My Fair Isle is Unfair...any tips?

So, I have a very tight gauge. I know this. My projects are soft, warm, and could shrug off a blow from a hammer.

For that reason, I spent the first 19 years of my knitting life avoiding things like Fair Isle, which seemed designed specifically to expose this technical deficiency.

However, I fell victim to a pattern that I just HAD to try. And my strands, as expected, are too short. The project is in the round, so I’m knitting it inside out, and I’m trying to be very mindful and knit with generous room for my strands. I’m even trying to stick a finger in there as I knit. Nonetheless, I’m sitting here hoping I’ll be able to steam block this into something I can accept.

Does anyone have any special tips/tricks for keeping your stitches ‘loose’ enough for Fair Isle to turn out as intended? This is just a two-color project, which is probably the only wise move I’ve made in this effort.

Many thanks.


I’ve read to try using a larger needle for the stranded part of the sweater. I had to rip back an entire yoke because it would fit the shoulders of a 7 year old child, and I’m going to try one size larger needle and inside out. And picking up and dropping my yarn instead of trying to use a color in each hand.


Interesting. Maybe I’ll try using a larger dpn on the strands, and then slide it on to the circs I’m using. Seems a bit fussy, but so are my efforts to try to stretch the strands…I’m sure the spirits of a million grandmothers are yelling at me from the Beyond.

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I wasn’t proposing that…that would be so fussy! I just meant knitting the whole yoke where the stranding is with a larger needle, then switching to the smaller needle when doing the sleeves and body. I’m going to go back to my ripped back friend pretty soon to try try again! Good luck!


So, I’ve not had your problem, exactly, but a friend of my mom’s did and her solution was to do a yarn over every 20 stitches or so, then drop the yo the next round. Also stagger them so the yarn overs are not all in one spot.
I have never done this, so I don’t know if it works for anyone besides my mom’s friend, but I thought I’d let you know there are other solutions out there.


Two things that may help.

  1. Turn your item inside out. You are still knitting as usual but the floats are on the outside so go a bit more distance.

  2. Spread the stitches being “floated” on your right needle before working the float color.

These with larger needles may help.


There have been some great ideas posted.
My question is, what are your needles made of (wood, metal, plastic)?

These are metal circs, because they were best length for doing Magic Loop on this project.

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Hmmm. I was going to recommend slick metal. I wish I had more advice for you.


I just recently took a class to learn two color fair Isle and discovered I’m am extremely tight knitter. The teacher had me size up my needles a LOT - I think all my classmates were using 4s and I used 7s. I have interchangeables and she also had me leave the 7 for the knitting (so right hand for me who is right handed) and use the 4 for the the needle that I was taking the stitches from, because I was fighting so hard to get the stitches off the needle I was having pain in my elbows. I’m also just knitting this project extra slowly to try to concentrate and think loose open flowing thoughts for each stitch!

Good luck!


Watch the Alice Starmore videos on tension. On her website They helped me a lot.


My gauge Fair Isle actually tends to be looser than with plain stockinette, because I use the two-handed method and my Continental gauge is looser. So you could try switching up the knitting method if all else fails.
Also, if you have any longer floats in the pattern make sure you catch them every 2-4 stitches. That will help prevent them from pulling too tight.

Have you tried Kate’s tips?

It’s been a minute…
Thanks all for the recommendations and the links! I’ve got a couple projects I’m working on now, but will be going back to Fair Isle by the end of summer, and will definitely use this post and the responses as references.

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Whether you knit inside out, go up needle sizes, carefully space every stitch or any other trick, the reality is faire isle knitting has a different drape than other knitted loops. The floats in the back (WS), no matter how loose they are, will constrain the stretch of the knit. Think if it like lining a knit fabric with a woven fabric. Therefore the finished size of a faire isle item will matter more than other types of knitted items where stretch can accommodate multiple sizes.

My suggestion is to be careful of the chosen finished size and try to make all the faire isle patterns or color rows be consistent with each other so that some rows don’t pull in or sag compared to the others. Also notice the chosen yarn and its quality of stretch. Some spun wool has more “give” than others. Finally, lean into the quality of fabric created with your stitches! The colors can create uncompromising beauty!!


I checked this out based on your recommendation, and it was extremely helpful. Thank you!