This week I have an interview with Jeanne Davidson, a local knitter and fellow teacher at North Country Fiber Fair (which just happens to be this weekend) in Watertown, SD. Jeanne loves knitting Fair Isle and has been knitting and designing in it for close to 20 years. When she lived in AZ, she taught it regularly at Tempe Yarn & Fiber for about 5 yrs. Last year she taught a class for the Brookings Fiberworks Guild on using steeks and this year will be teaching at NCFF for the first time. She will be teaching Beginning Fair Isle Knitting (Saturday, Sept 17 @ 1-3 PM) and Designing with Fair Isle (Sunday, Sept 18 @ 12-2 PM) and even though online registration has closed, you can still attend the class by signing up at the event.
Designing with Fair Isle is "a class that focuses on designing your own Fair Isle or incorporating Fair Isle into other patterns." And with both classes she said: "I hope to help knitters who might be intimidated by two-color knitting discover that it is isn't as hard as it looks and is so much fun!"
YY: Do you have any favorite motifs that you just love to knit up?
JD: I like traditional Fair Isle motifs, but I also like to do Celtic knots. I've used them on gloves and at least 2 sweaters.
YY: How do you choose your colors and patterns for your projects?
JD: I often make up my own patterns based on fairly traditional Fair Isle motifs or on things I see. For example, the Hohokam vest that is on my Ravelry page, uses some designs on overpasses around the Phoenix area along with a modification of some Hohokam pottery designs.
For the colors, I generally have a main color I want to use and then I find others that I think will contrast well with it. In some cases I use multiple colors for both background and pattern, in other cases, I use one color for each. It really depends on what I want to accomplish (and on what yarn I have available).
YY: What type of needles do you prefer when you're knitting Fair Isle? (Do you have a preference?)
JD: For sweaters, I usually knit with metal circular needles, generally about a size 3. More stitches allows for more detailed patterns! For gloves or mittens, which I also enjoy making, I double points, usually wood, often in a size 1-2, depending on the size of the persons hands.
YY: Do you have a favorite yarn brand or fiber and why do you love it? (I'm guessing wool, but you never know. ^_-)
JD: I frequently use sock yarn in my Fair Isle knitting because it's pretty easy to get and comes in lots of colors. Cascade Heritage and Heritage Silk make great projects and they have some wonderful colors. I also like knitting with alpaca (I like to weave with alpaca and alpaca silk blends, too). When I first started knitting Fair Isle, I ordered Shetland wool yarn from Jamieson & Smith, a company in Shetland, UK. They have incredible colors that blend together so you can do very cool things with background and pattern colors.
YY: What draws you to Fair Isle?
JD: I love knitting Fair Isle because it allows me to play with patterns and colors. Each round is a little (or more than a little) different so the knitting stays interesting. I also like it because each round is only two colors, so I don't have to mess with bobbins of multiple colors, but I can use as many colors as I want in any given project. As a general rule, Fair Isle patterns tend to be pretty geometric in nature, which also suits me well!
YY: Do you use other colorwork techniques in your knitting or do you usually stick with Fair Isle?
JD: I usually stick with Fair Isle technique, even though my patterns aren't always "traditional".
YY: For those who may not know, what is the difference between traditional Fair Isle and other colorwork techniques?
JD: As I mentioned above, Fair Isle uses only one or two colors in any one round. The yarn not in use is "stranded" across the back until it's needed in the pattern, so it is sometimes called stranded knitting, too. Fair Isle also refers to the traditional patterns and motifs that are commonly used, along with the technique.
(Intarsia) is another colorwork technique that uses multiple colors in each row or segment of knitting and often requires keeping track of multiple bobbins of yarn as part of the process. I have only heard stories of Entrelac - I've never done it myself.
YY: This is your first year teaching at North Country Fiber Fair, have you gotten to attend the fair before and if so did you take any classes?
JD: I have attended NCFF the past two years, but did not take any classes. I really enjoyed the Border Collie demos and the sheep shearing. I heard great things about the various classes, though, and I had a great time visiting with vendors and taking part in the crafting circle.
I hope that you've enjoyed this interview and that you've been inspired to give Fair Isle a try in your knitting this fall. If you are attending North Country Fiber Festival (Sept 16-18, 2016) and see me, stop by and say "hi", I'd love to meet you and see what you're working on! If you're interested, I do still have some spots in my Perfectly Portable Crochet Class (Friday, Sept 16 @ 5-8 PM) and in my Basic Brioche Knitting Class (Sunday, Sept 18 @ 12:30-3:30 PM), sign ups are at the event.
Have a great week of crafting!
(PS: All photos were provided by Jeanne Davidson.)