Fair Isle Success!

jenjoycedesign© Wee Hearts in Virtual Yarns Hebridean 2ply

Wee Hearts in nine different Fair Isle Hebridean 2ply colors!   Actually this hat is a study on one of Alice*Starmore’s colorways , a colorway from her design “Mary Tudor” from her 2013 second edition of Tudor Roses ,  using her own yarn, as sequenced in the chart. You could say this hat was a colorway test for Mary Tudor Cardigan, although I did change some colors around from the chart, because of a mistake I made.   I really came out of the study with a better understanding of how the blending of foreground color changes against background color changes can be in modern Fair Isle.

Now I am wondering, do I have time for one more?  Not really, I must be on to Autumnal Sweaters!

Finding Fair Isle

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My sister-in-law Patricia and I met for our usual cheery birthdays date at the coffee roastery in the tiny north Napa Valley town of  St Helena. We enjoyed delicious cafe cremes (lattes) in a bowl with pastries, then a short stroll down the old town road to our favorite tiny thrift shop behind the Catholic church. I usually do not find a single thing, yet when I look back, some of the best finds I’ve made were there. Today was one of those rare days when I did, and as I was doing my fast size-up of the racks, expecting nothing, something shyly captured my eye, as a busy patterned woolly thing was in the vests. With a closer look I found ~~ it was hand-made!

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It has that particular thickness, a substantial feel in one’s hands which can not be mistaken for anything but long-labored handwork of some expert knitter. Need I even mention (no, I shouldn’t have to) there are no labels nor store bought sort of tags saying ‘made in Shetland’ anywhere on it. It is completely hand-made, and slowly and surely realized this but not until I inspected it quite closely. There was never any doubt really, that there probably exists in St Helena a genuine and maybe even extreme Fair Isle knitter (perhaps the same knitter who donated the two skeins of Harrisville Designs Shetland yarn I got for $1 each months ago, another rare great find.)  I suspected, but I am certain now such a knitter exists in St Helena!

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I felt the fabric, and it seemed a little too soft & smooth to be Shetland wool, yet, after examining for quite a while I realized in all of it’s years of being worn, it very likely is Shetland wool,  though met the dreary fate of becoming washed in the washer and dried in the dryer, shrunk hopelessly, and thus it became of no use to the owner, or why else would such a prize be donated to this little thrift shop?  Even if not Shetland wool, and though only barely felted, and that would explain for the unusually soft feel.,  very fuzzy & ‘pilly’ and worn a lot (hopefully). I knew that I must must SIMPLY MUST take it home, even if just to have it.  One single dim thought occurred to me, that there was a glaring possibility that it would NOT fit me.

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Just look at the classic “OXO” border and little “oxo” peerie motifs, and very artful colorway of a charcoal grey background with rich blues and a signature center round of bright bright green.  And, of course,  the very signature steek work….

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However, when I got home I measured the bust and thought I couldn’t wear it, I thought no way.  But miracle of miracles, I did manage to slip it on!   Only barely. Perhaps after a time of calorie deprivation or since that is not likely,  extreme hiking (a little more likely), that after a few pounds lost, I could indeed wear this Fair Isle Vest with a little room to breath. Even so, tight or eventually looser, I’ve thought wouldn’t it be nifty for this vest to be my ‘cold days hiking vest’ accompanying me as Emma and I haul over hill & dale, bringing Fair Isle beauty along the many steps from my door to the peak & beyond.

Even if I don’t,  I am happy just to have it~~~  and only cost  three dollars!  It made my day!

Really Red Tam !

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I am very proud to finally show you the tam  I made !!!   It goes in a set with my  Really Red Cardigan.

I had knit the tam before the holiday gift-knitting crunch set in, then put it aside to be photographed after the new year.  New year … check.  Photographed…. check.  I am over the moon about having this particular cardigan & tam ensemble finished because only a couple of months ago ~ after having hibernated well over a year~ the cardigan was doomed to die a tragic death of getting unraveled out of existence !  After much persuasion from a friend,  I committed & cut the steek,  finished the cardigan, then surprisingly soon after, decided to knit up this tam to go with!   Maybe it was meant to have waited until now, as the rains of the season has made the moss so verdant ~~~ and just look at how well the moss sings praise to the red wool !

I improvised the cardigan yoke motifs into a simple 8-point tam, and being that it’s sport weight yarn and not fingering, it’s a slight bit larger and floppier in contrast to the ones I’ve knit up with finer gauge yarn.  I think  it’s ‘ Tam O’ Shanter-esque ‘ personality, with wider brim, is actually a look I really am drawn towards.  Very old-world Scottish in my thinking.

I also am intrigued at how in different angles of light, the tone and hues of the red changes, and just about explodes next to the bright green moss fronds.

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If you look closely , you can see the same moss stitch rib with vikkel braid edging on the tam that the cardigan has got . . .


. . . as well as an applied cord edging (to snug up the band), raised double decreases , and a beret loop flourish.  I am pleased with its wider-brimmed shape and I feel it is pretty darned smart!

A birds-eye view of the wheel . . .

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There is a bit of a coincidence, that the red in the colorway is called “garnet heather”

. . .well, because garnet is my birth-stone .

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. . . and today is my birthday !

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Details found on Ravelry here.

