We have a winner!

Congratulations to Virginia! She is the winner of our Fair Isle Giveaway. I can’t wait to see your version of the Bishop of Aberdeen scarf.

Picking colors for Fair Isle

Have you ever seen a Fair Isle pattern that you just love…but don’t care for the colors it is photographed in? Do you feel paralyzed when trying to pick your own color combo? Here are a few tips to help you select colors.

·         The first thing you will want to think about is the feeling that you want from your sweater. Do you want something bright and bold? Or do you want something soft and pretty? Looking for a traditional feel? Or something more contemporary?

We knit the Faith sweater from Cathedral in Wynter and Blackthorn for different looks.

·         Consider picking your main or predominant color first. Especially if you are knitting something like the Faith sweater above. That, along with the choice(s) you made above, will determine the rest of the colors in your knitting.

·         Refer back to your basic color wheel and the lessons you learned as a child about complementary and harmonious colors. Complementary colors are across the color wheel from one another. Whereas, harmonious colors are next to each other.

Complementary colors will make each other pop more (perfect for a contemporary feeling), whereas harmonious colors are more likely to flow into one another (for a softer look).

·         Look at the value of the color. One of my favorite color combos is blue and green. Since they are right next to each other on the color wheel, sometimes they bleed together too much in Fair Isle. But if you choose colors that are of different values, they can still work beautifully together in Fair Isle.

Inca Alpaca - True Blue (11157) & Fern (1141)

One good way to tell value is by taking a photo of the yarns you want to use together and use a filter in Photoshop or Instagram to make the photo black and white. If you can see a difference in the greys after the color is removed, there is a good chance that these colors will work well together in your knitting.

Same picture as above, but without color

·         If the yarns you want to use are in hanks, untwist them and re-twist together (you may want to ask the LYS owner/employee if this is ok first). This will give you an idea of how the colors will work up together in smaller bits. You can do something similar with yarns that are in premade balls by twisting a few strands together.

·         Don’t be afraid of putting a color in your knitting that you would normally never wear/pick. Sometimes it makes your main color pop even more.

·         Do a sample swatch! I know it’s a dirty word and no one wants to swatch. But this is a great chance to experiment with your colors. And if there is something you want to change, you haven’t invested too much time.

Different color variations of the Apostle bag from Cathedral
Pro tip – if your FO is part Fair Isle and part stockinette, make sure do a swatch in both techniques. You may have to change your needle size to keep your gauge constant throughout the FO.

·         Ask others for their opinions.  The person working at your LYS probably has helped lots of other customers with their color sections – take advantage of that experience. Also ask the other knitters in the store. Most people aren’t shy about giving their opinion, and someone may suggest something that you would have NEVER thought of, but end up loving. Sometimes it is good to step outside our own color boxes!

Are you still feeling overwhelmed? I understand.

Kristin Nicholas has a great class on Creative Bug about choosing colors for your color knitting. It’s worth checking out if you are starting to hyperventilate feel daunted.

But here is the most important tip I am going to give you today – have fun! This is a great way to flex your creative muscle, but if you aren’t enjoying it…change it! Make it something you will love knitting AND using or giving.

Knit on!

Following Fair Isle Charts

Charts, you either love them or hate them. With lace or cables you can write out the directions if you prefer. Unfortunately, that's not an option for Fair Isle, and if you are not a fan…well…keep reading. Maybe some of the tips below will help change your mind.

I happen to love charts. To me it is a quick way to see how a pattern is going to progress, whether in color work, lace or cables.

The first thing that confuses many people about charts is where to start. Since English is the main language that we in the United States and Canada read, we want to start at the top left and work to the right and then skip down to the next line. Right?

While that is correct for reading, it is wrong for following a chart. In fact you will want to do the exact opposite. Row 1 is at the bottom of the chart and you want to start with the square that is on the far right side of the chart and end with the square on the far left. Think of it as reading your knitting/crochet. You will be following the chart in the direction you are knitting - from the bottom corner up to the top row, and from right to left.

Ok...row one is done. Now what?

Well that depends a little on how you are knitting. Are you knitting in the round or back and forth?

Keeping in mind that you are reading your chart the same way you are read your knitting/crochet, if you are working back and forth you will want to go up one row and start from the left hand side work to the far right hand side.

Think of it as a zig zag. You work one row zig and the next row zag.

Many Fair Isle patterns are worked in the round (yay…no purling). Therefore you need to change the way you read your chart. Because you are building on top of the round below (like a slinky) you will want to start row two of your chart on the right hand side and work right to left.

Many Fair Isle patterns are symmetrical and it wouldn’t matter too much it you read the chart from left to right, but some have an extra stitch that helps transition the pattern from one repeat into the next. And it’s always a good idea to learn the right way to do something, so you don’t have to re-learn it later.

Ok, so now we know how to read a chart. But what if you tend to get lost in the chart? There are lots of good tools out there to help you, which vary from the inexpensive to the costly. And from simple to high-tech.

