How to work with Fair Isle charts to shape your design
In part one of this Masterclass (above), we looked at stitch-counts for the Fair Isle cast-on and rib, and how to select the colours for your own designs. Now, thanks to the expert advice of Jane Crowfoot, we’ll explain everything you need to know for working out Fair Isle charts, to shape your tam o’shanter into the traditional ‘beret’ shape.
Working out Fair Isle charts
If we knit in the round and continue to knit straight with no increasing or decreasing, we will end up with a knitted tube. A tam has more of a shape to it – from the top of the rib the knitted fabric increases in diameter in order to create the ‘beret’ style, and later on the hat is decreased in order to form the top flat part of the hat and of course create an enclosed hat.
Your design will probably need to have separate charts to cover the different stitch counts created as you increase and decrease.
Working out Fair Isle charts can be a bit tricky, but also a lot of fun. If you have a computer you can create charts easily on an Excel spreadsheet as follows:
Set up your spreadsheet so that the shape of the cells are square. Knitter’s graph paper is normally made up of ‘wide’ rectangles (because stitches are wider than they are tall). However, Fair Isle knitting is normally fairly square in tension, so squares, or rectangles that are only very slightly wider than they are deep, will actually give you a more accurate impression of the final look or your hat.
Using the ‘fill’ tab, insert the colours you wish to use in their relevant cells.
Alternatively you can chart using graph paper and pencils, but this can be slower.
Small Fair Isle band
It is traditional to have a small Fair Isle band after the rib and after the first set of increases.
If using a 4ply weight of yarn, I would suggest that this is worked over no more than 15 rows, which at this tension should work out at about 5cm deep.
I chose to design a repeated pattern over 7 sts. When I charted this up I drew it over 14 sts just to be sure that the repeat worked properly.
Using a spreadsheet makes it really easy to get a quick visual representation of how the Fair Isle will work; this is done simply by selecting the section to repeat, copying and pasting it. Ensure when you copy and paste not to overlap sections, which can be an easy mistake to make.
Once I had decided on my 14 st pattern repeat I did a calculation to see how many repeats would work across my stitch count.
If I chose to do 10 pattern repeats then the stitch count I would need for the Fair Isle band would be 140 sts. (10 x 14 = 140).
However, in order to make the tam ‘flare out’ from the brim I needed to make an increase in stitch count immediately after the rib. Adding an extra 9 to 10cm to the circumference of the tam will give the shaping required at this point.
To add 10cm I would need to add 29.5 sts at my chosen tension.
This number doesn’t work in the pattern repeat, but 28 sts (2 x 14sts) does, giving me 168 stitches, which allows me to work 12 repeats of the design.
For the tam to look symmetrical you should work in whole repeats of your intended stitch pattern, so aim to round your desired increase up or down slightly to fit in easily with your pattern repeats.
This increase gave me 28 stitches difference to the number of stitches used on the rib (168 – 140 = 28).
To work out how often to increase the calculation was as follows:
140 (rib count) divided by 28 (stitches needed for increase) = 5.
The outcome of this calculation meant that the increase would need to be made every 5 stitches, so the increase row would be written as follows:
Increase row: *K5, M1; repeat from * to end. 168 sts.
However, I decided I did not want to be increasing at the beginning of the round
as this can look really messy, so instead I staggered the start of the shaping and wrote the row as follows:
Row 14: K2, M1, *K5, M1; repeat from * to last 3 sts, K3. 168 sts.
You may find that the number of increases doesn’t fit as neatly as mine did. If this is the case, try to make your increases as even as possible.