Fair isle variations

Work in progress

A previous post shares information on gauge swatches and testing yarn for them. These are random FI samples from my collection, most from my teaching days. None of them were ever intended for use in finished product. They were knit to illustrate some of the possibilities for the different techniques using each of the cam button combinations. Some were knit during class demos. The colors made them easily identifiable as mine, from a personal yarn stash. The contrast helped identify how stitches were formed, the lack of helped evaluate some of the results from that as well.

In the first swatch, marking for measuring stitches per inch is done by leaving a needle out of work. Width between resulting ladders should be checked at various points after the swatch is treated in the way you plan to treat (block) the finished fabric. Adding a third color per row would require altering the pattern to a color separated slip stitch one, or one may add that color with duplicate stitch. Spots below are colored in with permanent fabric marker. At the height of the art to wear movement one artist in particular was producing limited edition knitwear by knitting the same design in black and white, and in turn over dyeing the white for different effects in each piece in the series. Eyelets at the bottom of the swatch are tension markings for the piece. The vertical line created by end needle selection (normally used in FI to avoid separation of colors et vertical edges) is interrupted in rows that are knit in only one color. 

Recommended max for floats is usually 5 stitches.  How much the floats droop and cause potential “problems” on the purl side depend on fiber content. Sometimes such floats are intentionally created and worn on the outside of the garment as planned design features. The longer blue floats are seen below in the areas of the ladders where only the yellow is knitting, creating a wider span of the alternate color.

These repeats are as simple as one can get. A reminder: if using them in pieces of a garment ie baby leggings, etc. take note of which yarn feeder each color is in. Even if the repeat is correct and placed properly, the surface of the knit will appear different to the eye if colors placement is reversed in alternate pieces

Color may be added or “taken away” as seen in post on bleach discharge on knits 

Here a factory punchcard is used. Thinner yarn in lighter colors may have some bleed through of darker colors traveling behind them, as seen on the left. Not an issue with the thicker wool on the right. Forgetting to set the card to advance can result in vertical lines, which could alternately be planned as a design feature.

The longer floats seem manageable in these yarns, there is a bit of hooking up on the bottom right. The yarn traveling up the swatch on the right is an alternative way to mark for gauge measurements. A previous post provides some information on float control.  

Varying the colors, fiber content, and considering complementary borders is worth exploring thoroughly at the swatch level, before committing to a larger piece. Truly contrasting yarn used at the bottom and top of the area to be measured for row gauge makes the process easier. As attractive and quick as single bed FI can be, keep in mind that long pieces knit in yarns with “memory” such as wool, will tend to roll to the purl side vertically even after blocking, and certainly with wearing of pieces such as scarves or shawls. 

tone on tone chenille and all rayon, with “color reverse” by switching yarn positions in feeder less effective with a flat yarn as the alternative to the chenille 
Using the same card:  every needle, 4.5 mm machine electronictransferring stitches to every other needle, odd needles in work on one side, even  numbered needles on other using worsted weight (2 needles in center in work side by sidemotif twice as wide, every other needle across fabric width 

