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The Fairest One of All KAL

The Fairest One of All KAL

 Hi Knitters, Sarah here.

There are some things that far too many knitters dismiss as too fussy, too time consuming and too difficult before they’ve given it a fair shot on their needles.

Fair Isle knitting happens to be one of those things. Too often I’ve heard, “I could never do that.” “It looks too complicated.” “I could never follow something like that.” And far too often, I’ve heard that very sentiment coming out of my own mouth, much to my shock.

So for our latest virtual KAL, we’re taking a look at one of the Fairest of knitting techniques.

We are going to give Fair Isle a proper place in the sun. Or at least, on our Facebook page.

First, let’s get into the knitty gritty of the thing-what exactly is Fair Isle?

Well, for starters, Fair Isle is foremost a regional design element, and named for an island located off Scotland’s Shetland Islands. That is, according to Google Images, an achingly beautiful, moody, place where you can get the best scones and shortbread, sheep dot the green and rugged landscape and knit jumpers are always in fashion (I’m making an assumption on that last part).

Those jumpers/sweaters/hats/mitts/tams came wildly into fashion in the 1920s, when the future King Edward paid a visit to the island and was photographed wearing a Fair Isle jumper (pictured below, great looking jumper, amiright?).

Great little history lesson, eh? So let’s get to the knitting part.

Lots of stranded colour work patterns use the tag “Fair Isle” in their description. Type it into Ravelry, and pretty much almost every stranded knitting pattern pops up. But most of them aren’t “Fair Isle” in the traditional sense.



The top hat, “Katie’s Kep,” is a traditional, Scottish Fair Isle pattern. In fact, it was released during Shetland Wool Week in 2020 (OMG who wants to go with me one year?).

The “Baa-ble Hat,” while adorable, is not a traditional Fair Isle pattern. Yes, Fair Isle is stranded knitting. But not all stranded knitting is Fair Isle.

Ye Ken?
Allow me to elaborate a little further.

A true Fair Isle design follows an “OXO” pattern, with some modifications-for example, the “O” may be transformed into something like a flower, while the “X” may take the shape of a cross or “T.”

According to Mary Jane Mucklestone’s excellent book “Fair Isle Weekend,” these patterns are knit in bands, usually one skinny band of about five or less rows, called a “Grund,” followed by a “Flooer,” a larger band consisting of six or more rows. Whether it’s a Grund or a Flooer, the design often switches up with each new band, be it a change in colour or a new motif, making each band a little bit different.

Fair Isle designs also embrace a pretty decent colour palette, using at least five colours-the standard seems to be about six, but rules were meant to be broken, and more modern designs use fewer colours.

While these designs seem to be intricate and even intimidating, keep this in mind-it’s not nearly as complicated as it looks.

No more than two colours are used in each row, and everything is knit in the round. So you’re not juggling multiple strands. There are other stranded projects out there that require much more yarn dexterity than your typical Fair Isle pattern. So dinna fash yersel!

If you’ve done a yoke sweater, you can do Fair Isle. If you know how to knit in the round, you can do Fair Isle. If you can knit a stitch, you can do Fair Isle (OK, maybe you may have to work a little harder but it’s the spirit of the thing, aye?)

At the end of the day, your typical Fair Isle project promises to be something truly unique, and definitely quite bonnie. With all the options in designs, colours and wools, you’d be pretty hard pressed to find two projects that are exactly the same.

To help you get oan wi’ it, we’re giving out a 10% discount off your wool if you’re joining in. Use the Code FAIREST until MARCH 7 to get 10% off all the products in this Fairest of All Product Collection. Or follow this link:

The KAL will begin whenever you’re ready to cast-on and will run for the entire month of March. You can post your wool picks, progress photos, and finished object photos on our Facebook group, or by tagging @needlesinthehay on Instagram using the hashtag #NITHKAL and #NITHfairestofall.

Here are a few pattern and yarn suggestions!

Anything in Fair Isle Weekend, and I’ll be pulling my project from those very pages. 

Many different wools in the shop would work, so between the patterns and the yarn I’ve got some hard decisions ahead of me. 

Katie’s Kep

Suggested yarn: Peerie, Loft, Bio Shetland, Merino d’Arles

Fair Isle Cuffs:

Suggested yarn: Peerie, Loft, Bio Shetland, Merino d’Arles


Nelly Fair Isle Cowl

Suggested yarn: Tibetan Cloud, Alpaca Heather, Lore, Dapple or Arbor



So brew yourself a cup, or pull out your best Scottish whiskey, coorerie in and cast on!

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