Monday, March 12, 2007

How to Get Started: Tutorials

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 when I was new to 2 color knitting, I put together a list of all the teaching resources that I have purchased (these are all publications from the US written in English) used and found to be the most helpful in my case, but keep in mind, your experiences and needs might be different.


BOOKS & Video:

Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting
This book is THE best teaching guide for "Fair Isle" knitting.  When I bought my copy it was out of print and very expensive! The great news is that it 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 from your local library.) Another excellent resource is Ann Feitelstein's Art of Fair Isle Knitting.

Alice Starmore Teaching Videos (Free)
Alice Starmore has uploaded a wonderful selection of teaching videos on her website where she sells her own brand of yarn at

Hazel Tindall Fair Isle Knitting DVD's (Streaming Option Available on Vimeo)
Hazel offers 2 DVD's on her website that you can purchase to download or stream online through Vimeo. There are samples from the videos on her website so you can see the content that is included. I have viewed her first video where she guides you through all the steps for making a Fair Isle cardigan. Although there are a few drawbacks to this video (knitting speed is almost too rapid for a beginner to learn from) you do get a step by step overview of all the major steps involved. I can't say this was my favorite resource, but there are a few unique things here that were new and good to know.

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 is a joy to learn from. I felt I learned more from her DVD's, much much more, than I did from her books. She is/was the 'original' knitting podcast!)

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

Eunny's pattern(s) offer the most sophisticated shaping in Fair Isle knitting that I have ever come across. This vest offers an opportunity to learn how to incorporate that into your work. The most important lesson to learn with shaping is learning how to increase and decrease 'in pattern.'

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. It is a very good reference resource, not 100% necessary or essential but nice to have. It mostly focuses on the logic of how/why knitters chose to knit sweaters in the round and all the various ways in which this was done traditionally.

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 a few pattern books, 200 Fair Isle Motifs and 150 Scandinavian Motifs.  Alice Starmore's Chart's for Colorwork Knitting has also been republished.


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.  Sometimes knitting guilds offer instruction in color work knitting as well. You can contact the Knitting Guild Association to see if they have a chapter near you. Finally, sometimes you can find support through KAL's (Knit Alongs) that focus on color work knitting through Ravelry.

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 (hat, mittens etc.) 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!


Muli Headband
Published in Shetland Woolweek Annual 2015 by Ella Gordon.
Available for purchase through Ravelry from Ella Gordon Designs.


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!

Ntrovert said...

I've knitted several stranded Starmore sweaters and I'm researching to work a Norwegian style cardigan. I've seen comments there are differences in reading a color chart between the two styles, but it is still a bit unclear. Can you elaborate about the difference?