I have a bit of a thing for fair isle knitting patterns in general and fair isle cardigans in particular. Not the boxy, big-shouldered numbers I can remember layering over Lady Diana-style high collared blouses back in the 80s. Nowadays it’s all about natural, north country knits that conjure the feeling of being at one with wild, windswept landscapes. To be slightly less poetic about it, there’s nothing more practical on unpredictable Spring days than being able to pop on a warm cardi, is there?
I have decided to have a go at making one myself, so I’ve done the research. I do love a project like this – searching for and collecting the most beautiful fair isle knitting patterns around. So, of course, I’m sharing my findings with you.
Some of the fair isle knitting patterns I’ve found are free and some of them aren’t. But all of them are beautiful in their own way and would make the perfect crafty project for this time of year.
I love the idea of making something cosy on cold winter evenings but with dreams of wearing it when the season turns. I’ll have to get cracking, as Spring is definitely on its way…
But I do feel more than a little guilty about the oversized grey wool cable sweater pieces that lies stuffed into my knitting bag. It’s been there for over a year and is three quarters made, but a bit too difficult for me to be honest. And I’ve lost my way. I’m really not sure where I’m up to in the pattern, so I have sort of given up. Put it out of sight and tried to pretend it never really happened. Which isn’t like me at all.
Writing this has just made my mind up. I need to finish what I started before I move on. Tonight I will take my knitting bag out again, dust it off, pick up my needles and work out where I am and what I have to do. Then I can move on to this project with a light heart.
I used to tease my lovely mum, when she was still with us, about the multiple unfinished knitting projects of hers you’d find stuffed behind sofas, peeping out of the deepest, darkest recesses of the under-stairs cupboard… So, in a way, my everlasting cable sweater project is a link with her. As I get older I’m more and more like her. Which is definitely no bad thing.
Anyway, here are the fair isle knitting patterns I’ve found. Whilst you are obviously free to get on and make them whenever you like. As we now know, I will be able to join you when a certain other project is finished! Hope you enjoy and do let me know how you get on!
Fair Isle knitting patterns – free
Based in Oslo, DROPS Design is a great resource for knitters. As well as offering a wide range of free patterns, there are tutorial videos, lots of tips and ideas.
I have picked out these beauties from their free patterns, but there are many more to browse for inspiration. Click the image or text links to get your free pattern. What’s particularly brilliant is that there are specific tutorial videos to help you at the end of each pattern.
First one I picked out is this After Midnight jacket. It’s worked from the top down with round yoke and nordic pattern on the yoke. I adore the slightly ballooned sleeves too. This might be the one…
I do realise this Night Shades jumper isn’t actually a cardigan. But I like it so much I decided I wanted to share it with you anyway. It’s knitted bottom up with a lovely nordic pattern.
This Mandal Jacket knitted with round yoke and simple Nordic pattern in extra fine merino wool is pretty.
And if you fancy a cardigan with pattern going further down below the yoke, this Spring Fjords pattern worth considering. It would look pretty in a soft blue with the pattern worked in white don’t you think? Or grey with the pattern in bright orange or rainbow colours? Choosing your colours is half the joy of knitting a fair isle knitting pattern isn’t it?
I was so excited when I found this Ellen Cardigan free pattern by Amy Christoffers. I love the pattern and also how she has used deep forest green here contrasted with pretty pinks, blues and pastels.
Fair Isle knitting patterns to buy
Jennifer Steingass lives in rural Maine with her family and has created an absolutely beautiful collection of knitting patterns, Buy 2 of her patterns in her Ravelry shop and get the third one free.
I just love this Icelandic-style Fern and Feather pullover pattern, which Jennifer says is a great first time stranded yoke sweater project. It’s worked seamlessly from the top down, starting with a simple rolled neckline. Just lovely. Again, not a cardigan, but definitely worth a mention here.
The image below is by Lisa-Mai (see her other Ravelry projects here)
As I’m supposed to be writing about fair isle cardigans, I’ll move on to a real find – Kate Davies. Kate’s story is rather an inspirational one, to say the least. A stroke at the age of 36 put an end to her career as a literary academic. While recovering, she supported herself by designing digital patterns for hand knitting, establishing an independent publishing company and starting to produce books that combined her skills as author and designer. She has produced 15 books to date, including Yokes, Colours of Shetland and West Highland Way.
This is Epistrophy (inspired by the Thelonius Monk track of the same name). The tune is characterised by its repetition and modification of a single, imitative phrase. Like the tune, as this yoke progresses, the diced pattern imitates, repeats and modifies a single motif. This is worked in the round and then steeked.
If you love fair isle patterns and nordic knitting in general, you need to know about Knitting from the North knitting pattern book by Hilary Grant. It’s her first hand knit project book and includes 30 patterns for contemporary hats, scarves, mitts and jumpers.
My picks would probably have to be this Icelandic jumper and fair isle scarf patterns.
When it comes to fair isle and shetland patterns, you simply can’t beat Marie Wallin. Her pattern book Shetland is full of inspiration. It’s a collection of modern fair isle using Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift wool.
This short film gives you a flavour of the patterns and the landscape that inspired them.
Marie sells a range of fair isle knitting patterns in her online shop, including this Magpie Fair isle cardigan, Sage fair isle knitted dress and
Last, but most definitely not least is this lovely Marit pattern from Laine magazine, issue 7. A high quality Nordic knit and lifestyle magazine for knitters, Laine is passionate about natural fibres, slow living, local craftsmanship and the simple things in life.
If you’re not a knitter, but share my love of fair isle patterning, you need to know about Suzie Lee Knitwear (listed in our directory). Based in Kent with Scottish roots, Suzie uses colour blocking and fair isle patterns to create a stunning collection of knitted accessories and homeware. Knitwear is hand-crafted and for the finer pieces, vintage knitting machines are used.
You can browse Suzie’s Fair Isle Collection here. To give you a flavour, I’ve picked out my favourite piece: the Fair Isle Wrap Scarf which is handmade and available in a wide range of beautiful colour combinations.
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