I’ve flirted with Fair Isle, and other kinds of stranded colorwork knitting, for over a year now. I’ve taken stranded colorwork classes through Craftsy. I’ve swatched like a man obsessed. I’ve drooled over colorwork charts. I’ve held two strands in my left hand and also one strand in each hand as I’ve knit. I’ve knit color work mittens with easy patterns and chunky yarn.
But I’ve never fully committed to a colorwork project quite the way I committed to the hat you see above.
The pattern comes from Mary Jane Mucklestone and is the basis of the Fair Isle vest pattern for her Craftsy class “The Fair Isle Vest: Stranded and Steeked.” I bought the yarn — Cascade 220 Sport — last year but didn’t do anything with the fiber or the pattern until last week, when I decided to cast on for a swatch hat.
Using a size 3 16-inch circular needle, I cast-on 116 stitches in the gray and knit two inches of K1P1 ribbing. The pattern is a 16-stitch repeat, so I increased 12 stitches evenly around the circumference on a size 5 16-inch circular needle until I had 128 stitches, enough for 8 repeats each round.
As I knit, I held the background color in my right hand and the pattern color in my left hand. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Continental knitter, but I found that knitting colorwork with both strands in my left hand involved too much twisting of the stitches and tangling of the yarn. In another Craftsy class I took, Amy Detjen encourages students to knit stranded colorwork two-handed to keep things tidy and tangle-free, and I must admit she was right. Even though it was very awkward for me to throw the yarn — and to figure out how to hold the yarn — with my right hand, I eventually learned what was right for my manner of knitting and I was soon throwing as quickly and efficiently as I was picking.
The pattern is 38 rows tall, which for the hat’s purposes involved only one full repeat before I started the crown shaping. This put my hat at 7 inches (2 for the ribbing and 5 for the pattern repeat). I really enjoyed how the black and the neon green yarn played off each other, so I did a simple peerie of alternating black and green stitches for the crown.
The biggest challenge for me with this hat was to keep my floats of yarn loose so the facing fabric didn’t pucker. The two-handed yarn holding style really helped me with that, and in the picture below, you can see the floats inside the hat look nice and relaxed after washing and blocking.
I also learned that a few of my color choices (I adapted the colors from Mary Jane’s pattern to fit my own tastes) were a bit too dark to show contrasts very well, especially the taupe and the blue, so parts of my hat lack the visual pop of other parts. Part of the learning curve, that’s for sure! I’ll know better for next time. I am still very pleased with the end result, though.
And speaking of next time, I’d say it’s time to cast on another stranded colorwork hat and get even better at it. Why don’t you pick up your needles and start (or continue working on) a project with me?
Happy knitting, dear reader!