Nora’s Christmas Chulo

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One hat, knit for one twenty-month old Nora, for Christmas.

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Knit totally improvised,  over a couple of days, mostly during one Christmas party, and one long hike walking the hills.

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Now finished, and will send off in the mail. I love it, and I think she will too.  Made from one-hundred percent Peruvian alpaca yarn, who couldn’t?

Well anyway, this is the first of as many gifts as I can possibly knit up until Christmas, which will be all posted in succession.  Starting another immediately… something stripey & pepperminty.

Details on Ravelry here .

Introducing Really Red !


At last “Really Red” is finished.

And she is my own design !


A detail of her yoke’s beautiful colors of Autumn , from the back . . .

A detail of my moss stitch rib with vikkel braid, and vintage wooden buttons . . .

Red’s yoke sparkles with the very same red, gold, and brown tones of leaves turning in  Autumn on the grape vines near by, where we walk . . .

And in the greyish dark woods, she really pops out !

And in the very very near future . . .

leftover yarn means a matching tam !!!

(I’ve already cast on !)

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In closing, a spectacular view of mist-covered mountains,

from yesterday’s Knit~Walk,  overlooking Autumn colors of what I like to the “North Bay Highlands” of California.

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All posts about Really Red Cardigan ~~ here

Details on Ravelry ~~ here

Steek & Soak

My thoughts about steeking are only that I am improving with each project. I am happy that I didn’t give up those first times when too many crocheted loops were making the edge ruffling out, or when I crocheted then tighter to  compensate, and then distorting the edge as well. I’ve figured that similar to picking up stitches for the bands, that to crochet 3 rows and then skip a row, makes it seem to be just right, not too many, not too few.

Now, the big thing this time which I’m doing differently, is that I’m going to crochet the edges, finish it all off, then wash and block… all before cutting the steek. I can bet then that picking up stitches won’t be so difficult as I wouldn’t have varying length edges from mismatched tensions and washing/blocking with edges cut apart.  Personally I think this discovery might be an improvement on the process of steeking.

Now it’s time for the magical soak !

Refining Details

This cardigan is the second sweater that I’ve bordered my signature rib with a  vikkel braid stitch.  I only say ‘signature rib’ not because I had anything to do with inventing,  but it is a hybrid rib & moss stitch edging I made up for myself  after some experimentation, and which I love so much that I don’t see any end to using.  In particular,  the bound-off edge I use matches it perfectly, or mirrors the vikkel, making the rib nicely bordered by a braid on both sides.  With the addition of the vikkel braid stitch, I feel my edging style is symetric, pleasing , and finished.


The vikkel works so well as a transition between the ‘body’ and the ‘edge’ because it seems to cover up a sometimes awkward and messy decrease row transitioning into the rib band that seamless yoke sweaters tend to have. Next time I may try two rows of vikkel braid stitch. Or three !

The finish of the two short seems at the join of the body and arms, has become a matter of finer finishings for me. I always do a rough job of sewing seams from raw bound-off edges, but I do love the grafting idea, so I just transfer the stitches onto two short needles (or scrap yarn, or stitch holder) instead of binding off, so they’re all ready to graft together with no hassle. In fact, I think next time I will graft first thing so I’m not having to knit the whole yoke with the hardware hanging out of the armpits. Get it over and done with!

Each time I do this grafting thing to bring the tiny seam together at the ‘arm pit’, I get better ( that is in theory, unless there’s a bit of a time lapse between the last, which in this case, may have been too long).

Practice makes perfect and I’m observing that once the stitches are taken off the needle and grafted together, that trying to take them apart to do over is courting disaster. So, rather than doing the grafting over, I’ll just leave it looking messy and smoosh out the bulky grafted seams when I wash and block.

Fair Isle Waistcoat Revisited

Oh yes, and this one too, brought forth from the back burner, from the beginning of May.

I have since sorted out the pattern improvisation disaster from the beginning, in this post of several months back ~ here . I’m really enjoying how the colors are working, and how the pattern borders are beginning to contrast from the previous border. So fun!

Falling in Love with Fair Isle.

My first tammy ~ and my own design !   This little tam I made for my girlfriends’ birthday, last year in September .  It’s significance is huge because  it launched a sort of knitting rennaisance in my life.  I had been for the first time become aware of traditional Fair Isle knitting, and had just checked out in the library a heap of books on the subject, including a few of Alice Starmore’s .  I have just bought my first knitting book,  the reprint of Alice Starmore’s  “FairIsle Knitting”.  In the years before this project I hardly knit much, save for a flurry of projects in my first years of spinning, however, in all the years not knitting,  I yearned and yearned.  Yearning has became the word which best expresses my feeling about knitting (when I was not knitting), and from which I entitle this blog  ‘Yarnings’ . This here little Tam O’ Shanter was my first stranded color knitting ever, and it has lured me down a one-way road into  yarn and needles and  designing the next Autumn or Spring sweaters for my nieces. Knitting has  grown in a very short time into a passion which has overtaken all else.

I used the charts provided in Alice Starmore’s “Book of Fair Isle Knitting”  which are for the most part, traditional motifs.  I used Jamiesons Shetland Spindrift yarn ~ so light and fluffy, I absolutely fell in love with Shetland wool !



Finest yarn I knit to date.  Ever !