1.       The first is a simple and cheap time honored method. 

Make a photo copy or print out a copy of the chart. Use a post-it note to track what row you are on.

Yep it’s that simple. A copy and a post-it note. But be sure to place the post-it just above the row you are working on. Since you are building on the previous row, you will want to see how the chart is progressing compared to your knitting. This will help you determine if you are on track and spot any mistakes early. In fact this tip is true of any of the methods I am mentioning.

You can also use removable highlighter tape. Many yarn stores carry the highlighter tape in their notions section. If they don’t have it try your local office supply store.

2.       The next is a little more Cathy Creative…but since I already know many of you are crafty, it might be worth a try.

For this technique, it might be helpful if copy your chart onto a piece of cardstock. You will also want to take an additional piece of card stock or index card and make two slits that are just a little wider than the size of your piece of paper your chart is on, like so:

Then you will slip you chart in between the slits and move it up as you go:

       Many of you multi crafters already know that there are chart keepers out there for embroidery/ needlepoint/cross stitch. They usually consist of a thin metal board (with rounded edges, so you don’t hurt yourself) and a long straight magnet.

They come in a variety of sizes and work really well.

       The next method is starting to get a little more tech savvy, but uses something most of you already have…a computer and a spreadsheet application (like Excel).

The tricky part is that you will want to ‘recreate’ you chart by changing you row width and using your conditional formattting tool (more on this in an upcoming post). This can be extremely helpful if you are changing the colors of your project from the original colors in the published pattern, as it will be easier to follow along.

Once you have a chart in Excel, you can highlight the row above the one you are working and follow along that way.

Of course, once you have created your chart you can save it as a pdf as well, great for uploading to a phone or tablet. Plus it's always good to have a back-up!

The last is the most costly, assuming you don’t already have the tools for this. But many of you will.

Many of us carry with us with smart phones and/or some sort of tablet on a daily basis. Why not use one of the many apps that allow you to read a pdf for your knitting? Many of them also have options for making notes on the pattern, including making a large rectangle (or really any shape) or line that is movable. The one I use on my Kindle and iPhone also have an option to make the rectangle slightly transparent. Which I like because I can see what is coming up on the next row/round.

These apps usually also have places you can make notes, either typed or hand written. Which is a great tip for any knitting pattern – whether it has a chart or not.

I know these sound simple, but believe me, getting lost in your chart is no fun. And these techniques are good if your chart is 10 stitches wide or 50!

Do you have a technique that you use but I haven’t mentioned? I would love to hear it. And I am sure some of the other knitters would too!

Knit on!

A Fair Isle Givaway

Hopefully by now you have seen all the gorgeous Fair Isle projects in CathedralI know I am itching to cast-on for some of these projects. Especially the Bishop of Aberdeen scarf that is on the cover. And then it hit me....we should have a giveaway. Honestly, who doesn’t love a giveaway?

The winner will receive a kit to make the Bishop of Aberdeen Scarf. That's 10 balls of Liberty Wool Light (solid colors), and a pdf copy of the Cathedral book.

To enter the giveaway, simply fill out the form below and click submit. It’s that easy! Please enter no later than 5 PM Eastern Time on Monday December 23, 2013.

One entry per person. The winner will be drawn at random. The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and is void where prohibited by law. Winner will be contacted via email.

Good Luck!

A Beginner’s Fair Isle Story

Color work - two little words that can strike fear into many knitters’ hearts.

I confess. I used to be one of those knitters. I was always impressed with the amazing works that I would see fly off the needles of some of the knitters I knew. Every time I turned around, there was another hat. Or maybe a pair of mittens. And let’s not even mention the cute yoke sweaters they were making. I was in awe and my eyes (normally a pale shade of blue) would turn green.

I had tried Intarsia in the past, and let’s just be kind and say that…ummm, I didn’t care for having multiple balls and twisting of the yarns. I thought Fair Isle would be the same. Until I learned a ‘secret’ – you only work with two colors at a time and carry one color in each hand. Which means…no twisting!

I was super excited and couldn’t wait to get home and try it. I found a pair of size 8 needles and some scrap yarn in two contrasting colors and cast on right away. I didn’t even have a chart I wanted to use at first, I just wanted to try the technique.

I am an English knitter (I hold the yarn in my right hand and throw the yarn around the needle), which meant I need a quick lesson in continental knitting (where you hold the yarn in your left hand and pick it). I had seen other knitters do it, so I had an idea of how it was done…but I still did a little surfing on YouTube to watch some videos and get some tips. It didn’t take long to get the idea and get started.

After a few rows I had gotten the rhythm of using both hands down, but I noticed that the color that I was holding in my left hand was all bunchy and awkward. I was having a tension problem. While I was a little frustrated, I knew it was a problem I could fix.

I put down the needles for a little bit and pouted, I mean thought. ‘How am I going to make this work?’ ‘There has got to be a way.’ ‘Hundreds of thousands of knitters (and probably even more than that) before me have done this…I know I can too!’