It is possible to vary designs by using the 3 functions of the card reader: locked, normal rotation, and elongation. Designs with long vertical features tend so separate at the edges where the 2 colors meet. Lining the fabric with a fusible makes the knit lose stretch, but it may be an option for stabilization, mock quilting, and float control. Hi contrast colors are best for sorting out how stitches are formed. Embroidery alters the “step ladder” effect outlining the shapes. Hand techniques (in this case cables) can be combined with FI. In Brother it helps to be familiar with pattern, as needle selection may have to be manually restored after the technique is performed to stay in pattern hooked up floats not just for float control; note puckering on knit side where they have been hung up in groups swatches were worked from bottom up, starting with positive/ negative comparison, sorting out possible placement of ladder with the intent of adding ladder lace details. Cancel end needle selection because of needles out of work, but bring needles into D or E positiong to avoid separation of colors and/ or dropped stitches at side edgesfrom bottom up: transitioning from ladder resulting from single NOOW, to 2 NOOW, hooking up floats on opposite sides, ending in “lace” pattern aloneHere stainless 32 gauge wire is used as the second “color”, making the piece moldable and shape retainingThere is a vertical, single stitch line due to end needle selection in the contrast color formed on either side of any needle(s) out of work that can provide a visual guide for altering the fabric. This swatch was knit with wide NOOW spaces, then sewing machine stitching  joined the contrasting vertical lines to form a 2 color “fringe” on the knit side (left) and purl side (right)Variations with fibers: wool with raffia on bottom, fishing line on top The same swatch continued on, using 3M elastic as the second colorSwitchingThe same repeat in a rayon chainette and wool, followed by some felting. The rayon “bubbles” more visibly when the wool creates the wider floatsreversing color positions
The punchcard is limited to varying the vertical repeat automatically in 3 ways: locking the card, normal rotation, and double length. Repeat width is fixed. Felting can produce interesting surfaces if one yarn is capable of being felted (green), and the other not (blue). The stitches knit with the latter will create puckers/ blisters. Since the knit will shrink in both width and height, the repeats here were used at double length. Note the added drooping of the blue floats on the purl side.A punchcard can be further manipulated by masking areas with tape. It is not a good solution for production knitting, but adequate for testing out ideas before committing to punching a full, new card. The surface blisters here are much more dramatic. The green floats do not felt as much as in the previous swatch, and are considerably wider. On the right, far side you can see some of them were latched up, creating yet another design detail.   The reverse of both swatches showing the resulting difference in relative width A factory supplied punchcard pattern, also felted. The fringe is created by ending on one side (in this case on the right) with a group of needles out of work and the outermost 2 needles in work, essentially producing a large “ladder”.  Some needles close to the edge of the knit  were brought in and out of pattern to create the “zig zag”. Knit side on left, purl side on right, no clearly visible, separate floats

Cables in color

Fair isle, like any slip stitch fabric is “shorter and skinnier” than any produced using the same yarn colors in plain knitting, single bed. Cables also narrow the fabric considerably. Begin with tension set at least 1-2 numbers looser than usual, and make tension swatches large enough to include all cable variations. After the cable crossings, be sure to return the needles to correct pattern selection before knitting the next row. Do not pull the whole group out to holding (E), as the whole group will then knit the color in the B feeder, and you will have a striped “mistake” on the next row knit. Leaving any needles OOW in the knit will select the needle on each side of the ladder to come forward, knitting the color in the B feeder. This may not work for you in terms of how the motif is affected by the vertical line created. If ladders are required, the vertical line in the B color may be eliminated by canceling end needle selection (KC II), or by dropping those stitches before you cable (which will give you a bit extra yarn for those crossed stitches). Ladders may be also latched up is you like, but watch where those floats are going in the fabric.

Making your own cards: try to control the length of the floats. Pre punched cards with lots of punched holes can produce areas to be cabled by selectively masking areas with tape (both sides of cards). Conversely, you may punch diamonds, squares, etc. in the center of other shapes  that would normally have floats too long for FI, to produce a B feeder color area for cabling.

Like color, most often, needs to land on like color, so stitches need to move further than they would in a one color knit. Reversible ribbed cables share the principle of like needing to land on like (knit on knit, purl on purl). Starting out with a single row punched card, mylar, or program repeat, with the card locked, provides a quick test for tension, keeping track of patterns, etc. There are many, so at least initially, cabling on a constant number of rows apart, may help avoid errors.

beginning to visualize the crosses

FI cables2

another of my “quick reference – some to try” handouts

color_cables

Ruching 2: more working with stitch groups

Going straight up: color blocks in the chart below illustrate needle groups that get picked up and transferred onto the next colored row on the machine, not specific references to needle tape or any other markings. When repeating the operation in the same needle locations, having NOOW, thus creating ladders, makes it easier to keep track of groups. The yellow lines represent needles taken completely OOW at the start of knitting.  Any of these fabrics may be made in a single color, or varied color sequences. Sometimes changing the color in swatches, and using sharply contrasting ones in tests helps one understand the structure of the resulting fabric a bit more easily

