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Review: 200 Fair Isle Motifs


First, the facts:

Title: 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter’s Directory

Author: Mary Jane Mucklestone

Published by: Interweave Press, 2011

Pages: 207

Type: Stitch Dictionary.


1. Essential Skills
2. Motif Directory

200 Fair Isle

The In-Depth Look:

When is a stitch dictionary not just a stitch dictionary?

When it’s as creative as this one.

Hmm … okay, the joke was lame, but this book? So very not lame. So very worth taking a look at.

You know how stitch dictionaries work. They (usually) show you a photo of a sample swatch of the stitch, alongside a graph and/or row-by-row written instructions on how to knit it for yourself. Stitch patterns for colorwork are often even less complex–just a series of black and white boxes showing off the layout of dark-to-light stitches, but leaving the color decisions up to you. I love stitch dictionaries, but after a while, they tend to run together …

And then one like this comes along.

As is obvious by the title, this book is devoted to colorwork stitches–primarily the kind you would use in a Fair Isle design. It begins with the de rigeur pages talking about yarn and needles and how to weave in your ends … things you might have in multiple other books. It’s all very nice and helpful and don’t let me belittle it or anything, but … you’re going to want to hurry past it to get to the good stuff.

First, there’s the handy “Motif Selector.” It’s like a table of contents–visual samples of each of the stitch patterns laid in front of you so you can flip through to find one you like before heading to its actual page for the nitty-gritty stuff. Very handy.

Then, things start to get interesting. Yes, there are full-color pictures of swatches knitted up in these patterns. (Yawn.) Except … wake up … there’s more than one per pattern. You get to see the same chart in more than one color combination, so, for example, you can see what it would look like with 3 or 4 colors instead of just 2, or with the darks and lights reversed, or in a different color scheme that just looks completely different. You get options to spark your creativity right there in front of you. Not to mention the basic black-and-white chart to make the shape of the pattern really clear. Not only that, each pattern comes with a suggested way of repeating it in tiles to make an allover pattern.

I’ve never seen a stitch dictionary quite like this. I love it because one of the hardest things to do when looking at Fair Isle designs is to know how to combine colors. I’m not talking so much about the whole color-wheel thing or the idea of hues and grades and all that. I’m talking about looking at a motif that runs over 16 rows and being able to decide what to DO with that. Do you knit the whole motif in just two colors? Or should you vary it from row to row? Every other row? If you’re a beginner, it can be hard to know what to do, how to play with that, so a book like this which comes right out and SHOWS you what some possible options could look like, in graph as well as knitted format … well, it’s sheer genius.

If you’re at all interested in designing your own fair isle, this book is a must. Check it out on Amazon.com.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: Love it! It’s going to be useful for so much more than just 200 stitches.

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