Stitch School

Published on January 29th, 2017 | by Anna Nikipirowicz


Stitch School: Fair Isle in rows with Anna Nikipirowicz

In our last Stitch School post, Anna showed you how to work the Fair Isle technique in the round. This week, we look at colourwork in rows!

Colourwork in rows

A couple of weeks ago I showed you how to knit Fair Isle in the round using the two-handed method and how to catch your floats. Fair Isle is a lot easier to knit in the round on the right side, however there are lots of amazing patterns that call for Fair Isle to be knitted in rows. On the knit side you will work the same way as we did in the previous tutorial, but the purl side is a little bit more tricky and requires a bit more practise.


4.5mm knitting needles and small amounts of 2 colours, I’m using Cascade 220.


Fair Isle patterns are charted, and we will work from the chart below which is a straight chart and is read on RS from right to left and on the WS from left to right.

Using colour A cast on 23 sts.

Work row 1 of chart.

Fair Isle colour chart

Colour dominance

As with knitting in the round we must decide which will be our dominant colour, this colour must stay dominant throughout work on RS and WS, it is paramount in Fair Isle knitting that the two yarns are held consistently, one colour will be held on top and the other below.

The yarn held below will have a slightly longer stitch, which means that this colour will be more dominant and will ‘’pop’’ more. So if you would like the motif to stand out pick this yarn from below the background yarn.

In my sample I want yarn B (yellow) to be dominant and yarn A (grey) to be the background so yarn B is held below yarn A.

Now we have chosen our dominant colour is time to place them in the correct hands and start knitting.

When you knit Fair Isle using the two-handed method the dominant colour (B) is held in the left hand and the background colour (A) is held in the right hand. Place the yarns on the corresponding sides of work, this will prevent them from tangling.

Place yarn A in your right hand and yarn B over the index finger of your left hand. You will knit the stitches with yarn A in the English way and stitches with yarn B the continental way.

Purl with yarn A as normal.

Purl yarn A

To purl with yarn B make sure that it is picked up from below of yarn A, and place it on top of right-hand needle.

Yarn B

Using your thumb, grab yarn B and pull it down and around right-hand needle.

Pull down the needle

Pull the yarn through the stitch.

Pull the yarn through the stitch

Stranding yarns

Continue from chart to round 7.

If you look at round 8 of our chart you will notice that the spaces between colour changes are 7 stitches long. We must still carry yarn B with us all the way, so it is important that we strand yarn every 3 sts at the back of the work to prevent big loops forming, I usually strand the yarn on the 3rd or 4th stitch, but you can strand as often as you like, lots of people choose to strand every other stitch.

Reading the chart from left to right, work to 17th stitch on row 8, insert right-hand needle into the next stitch as normal, place yarn B on top of the right-hand needle.

Stranding method

And purl the stitch with yarn A as normal, as you finish the stitch make sure that yarn B doesn’t come through as well. Purl the next stitch to lock the yarn in place. As you can see yarn B is neatly caught on top of yarn A. Work the rest of the stitches in the row.

Purl the stitch

Sometimes yarn A will need to be stranded, it does not occur in our chart, but it is a good technique to learn.

Wrap yarn A the wrong way around on the right-hand needle, the yarn will go under the needle.

Wrap yarn A around

Now wrap yarn B around the right-hand needle as if to purl normally and return yarn A to its original position.

Purl normally

And finish the stitch with yarn B as normal. Yarn A is neatly caught. Work the rest of the stitches in the row.

Fair Isle stitch

We’d love to see your Fair Isle techniques! Show us in the Community!


About the Author

Anna Nikipirowicz was taught to knit and crochet as a child by her very talented mother, and now she is an author, designer and workshop tutor, teaching knitting and crochet across the UK. You can find Anna at, where she shares her love of yarn, knitting and crochet!

Last updated: August 1st, 2017.

6 Responses to Stitch School: Fair Isle in rows with Anna Nikipirowicz

  1. Charl says:

    That’s a genuinely imprisseve answer.

  2. delilah says:

    Not all Fair Isle patterns are charted. Nor do they have to be.

    IMO, designers should not restrict their product to chart alone. As a blind person, it means I am disadvantaged, as charts are perceived as images and cannot be read by screenreaders. This also has a knock on effect for sales and profits for the sellers. I for one do not buy chart only patterns, neither do many of my VI friends.

  3. Joane says:

    Found this so helpful as I’ve never done fair isle before. I’m about to try my first piece. Thank you for making it clear.

  4. Mandy Pittman says:

    What happens at the end of rows when you have several colours and stop using a colour for several rows? I have been cutting the yarn and rejoining it and sewing all the ends into the seams on a cardigan that used six colours. was that correct?

    • Anna Nikipirowicz says:


      If I don’t use a perticular colour for few rows I cut it and rejoin at the beginning of a row I need then sew in the end. You can carry the yarn up the side, just catch it in the yarns you are using, however, this results in bulky side which I don’t really like.


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