Knitting Fair Isle designs is about the closest you can get to embroidery – that is without actually embroidering the knitting, which you can do but which is an add-on process rather than integral to the knitting. Anyway, I just love Fair Isle. For me the combination of short bouts of intense concentration required for the pattern bits and the prolonged sections of plain knitting are an excellent adjunct to childcare and I only wish I had discovered this 30 odd years ago.
The small person has not been well this week. Nights for his parents have been interrupted by intermittent coughing and the cries of one with the sorest and snottiest of snotty noses. As designated night time nose blower, his father gallantly rolled out his bed beside his child and grabbed what sleep he could in between administering the handkerchieves, soothing words and reassuring cuddles. Small person’s heavily pregnant mother took her place by the bedside last night. Both parents are exhausted and looking forward to small person visiting his other grandparents in the Lake District next week. No doubt they will both be in bed by 8pm every evening. I have had the easier job of caring for him during the day when we had gentle chats, bouts of Lego construction, book reading, scrap book making and, treat of all treats for both of us, sessions watching past episodes of ‘Private Life of the Zoo’, Channel 4’s wonderful behind the scenes glimpse into animal life in Chester Zoo. Plain knitting on this jumper advanced in inverse proportion to the slow pace of our days and even sewing in loose ends seemed less of a chore when your world has shrunk to the sofa in the living room and when your best friend is a 3 year old.
I don’t suppose my band of Fair Isle is unique but it was the result of playing around with a few coloured pencils one evening. I have since brought the book shown below (200 Fair Isle Designs by Mary Jane Mucklestone; Search Press, 2011) and, like a child in a sweet shop, find I’m spoilt for choice by the gorgeous patterns shown there. I have also been reading Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears which has made me realise some of my Fair Isle shortcomings, when I wasn’t being stunned by her somewhat gung ho, throw the rule book out approach to knitting. (Thank you, Caro for being the catalyst to me buying this much wanted book).
In my own novice way, I was quite proud of the fact that I had worked out the the Fair Isle band across the bottom of the jumper so that the pattern was symmetrical. But the Debbie Bliss pattern I revert to again and again includes a bit of increasing just at the point of my Fair Isle band and this caused problems with the pattern, which I don’t really want to show you, but probably should (and I do, see photo below). Next time I do a similar band, I think I will make sure there’s no increase throughout the Fair Isle by casting on just a few more stitches in the beginning. You live and learn – it’s either that or going the full Elizabeth Zimmerman hog and doing the whole thing on circular needles – and perhaps I will do that… though I think I’ll revert to separate front and back when I get to the arm holes. I can only learn so much at one go. I have a pair of already knitted sleeves in search of a body, so maybe the time is right for a new approach…
The pattern I used is Debbie Bliss’s “Two Colour Raglan Sweater” from her Baby Cashmerino Book 5. The pattern has a garter stitch hem with side slits but I prefer to do 10 rows of rib which I think fits more snugly. I would really like a higher neck as it always gets looser and wider during wear but all I can think of doing is using smaller needles and making the rib here deeper. I did both with this jumper, s we shall see if these tweaks make any difference.
The small person – no longer so small for a 3 year old as this jumper should fit a 4-5 year old – kindly pottered about the garden this morning so I could take photographs. It was even lovely enough to have a brunch pancake outside.