So I’m knitting another pair of Fair Isle socks, as you’ve seen. I find them really hard to put down, and as I recall that’s the same experience I’ve had before. I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes me feel this way.
There’s no doubt that Fair Isle – or at any rate multi-color following charts – socks are fun to look at. There are plenty of small patterns that can be very attractive in many colorways. It’s always fun to pick out two (or more) colors that go together. But it’s not just the body of the socks that are fun. You tend to use fun edgings – two color ribbing, for instance, is way, way fancier than normal rib. There are other choices, too, and they’re more fun in multiple colors. You (or the pattern designer, if there is one) need to decide how you’re going to handle the gusset, the heel, the sole and the toe.
I just love an integral gusset with Fair Isle. You usually use something that coordinates with your main stitch pattern but isn’t quite the same. In this case, my main stitch pattern has lots of 1×1 checks, so that is what the gusset really wanted to be. And the heel turn, too – I often like them to be the same. For the sole, though, there are lots more choices. I found a four-stitch pattern which I modified slightly and started right after the heel turn.
Here’s how it’s looking – flash photo because I wanted to get far enough for the pattern to show before I took the photo.
When you’re knitting in one color, you almost always end up with a plain stockinette sole. In two colors, though, you have to do something to keep the yarns both in use on each row, so you get to do a pattern on the sole, too. I don’t suppose everyone would consider this to be an advantage.
I haven’t decided what I’m going to be doing on the toe yet – after all, I’m not there. But I’m getting pretty close.
The other thing that’s different about Fair Isle socks is the overall texture you end up with. The fabric is definitely thicker (and quite warm). And they don’t stretch a lot – stretching doesn’t really look all that good even to the extent the fabric is willing to do it. So you need to knit socks that are closer to the actual size of the foot. It’s probably a good thing Franklin didn’t want these – they’re a better fit for me than for him. And Meg, with her slim little feet, couldn’t possibly stand to wear these. But I can stand it, all right!