Monday, March 12, 2007

How to Get Started: Tutorials

Once you master color work knitting techniques, you'll look back and see that it wasn't so difficult after all, after you found the information you needed to learn. It is enormously satisfying to paint with your fingers, as each drop of color falls into place and you bear witness to an emerging work of art that is as unique as you are. At the same time, you become part of something larger than yourself, a tradition that goes back centuries, out of the need to provide warmth and decoration. It is at once both loving and expressive, an enormously satisfying combination.

The wonderful thing about this technique is that it looks complex, but it is very easy to do once you master the basics, which are not difficult if you have knowledge, and knowledge is key - finding it is another story, that is the "real" challenge of 2 color knitting. Knowing where and how to access this information can feel like a great mystery when you are first getting started.

After sifting through a lot of this information as someone new to 2 color knitting, I put together a list of all the teaching resources that I have purchased, used and found to be the most helpful in my case, but keep in mind, your experiences and needs might be different:


Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting
This book is now back in print (see more information here). (Or you can borrow a library copy through a local library (check out or through inter-library loan.) Another resource is Ann Feitelstein's Art of Fair Isle Knitting.

The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques by Margaret Radcliffe. A fantastic teaching resource. (In addition to Fair Isle knitting, it also includes instruction on double knitting, entrelac, and intarsia.) There are several beginner patterns in the book including hats, mittens and handbags.

Cardigan Details DVD, Schoolhouse Press
For when you are ready to cast and on get serious about steeks. The DVD takes you through an entire sweater (Lupine Cardigan from Meg Swansen's Knitting - knits up fast!).  You can also purchase a "streaming video" version on Meg's website for US$20.00.

Meg Swansen's Fair Isle Vest DVD, Schoolhouse Press
(A great tutorial for a "V-Neck" Fair Isle vest with armhole and neck steeks)

Eunny Jang's "The Ivy League Vest" DVD from Interweave Knits

After you Master the Basics and Want to Study All Construction Strategies, the following book is an excellent reference resource: Knitting in the Old Way.

When you are ready to select your own colorwork charts for a project, these two classics will provide a wide range of options to select from: Traditional Fair Isle Knitting by Sheila McGregor, and Traditional Scandinavian Knitting by the same author.  Mary Jane Mucklestone has also published similar pattern books, 200 Fair Isle Motifs and 150 Scandinavian Motifs.  Alice Starmore's Chart's for Colorwork Knitting has also been republished.

Updated: Hazel Tindall, who grew up in the Shetland Islands, offers a 3 hour instructional video which you can download online called the Fine Art of Fair Isle Knitting (published in 2014) (see the promo video here) which guides you through the process of knitting her Shetland Star Cardigan.  She has competed in speed knitting competitions and won an award for the "world's fastest knitter" (she learned to knit before she learned how to read and write)! Here is a sample video showing just how fast she knits! I haven't had the pleasure of watching Hazel's full length instructional video, but I wanted to list it here in case you'd like to learn Fair Isle knitting from a Shetland Islander knitter!


Vogue Knitting Live! offers classes in color work knitting.   They offer annual conferences in New York and now in California link to their home page where you can find all the details. Here is a link to the list of classes that were taught last year where you can see the types of classes held which focused on color work knitting techniques (very impressive!).  For the first time last year the people from Vogue Knitting brought  a major knitting conference to Southern California and they will be there again (May 13-15, 2016) for all you warm weather knitters!  As of the time of this post update, the new classes for 2016 have not been published but I have my fingers crossed that we'll get some great teachers again for this year!

Stitches West, South, Mid-West and Texas

Knitter's Magazine now puts on annual knitting conferences in four locations across the country each year.  Beth Brown Reinsel (who offers a fabulous newsletter loaded with tons of great advice that you can sign up for through her website, and who now has a You Tube channel and an Etsy Shop where you can buy her DVD, Color Stranding Knitting Techniques) will be teaching a class at Stitches South this year on knitting Norwegian mittens.


Since many valuable books have gone out of print and can be very costly to buy, some experienced knitters have developed online tutorials to help fill in the gaps. I found these free tutorials online to be very helpful, particularly for their photos:

Eunny Jang's Steek Chronicles

Wendy Johnson's Article on Steeks at

Steek Photos by Wendy Johnson for a Dale of Norway Norwegian Sweater:

Steek Photos by Wendy Johnson for a Fair Isle Sweater:

Crochet Steeks (nice photos!):

(See the link list on the right for other great tutorials online.)

One final word of advice: knitters can be very opinionated, because we all have different experiences that lead us to successful mastery of these techniques and different preferences for how to accomplish what we want to achieve. So don't just take my word, be sure to ask around and get opinions from people you trust. There are probably as many ways to knit a sweater as there are people who knit and you will most likely develop your own unique style as well. Perhaps one day you will invent a technique that will be named after you! I hope one day you will share what you learned and pass it on!


hege said...

Thanks for your comment on Poetry in Stitches! Your blog is very cool, it's great that you have compiled all this information in one place.

Donni said...

Excellent site - thanks

Lara said...

This is brilliant! I have struggled in the wilderness doing my first Norwegian mittens. I can't wait to read all these resources! I found out about you through a Ravelry Group. Yay!