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The Art of Fair Isle Knitting: History, Technique, Color & Patterns

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Knit colorful hats, gloves, and sweaters in the Shetland tradition.

184 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 1996

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5 stars
95 (41%)
4 stars
93 (40%)
3 stars
31 (13%)
2 stars
7 (3%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
87 reviews
January 29, 2010
Useful charts, fairly comprehensive historical and construction details. The pattern section kind of underwhelmed me, mostly because, after an intensely detailed (and helpful) discussion of color usage, the color usage in the patterns was just not that good.

However, the photographs of historical garments and samplers in the history section were outstanding in variety and quality. I especially enjoyed the breakdown of the decades of the 20th century with the major modifications to fair isle patterning in each. The norwegian connection (from Norwegian refugees fleeing during the Nazi invasion) was especially illuminating. And lovely!

In short, not a substitute for the similar alice starmore book, but a useful augmentation to it.
7 reviews
January 20, 2009
Feitelsen's book discusses the history of Fair Isle knitting, techniques, and how to choose colours. I found the pattern instructions in this book easier to understand than in Alice Starmore's book. While Starmore's book left me intimidated, this book inspired me to take up my circular needles and give Fair Isle knitting a try. I am now addicted to this art form.
Profile Image for Tessa.
140 reviews11 followers
October 11, 2021
Very comparable to Starmore's Aran Knitting in terms of it debunking myths surrounding a knitting industry created specifically for financial/tourism purposes (ie Fair Isle), giving a thorough history of the local textile industry (ie in Shetland), and giving concrete elaborations of the traditional techniques. As an art historian and journalist, Feitelson's technical knowledge is comprehensive & clear and her writing is very evidence- and experimental-based.
Profile Image for Cayenne.
670 reviews20 followers
August 1, 2009
One of the best discussions of color theory I've ever read. The history was a bit dry, but the author certainly knew her stuff. I find Fair Isle knitting fascinating and if I ever get to the point where I want to design my own, this is the book I will buy.
Profile Image for BookMouse.
233 reviews
July 31, 2008
A great instructional book for fair isle knitting. Many pictures and especially pictures of what it looks like when things go wrong.
Profile Image for Bernie4444.
1,328 reviews9 followers
January 4, 2023
Fad or classic resurgent

At this time it looks as though the art of Fair Isle is making a huge comeback. Books that are out of print are selling for ten times the original price. Old magazines are being sought in every nook and cranny. Newer yarns are now colored to automatically create Fair Isle color patterns.

This particular book was written by Ann Feitelson who spent considerable time on the Shetland Islands and short of being a native is the closes you will get to the History, Technique, and Color & Patterns in the art of Fair Isle Knitting.

This book is more than just patterns; yet there are some classics of socks, gloves, mittens, scarves, and mostly swatters. The real worth that makes this book stand out from the others is the history with pictures in monochrome and color.

You may have to learn a few new terms:
Needles = Wires
Cast On = Lay on
Stitch = Loop

A few of the garments also have different names. But their purpose is unmistakable.

This book besides being practical is a great addition to any library.
Profile Image for Apryl Anderson.
881 reviews28 followers
June 1, 2017
This one's a 'keeper,' even if only for the visuals alone. The photos are crisp, clear, and varied—many of which I've not seen in other books on the Shetland two-colour techniques. Ms. Feitelson's journalistic approach to history and design serve her well, because she evidently knew what questions to ask in order to pinpoint what exactly it is that separates Fair Isle from other jacquard styles. In addition, her fine arts background enables her to explain the application of colour theory to Shetland wools in a way that we can understand. So, ironically, it's mildly disappointing to me that the remainder of the book is her own designs. Yes, they're lovely, but after so much teaching, I'm ready to apply what I've learned for myself—to shadow the leader, not blindly follow her!
64 reviews
November 11, 2018
I have not read this book from cover-to-cover, but I can see that it would be a great reference when designing and making your own Fair Isle style garment. That is on my list of wardrobe foundation sweaters to make. I like the color style in the patterns at the end of the book. Also I thought the section on how to hold the yarn and the discussion about yarn dominance or prominence was extremely useful and helped to understand how to make you garment look a lot better as far as the pattern goes. The illustrations and color photos in this book were also beautiful and very helpful.
Profile Image for Linda.
388 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2018
Good history of Fair Isle knitting, as well as Shetland knitting. Includes how to choose colors and design patterns, as well as knitting patterns.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
629 reviews
April 26, 2018
Fascinating history of Shetland and Fair Isle knitting, as well as detailed information on technique and color theory. My goal is to knit a Fair Isle sweater, someday....
5 reviews
February 9, 2020
I enjoy the history of fair isle knitting and am inspired to knit my own sweater :)
I enjoyed this book on Audible - listening while knitting, the best of two worlds!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Susan Eubank.
353 reviews13 followers
December 10, 2021
Loved the history and historical examples. Beyond my skill set, but was encouraged by all the examples of how to hold the two strands. Someday, I hope to have these skills.
Profile Image for Judi.
631 reviews16 followers
April 8, 2016
Well researched and scholarly written with an artists eye for colour. I can't say enough about this book. It starts with an in depth history of Fair Isle knitting and its origins and influences, it's impact on the economy and society of the Shetland Islands. Techniques are covered in depth, with an emphasis on native uses and variations. The chapter on colour is based on artistic principles of colour and how the knitters of the Shetland Islands use colour. It includes patterns for over 20 knitted items with two colour ways included for two of them. I would suggest these for the experienced and patient knitter. This is a classic on the technique and belongs in any serious knitters library.
Profile Image for Emmalee.
301 reviews1 follower
May 20, 2017
This book starts out with the history of fair isle knitting and includes a great number of pictures, as one would expect. There are some really nice color patterns, and a discussion on techniques. However, I learn better by watching or listening to somebody, so this book isn't quite as useful for me, as somebody who would like to learn.
Profile Image for Thea.
14 reviews1 follower
August 2, 2017
This is one of the best Fair Isle knitting books ever. Feitelson's educational section is top notch for knitters to read and see how colorations are used to knit the desired effect. You can always knit her patterns that are included and you won't go wrong with the colors selected for each project.
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews

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