Fair Isle vs. Intarsia

Back in 1994 I crocheted a Precious Moments afghan for my parents. Up until this project I thought one only used one color at a time when crocheting. However, I wanted to make the afghan with multiple colors. I simply cut and tied together the colors as they came up. I had never heard of Fair Isle or intarsia. If only I had! I probably could have finished the project a little faster, though the end result would have been much the same.

What are Fair Isle and intarsia? They are forms of changing colors while knitting or crocheting. More commonly associated with knitting, Fair Isle and intarsia can be used successfully with single crochet. Though both result in projects with images or patterns, how the color is changed is different. The Precious Moments afghan was done in a format similar to intarsia though not in true fashion since I cut the yarn and tied on the new color at each color change.

Fair Isle crochet scarves for 2011 Special Olympics

Fair Isle

In Fair Isle knitting or crocheting, two or more colors are used and carried along to be used as the pattern calls for it. It is carried loosely in the back when knitting and crocheted over/on top of when crocheting. Traditional Fair isle uses two colors per row or round. Two colors for knitting leaves only one color “stranded” alongthe back/wrong side. Two colors for crocheting means only one strand of yarn is hidden or crocheted over. The disadvantage of carrying multiple strands when crocheting is that it gets harder to to hide multiple strands as the stitches gets thicker around. This can also distort the size of the row.

Fair Isle knit skull hat

Intarsia

Intarsia is the use of multiple colors on multiple balls or bobbins. Each color is used and then dropped when the color is changed. The appropriate strand of yarn is picked back up and used on the way back across the row. For knitting, this requires picking up the new color from under the old color so the yarn is twisted together and a hole is not formed. For crocheting, the color may still need to be carried on a previous row a stitch or two like in the Fair Isle method if the color does not resume right above the previous row.

Crocheted Fair Isle and Intarsia Pillow

Fair Isle and Intarsia often use charts rather than detailed row by row written instructions. These charts can be used for knitting and crocheting. The stitch sizes in knitting and crocheting are slightly different, but will still work well when single crocheted. Half double and double crochets elongate the stitches which will distort the image. There will also be longer strands made when picking up “dropped” yarn from previous rows.

Fair Isle and intarsia designs can be made from any graph. If you can graph it, you can knit/crochet it. The sky truly is the limit. Check out the Graph It post for some ideas on making your own graph.

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