Fair Isle is a type of stranded knitting that hails from Scotland, and traditionally, it uses a total of five colors or less — and a maximum of two colors per row — to produce motifs such as stripes, stars and swirls. But if you're more savvy with a hook than needles , crocheters can replicate this gorgeous style with a bit of strategic stitching. Here are some must-know tips to get you started.
1. BLO Is Your BFF
When crocheting Fair Isle, always assume you're working through the back loop only unless the pattern tells you otherwise. The unworked front loop creates ridges that make your stitches look totally aligned, creating the illusion that they're stacked on top of each other. This lets you accurately recreate the colorwork chart in your project, whereas the stitches in other forms of crochet colorwork (like tapestry crochet and intarsia ) tend to skew the image.
2. Always Pick a Smooth Yarn
The smoother the yarn, the better. If yours is ultra-fluffy or has little bumps in it, the Fair Isle images you're trying to produce won't look as they should. We recommend Cloudborn Superwash Merino yarn — worsted weight is the most popular, but any weight will work well.
3. Let the Tails Hang Out
Like with tapestry crochet, when working Fair Isle you cut your yarn at the end of every row. Just make sure to keep your tails between 4" and 6" — this gives you freedom to use them as fringe or to weave in the ends .
4. Secure Both Colors
At both the beginning and end of your row, you need to remember to secure both colors. It's so easy to do — just lay the non-working yarn on top of your previously worked row, insert your hook through the back loop of that row, yarn over and pull through to secure. Now you're free to work the row according to your chart, switching colors when needed.
To see this in action, check out our class Fair Isle Crochet: Demystifying Colorwork .
5. Stop the Tangles Before They Begin
It's super easy for your yarns to become twisted and tangled as you crochet. To prevent it, keep everything separate: one ball on your left, another on the right. That way when you switch colors, the right color will rest in front of your project and the left will rest in the back — totally out of each other's way.
6. Keep Your Floats Short
Floats are loose strands of unworked yarn that appear on the wrong side of your colorwork, and if they're too large they can snag and snap, causing your work to pucker or unravel. If you notice any floats forming that are more than 1" long, split 'em in half by catching the non-working yarn as you stitch with your working yarn.
Good to Know
If you have an odd number of stitches, use the center stitch to secure the float. (Example: when working seven stitches, secure the float with the fourth stitch so there are three stitches on either side.) For even numbers of stitches, stitch the first half before securing. (IE: When working eight stitches, stitch four and secure the float on the fifth stitch.)
7. Be Strategic With Stitch Markers
For most in-the-round projects, you place your stitch marker at the top of the first stitch of your round . But in Fair Isle, put that marker in the unworked front loop of the row below. It might seem unnatural at first, but this strategic placement helps eliminate obvious jogs (vertical disruptions that look like a stair step) in your colorwork, as stitch markers can pull yarn when placed at the top of the working round.
Learn More Now
Get more tips on Fair Isle crochet — and see the art form in action — in our class, Fair Isle Crochet: Demystifying Colorwork .