an illustration of what part of the stitches to pick up

the result, knit side

its purl side

playing with spacings and rows, no ladders, knit side

purl side

playing with ladder spacing

its reverse

and using the FI setting in addition

its reverse

Some tips on ruched FI knitting: fabric will shrink considerably in length, so most motifs will need to be elongated to accommodate that. Having a pattern that may be tracked easily by watching the floats on its reverse is helpful as may working in bands where the colors swap spaces (changing yarn feeder positons). Because the fabric bubbles, knitting rows in only one color at intervals may track hook up row, while not visibly disrupting the pattern on its knit side. If small groups of stitches are to be picked up and rehung, markers with segments of nylon thread or yarn may be placed on the corresponding needles and be temporarily knit in. In addition the needle tape or needle bed may be marked with water soluble pen to indicate locations for rehanging. Depending on the pattern, number of stitches involved, and personal preference in terms of floats, needle selection in brother machines may have to be restored “by hand” to keep the design uninterrupted.

A few more: playing with striping and segment sizes

its reverse

in this red squares indicate row of additional ruching in center of solid striping

its reverse

going all one color in the middle

its reverse

all on one edge

its reverse

hooking up smaller numbers of stitches

its reverse

going part way, gathering one side, using thick and thin yarns

its reverse

as design bands

its reverse

going mini

its reverse

My recent knits

More of the extended twill FI, chenille  and rayon or wool combinations

In addition to all the usual suspects, I have been playing with DBJ once again, keeping my Passap battery charged, crossing my fingers that my ancient Dell laptop will keep working, playing with colors, using super thin yarns and plying them as needed

using built in patterns

my own pattern inspired from weaving drafts, borders mirrored to match direction when scarf is worn

A bit of fair isle

Fair isle accessories, scarves in particular, can be problematic. I tend to make most of my scarves in the 64-72 inch length after blocking, lining them would result in a very heavy scarf. Knit has a tendency to curl to the purl side in length, and toward the knit top and bottom. Rayon chenille is a customer favorite, knitting it double bed in any DBJ variant is nearly impossible on my E 6000 because of shedding and electronic eye reading errors (I would consider ladder DBJ), and I was left with finding a short float pattern that might look acceptable on its reverse, and lie flat. Weaving draft charts can be a great source for repeats for geometric FI knitting. The pattern used below is an adaptation of one. The first swatch (1) looked fine. The long one followed it. When I ironed it however, I noticed not only a missing black square or 2 in my mylar repeat (hidden by the fuzz of the chenille in the first swatch), but how lovely to have a totally curved, far longer edge (if only that was what I wanted)! On analyzing the possible cause I noticed the repeat had many more stitches knit in the chenille than the wool along that edge. Back to the drawing board: the repeat was sorted out using high contrast, smooth yarns (3 and 4), and the pattern was adjusted to a different location on the needle bed.

Then, I thought I might introduce a border. The chenille is thicker than the wool, so any hem or stocking stitch edge was too wide. I would have preferred to chain behind the knit to help flatten the bottom and top edges, and ran into yarn breakage galore. The final piece was made using 1X1 FI in the chenille “solid” color stripe to keep a balanced width and fabric thickness, and cast on and bound off edges were rehung and “bound off” again, to help cut down on their rolling toward the knit. The finished scarf measures 8″X69″, both knit and purl sides are shown below, side edge lengths now match.

Assuming one uses a crochet cast on and binds off around gate pegs at the top, a chain is created at both ends, akin to that created in crochet, and one can idetntify a front loop, a back loop, and the whole chain. Any of the 3 may be “rehung” onto the KM, and the options are to knit a row and bind off again, or simply bind off again, for different looks that start to emulate single crochet a bit and can help stabilize edges or decorate them.It is helpful to keep notes as to sequence used and which side is facing with each re hanging.  Audrey Palmer at one point authored the Empisal book of linked edgings ISBN 0969485905. Intended for use with the empisal (later = Studio) linker, there are lots of interesting uses for combinations of essentially find off techniques, and some resurfaced when she published her books on knit weaving.

the same pattern knit on Passap, using tech 129 and 138; there is noticeable difference in width and openness of fabric with yarn weight change, and at top with tucking for twice as many rows

a scarf knit in pattern, using tech 138, double bed on Passap KM; light weight and drape allow it to be wrapped and worn in multiple ways; knit in 16/2 cotton, measures 11 X 76 inches partially blocked

Fair Isle single bed 1: float control

Fair isle is the name given to a pattern knitted with 2 colors in each row.  The motifs are easily identified by looking at the holes in the punchcard, or squares on mylar, pixels in programs. While I will be referring to punch card knitting, the same principles apply. Your knit swatch will look like the card, but the design will be squashed, and these designs are generally knit at least one whole tension number looser than when using the same yarns for stocking stitch.  The length of floats created in knitting these fabrics is sometimes an issue, and following are some of the methods that help with “float control”.

