ML a LOT of projects and never have ladders in my knitting on the KP needles.

Posted by: Kimberly at January 25, 2010 8:56 PM
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