Knitting Book Reviews

Fearless Fair Isle Knitting: 30 Gorgeous Original Sweaters, Socks, Mittens, and More
by Kathleen Taylor

Honestly, I’m not afraid of Fair Isle (as a place or a technique), but I know that many people are. It looks intimidating, after all, especially if you’ve never tried it before.

The author knows this and starts the book by saying, “Take a deep breath and repeat after me: ‘Fair Isle is fabulous. Fair Isle is fun. Fair Isle is easy. I am not afraid.’ Yeah, you heard me: Knitting Fair Isle is easy. It’s fun. And it can be fearless, whether you’re using just two yarns or going wild with forty.”

Not surprisingly, the book begins with techniques–discussions on yarn dominance, how to “float” your yarn along the back, even how to cut a steek. Her idea of knitting sleeves in tandem, attached with a steek, is pretty clever, too. I knit sleeves in pairs all the time, but never thought about attaching them to each other to make the knitting easier (not to mention fewer ends to weave in).

One thing I like is that each chapter more or less takes a single chart, a single idea, and then plays with it–so you see the same basic design in a child’s cardigan, a man’s hat and scarf set, and a bag for a yoga mat. They may be in different colors but all essentially the same basic Fair Isle design. Not very many books play the “variations on a theme” card because they’re too busy showing you all their different designs, but sometimes it’s helpful to see some of the possibilities inherent in one design, in one arrangement of stitches in pattern. Otherwise it’s too easy to see a sweater and never think that you could use that same pattern for a scarf, or anything else.

The designs themselves are appealing, too. I saw one of her samples–Genevieve’s Graduation Sweater, I think–at VK Live in January and it was what made me want a closer look at the book. She does a good job with colors and stitch patterns, all while sticking to the Fair Isle rule of two-colors-to-a-row, which is what makes Fair Isle so non-frightening, in my opinion. (Anything more than two colors per row is just asking for trouble.)

Reviewed by Deb Boyken

Deb has been knitting since 1987 and has accumulated quite a collection of knitting books over the years. Her website, Knitting Scholar, can be found at

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