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Colorful Fair Isle Knitting

Fair Isle is probably the most famous (and sometimes infamous, depending on the knitter) type of color knitting, named for a tiny little island between Scotland and Norway.

Fair Isle knitting is when you use two or more colors of yarn in the same row to make a pattern. It’s a little more challenging than say, intarsia, because you’re picking up and dropping the different strands of yarn more frequently. But it can create a lot of gorgeous patterns and bring color into your knitting like no other technique.

If you’re brand new to Fair Isle, get a complete Fair Isle tutorial from Sarah Johnson before you dive in.


Fair Isle Patterns

Traditionally, most knitters think of Fair Isle as a technique reserved for sweaters, but the beautiful colorwork can be applied to just about anything. These Fair Isle knitting patterns range from beginner to advanced, so find the one you’re comfortable with and start knitting.

Fair Isle Pillow

Designer Amanda Lilley recommends this pillow for both Fair Isle beginners and knitting instructors who want to teach the Fair Isle technique. The pillow is designed using only two colors, so you don’t have to drive yourself crazy dealing with too many strands of yarn in the back. Amanda also provides tips for reading Fair Isle charts so you won’t get lost in the middle of the pattern.

Funky Fair Isle Mittens

These mittens are the perfect Fair Isle project if you’re a beginner — or if you just don’t want to commit to a larger Fair Isle project like a sweater. Plus, the mittens are fingerless, so you can focus on the Fair Isle technique and don’t have to sweat using double-pointed needles to knit all those fingers!

Fair Isle Pullover

This pullover is for the advanced — or truly brave — Fair Isle knitter. Purple and gold intertwine to create a garment no one will believe you knitted yourself. If you’re feeling intimidated by the pattern, practice the design by making a swatch first before trying the real thing. You’ll get cozy with the pattern and test the gauge at the same time!

Fair Isle Fish

It doesn’t get much more small-scale than this fishy little pattern. The color combinations are endless, and you’ll finish one fish in no time. When you’re finished, stuff the fish and toss it over to your cat for hours of fun. If you mess up the pattern a little, I doubt your cat will even notice.

Autumn Swirl Fair Isle Cap

Go for traditional Fair Isle knitting when you knit this cap. A tutorial for reading a Fair Isle charts in the round is included with the pattern. If you are knitting the cap for a different season or aren’t a fan of the fall colors, just swap out the colors.

Can’t get enough Fair Isle? Check out the top 9 Bluprint Fair Isle patterns or let Mary Jane Mucklestone walk you through creating your own vest in The Fair Isle Vest class.

Have you ever tried Fair Isle knitting? What was the biggest challenge?


Monica Spicker

I not trying to be overly picky, but Fair Isle is one type of stranded colorwork that has distinct patterns and color usage unique to it and the Shetlands. Some references I have refer to generic color stranded knitting as fairisle in order to differentiate what people have started using from true Fair Isle. I think as an educational site, you should strive to be as correct as possible.

The pillow is gorgeous!

Amy Detjen

I have to agree with Monica. What Ashley described is “all-over color pattern knitting” which uses many of the same techniques as Fair Isle, but true FI knitting has specific motifs and peeries. The term “fair isle” is becoming the generic term for “2-color knitting”, but some of us are purists!

Aren’t we a picky bunch? I love that about knitters!


I just started fair isle a few days ago, on my first sweater ever. It doesn’t cover the whole sweater, but it was incredibly intimidating until I actually started doing it. It only uses three colors total (and one of the colors is the main sweater color so it’s only used in four rows). I was surprised how easy it was, though. My biggest problem has been getting the two different colors twisted together after a while and then it’s a little harder. But all in all, I’m loving it and eager to do more fair isle after this!


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