And then it hit me. It’s all about how I was holding my yarn! I had wrapped the yarn in my left just once around my hand, like I did when knitting English with my right hand. But since I knit looser with my left hand, I needed to have more tension on the yarn. It was as simple as wrapping the yarn around my hand a second time. I love it when I find a simple solution to a problem.

I am happy to report that I am not longer afraid of Fair Isle. And it’s a good thing too, with all the wonderful designs that are constantly being published. Next up in my queue of Fair Isle - this beautiful scarf from our Cathedral collection.

Bishop of Aberdeen is knit as a tube in the round; it uses 10 colors of Liberty Wool Light Solid and is a great way to try Fair Isle for the first time. The charts aren’t too complex, after a repeat or two; you will find that you need only glance at them.

Now if only I could finish my holiday knitting…

Knit on.


I am sure you have noticed that Fair Isle is the in thing these days. Everyone from Anthropologie to Ralph Lauren is showcasing it in their collections. Used as a trim on a hat or as a main motif on a sweater, it is everywhere you look. Check out some of the examples I found on our Pinterest board.

When our Creative Director, Susan Mills, was looking for a theme for December’s book (Cathedral) she immediately thought of Fair Isle/color work.

While today’s Fair Isle can be traditional, it can also be bold and exciting using vibrant colors, textures and contemporary charts. In the book Cathedral, Susan used a variety of yarns (Ava, Liberty Wool Light, Blackthorn, Wynter, Soft Linen, La Gran, Fresco and more) to achieve her goal – a modern take on Fair Isle.

Row 1: Lady of Grace, Bishop of Aberdeen & High Kirk
Row 2: Lady of the Lake, Apostle & Trinity
Row 3: Basilica, Faith (Wynter) & Faith (Blackthorn)
Row 4: Saint Stephen (Fair Isle), Saint Stephen (Stripe) & Abbey
Some of you are already planning and are itching to cast on. While others of you may be thinking “boy, that sure is pretty, but I don't know…I've’ve never done Fair Isle before.” I want to ensure you that YOU CAN DO THIS. Many of the sweaters are knit from the bottom up and have as little as 25 rows of color work - which is perfect for the beginner color work enthusiast. It gives you plenty of time to work up your courage for the color section.

One of the great things about Fair Isle is that is looks more complicated than it really is. You will only be working with 2 colors at a time. If you are new to color work, I promise that you will get the hang of it. It even becomes a little addicting –

       ‘Just one more row and I can see the pattern a little better.’ 

       ‘Ok, that looks awesome; I wonder what it will look like at the end of this row.’ 

       ‘I am almost at the end of this motif. I’ll just knit till I get there and then put it

Sounds familiar, right?

Another great thing about Fair Isle knitting is the number of possibilities. When you add in more than one color, you add to the number of ways to make your knitting project your own. It really is a lot of fun to go to your LYS and play with the all the color options.

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing some color knitting tips that the knitters of Classic Elite Yarns have picked up along the way.

Knit on.

It’s here. It’s here! It’s here!!!!!

One of our most popular yarns is Chalet from our MountainTop Collection. It’s super yummy and snuggly - and everyone loves it. From day one, people have been asking us “When are you going to get this is colors?” I have good news! It’s here!

Chateau is Chalet’s colorful cousin. It comes in 8 A-M-A-Z-I-N-G colors. All of which work back to the natural colors of the Chalet. It is the same alpaca and bamboo chainette that makes a luxurious, lofty, soft, plush, superior, exquisite, wonderful yarn. It is a bulky yarn, yet because of its chainette construction it is also lightweight and airy when knit at a looser gauge. The bamboo lends lots of drape to garments and accessories. And it has beautiful stitch definition - cables are gorgeous, lace is incredible and simple stockinette is breath taking.

Can you tell I like this yarn?

Because Chateau is the same base as Chalet, there are countless opportunities to revisit some favorite patterns. I had a little fun with Photoshop to give you some previews. 

By far, the Color Block Bias Wrap from Handmade Los Angeles I is our most popular design in Chalet. I see a new one pop up on Facebook or Ravelry at least once a week. While part of the beauty of the wrap is the neutrals which go with everything, sometimes you need a little color. Whether you replace just one color in the wrap or go all out and change all of them, your FO will be the envy of everyone in your LYS.

7443 Adobe, 7406 Camel & 1419 Dusty Pink
1457 Clear Sky, 7475 Slate & 1449 Denim
Another popular design is the Velvetrix from Soft & Cozy. I love big cowl necks that you can cozy up in. The stockinette body of the sweater will go quickly, while the cable detail on the neck will highlight your knitting skills. 

1481 Bud Green
I also love the Appenzell from the Chalet book last year. The yarn really highlights the cable and moss stitch patterns used in this side-to-side dolman sweater. Perfect with a pair of jeans for the weekends or with a skirt for the office.

1457 Clear Blue
I highly recommend running (not walking) to your LYS to get a few (or 20) skeins of Chateau to make something wonderful today!

Knit on!