Next Saturday I'm doing a class in Fair Isle knitting techniques at the store and in preparing, I've discovered that what we are actually going to learn is about colour stranded knitting. Fair Isle knitting is a form of this technique that has some very specific characteristics: it is usually knit of fine wool: jumper weight (jumper being the term across the pond for our pullover) which is about the tension of what we call fine 4 ply or 4 ply sock weight. It needs to be quite fine as this technique uses 2 yarns throughout the entire sweater.
The other characteristic of traditional Fair Isle knitting is that the background and contrast colours vary frequently creating dramatic colour effects as well as design variations.
This is a picture from the original Fair Isle of Scotland. Not exactly a hospitable looking place but it does have a certain rugged beauty, much like Sean Connery come to think of it.
It was this coloured stranded knitting that I first started working with when I was in my 20's and living on the West Coast , learning about the knitting of the Cowichan People. My brother has a sweater that I made him while living out there, which is 30 years old and he said that when he wore it yesterday in Victoria, several women stopped him to ask him about his sweater. I'm not sure what that says about my knitting, his charisma or just his ability to care for a sweater for 30 years.