Altering the pattern: random holes may be punched in addition to those in the motif and shorten the very long floats, providing this does not distort the pattern too much. Iris Bishop is a designer with an extensive library of such designs.

Hooking up floats: this method works best when the 2 colors used are similar. If they are strongly contrasting there is a possibility of show through where the float is knitted on the same needle as a contrasting stitch. Use the single transfer tool to hook up the float into a needle hook above while leaving the  needle in the position to which it has been selected. If it is a very long float, it may require “hooking up” several times. Show through can be reduced on machines that preselect the needles, if you can place the float on a needle about to knit in the same color as the float (the needle will be selected to upper working position).

Binding with fine yarn: using a fine yarn, even sewing thread, matching the main color of the design, break off a length for every place that will bind the float down, trying to keep unanchored floats to no more than 5 stitches if possible. Make a slip knot at one end, take it under the first float, and place it onto the needle above, leaving the  needle in the position to which it has been selected . Knit the next row, and lay the fine yarn into the needle hook, fastening down the next float by carrying each length horizontally up your fabric and hooking it over your needles as required. Add more pieces of yarn or change colors as needed.

While this method illustrates managing edges of single motif, it also illustrates managing additional threads

Latching: Using the latch tool, pick up a short float below the first long float. Slip it behind the latch, catch the next long float in the hook, and pull it through the first. Continue in this way, latching up all the long floats, and then place the last float pulled through into the hook of the closest needle above that is knit in the same color latched up. As the next row is knit, the float will be caught. The disadvantage to this method is that the hooked floats will pull across the fabric, making it pucker. This technique may be done off the machine as well, with the last float sewn in by hand.

Sewing: sew floats in by hand after completion of knitting by catch stitching the longer floats in on the reverse of the knit. As an alternative a sewing machine and “stitch in the ditch” with matching thread while placing the knitting on the machine and carefully stitching down the valleys between the rows of stitches at desired vertical spacing.

Knit linings: these may be in the form of hems or pieces of knit fabric that you attach as you knit, which could be in finer yarn, large stitches, and not necessarily on every needle. Color matching once again matters.

Bonding with fusibles: suitable for yarns that can take a hot, damp ironing. It also stiffens the fabric. Some bonding materials are knit, with stretch in one way and not the other, woven ones have no stretch.

Fringing: long floats may be cut and made into fringes. In this instance the punchcard may be intentionally masked to cover holes and create intended long floats, which may be later cut. The purl side will now become the “public one”.

Mock weaving: use the reverse side of the fabric for knit woven effect, one example

Decorative floats: use the long floats and twist them, or bind, pick up, tuck behind stitches to make decorative fabrics highlighting the purl side.

Ruching in pattern: hooking up stitches as in hems to enclose part or all of the long floats. For this technique, if a lot of ruching is to occur, it may be best to elongate the original pattern to at least X2.

Please note: try any of these techniques on swatches first. There may be changes in the surface of the knit on the knit side such as puckering or bleed through that may require changes. If combining techniques in a garment, each should be tested. If combining FI and “plain knit” one possible solution is to knit the latter in a simple FI pattern using the same color in both feeders, keeping similar texture and weight in both areas. If using several color changes, the card may be marked to help track them.  If self-drawn, repeats lining up in width and height should be knit tested as well.

Hounds’ teeth

It appears hound’s teeth are turning up on runways everywhere, along with plaids. There are many variants of the pattern, and excel and other software programs make playing with motifs, literal and not so much, easy and quick studies.

the Studio punchcard version

the Brother version

a more block like one, similar to some found on woven fabrics

and a petite cousin

playing with the negative space (no longer suitable for punchcard)

some repeats lined up

Here are some “doodles” of mine

more to come

….