Alice Neal’s kitty cat jumper and free kitten mittens pattern
A special treat for fairisle and intarsia lovers! Alice Neal’s new pattern Kitty Cat is a gorgeously warm jumper in MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino with an intarsia cat and fair isle kittens. Here, she tells us about her passion for colourwork.
I struggle to knit garments in one colour, I confess. I start off with the best intentions – this time it will be all one colour, and suddenly – splash! – there’s a row of pink I didn’t even know it needed.
Knitting with colour is fun. Granted, it may be a little scary at first. I mean, have you looked at the inside of a fairisle jumper? People don’t usually show those pictures. They can be quite horribly daunting. So brace yourselves, because here it comes…
And intarsia in the round?
A world of ends to sew in!
The pictures above and below are intarsia in the round, rather than fairisle, and produce an awful lot of ends. When you work intarsia in the round, you can’t work a chart back and forth as you would if you were working intarsia flat, and so rather than knit backwards, or wrap and turn, I introduce separate strands for each row of pattern. This works much more easily — but results in a lot of sewing in of ends!
For secure fair isle knitting, the key is in the wrapping or catching of the yarn: winding one colour around the other in order to carry it along the back of the work without great big loops of yarn inside your garment. You can see it best demonstrated in the top picture. When I first started out experimenting with colour, I used to try to leave the wrapping as long as possible, but the very tedious truth is that if you leave it for more than 3 stitches, it just becomes something to snag your jewellery on, or get caught on your bra strap, or the button of your jeans, or…
Tip number one: Don’t leave it more than 3 stitches before wrapping (catching) your yarn. Divide the number of stitches into multiples of 3, or 2 is even better. It can be yawnsome, yes. But trust me. It’s worth it.
Julie Williams from the Little Cotton Rabbits blog has an excellent illustration of how to catch, or wrap, as you work fair isle here.
Versatile: a band of fair isle at hip level can be used to shape your garment rather than a rib
The next issue is tension. It can be very easy to knit and wrap your stitches very close but the danger is you will end up with a very tightly pulled band of work and no amount of steam blocking will relax it. So….
Tip number two: spread your stitches along the needle after you’ve knitted them. Don’t stretch them out, or you’ll have the opposite issue with gaping stitches. Just spread them, as naturally as possible, along the needle before you wrap the yarn again.
The fact is, knitting a fairisle motif across an otherwise simple stocking stitch garment will automatically pull it in. And this can actually work in your favour. A roomy, relaxed sweater can be brought in to be snug on the hip and give it a flattering shape by adding a motif around the bottom, for example. Or sleeves can be brought in around the wrist with a motif, rather than reverting to ribbing. It’s a versatile tool to experiment with.
If, after these suggestions, you’re still a little anxious about all that introducing new colours, and wrapping and catching, there is another alternative. Why not start simpler with stripes? And if solid stripes are just that wee bit too tame, then perhaps a self-striping yarn, paired with a solid colour? The results can be breathtaking.
However you decide to mix it up, my final word is to urge you to enjoy yourself! The most daunting part is before you dive. Then? Then you’re swimming in colour.
Download the matching mittens pattern for FREE in October!
Alice’s Kitten Mittens are free to download this month! These are wonderful stocking fillers to knit ahead for gifts!
Last updated: January 4th, 2017.