I had a fabulous time teaching at the Madrona Winter Fiber Arts Retreat in Tacoma earlier this month! (And then I came down with a vindictive cold, but that's beside the point.) I was energized by meeting new Fair Isle knitters who were enthusiastic about color and design--and as I wrote down my list of suggested books for them I realized that it was time to revisit by old post about frugal feral knitting.
Let's face it: few of us have unlimited knitting and book budgets, so it's important to choose wisely.
My recommended, bare-bones Fair Isle chart and technique library consists of seven titles:
$25 If you are brand new to Fair Isle knitting I recommend Mary Jane Mucklestone's 200 Fair Isle Motifs. This book is much more than the title would seem to indicate! Mary Jane covers the basics quickly and efficiently and completely--plus 200 motifs charted, tiled, and shown in different colors.
$17 Sheila McGregor Traditional Fair Isle Knitting. Hundreds of charts!
$15 Sheila MacGregor Traditional Scandinavian Knitting. More charts, history, and photographs, this time from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faeroes.
$7 Co Spinhoven Celtic Charted Designs. Oh my! Hundreds of swirly interwoven Celtic motifs. Very small charts, but very small price!
$27 Betsy Harrell Anatolian Knitting Patterns (available again from Schoolhouse Press! This invaluable treasure trove has been out of print for years.)
~ $2 Tone Takle and Lisa Kolstad More Sweaters. I love this exuberant book for it's approach to creating your own motifs. Out of print but widely available at rock bottom prices.
$25 Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen Knitting with Two Colors. Advanced color work techniques plus guidance on designing your own--indispensible in my library!
You can knit for a lifetime with these seven books--for about $118 (suggested retail)!
Looking to add more? Here's what I recommend:
~$35 Ann Feitelson The Art of Fair Isle Knitting. History, patterns, and an eye-opening discussion of how color is used in Fair Isle knitting. I'm stunned to learn that this book is now out of print! Still widely available, though, so snap up a copy in hardback or paperback. I see that Schoolhouse Press still has hardcover copies in stock....
$30 Alice Starmore Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting. History and patterns from the queen of Fair Isle knitting.
These two titles will provide you will hours and hours of enjoyment and inspiration! If you are interested in Fair Isle knitting but not so sure that designing your own is your cup of tea, get the Feitelson and Starmore books for sure.
And of course I am now second guessing myself: there are so many other great books filled with charts and techniques... how could I leave them off this list? But I'm steeling my heart and stopping right here.
My library contains many many more books on color and motifs and history and technique and inspirational patterns, but the ones I've listed are the essentials. I recently took a hard look at my overflowing shelves and culled a good 40 knitting/weaving/rug hooking/art books (yes, the KonMari Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up work continues apace chez Feral....), but what remains are titles like those above: books that offer essential tools and inspiration.
NOTE: The Amazon links above are affiliate links. They don't cost you any more, but I get a very modest fee for the click through. I have decided to use this affiliate payback as a donation to Heifer International at the end of the year.