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The Easiest Way to Incorporate Fair Isle Charts Into Your Favorite Pattern

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Have you ever thought about incorporating Fair Isle (also known as intarsia or stranded colorwork) into your favorite knitting pattern? Fair Isle knits are bang on trend for Fall, so now is a great time to learn how to incorporate your own custom color chart into your patterns. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to make a simple cell phone cozy. Are you ready? Let's go.


  • Knitting needles (one set of straight 5.5mm knitting needles)
  • Yarn (for this pattern, you will need two colors of worsted weight yarn. As this pattern is rather small, full skeins are not required)
  • Scissors
  • One blunt-ended and one sharp-ended yarn needle
  • Charting materials (to create your color chart, collect together a pencil, an eraser and some graph paper)

1. Decide On Your Project

Step 1

In this tutorial, I'm adding a color chart to a cell phone cozy that's sized to fit the Samsung Galaxy S4 (or any other similarly sized smart phone).

Step 2

Once you've decided what project you're going to make, have a look at your pattern.

Here is the pattern for the basic cell phone cozy used in this tutorial:

  • Cast on 26 stitches.
  • Row 1: Knit 2, Purl 2; continue alternating 2 knit and 2 purl stitches across. Turn work.
  • Row 2: Purl 2, Knit 2; continue pattern across. Turn work.
  • Repeat rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 1 inch, ending with row 2.
  • Knit in stockinette stitch until piece measures 6 inches in total and ending with a right side row.
  • Purl 13 stitches into the middle of the project.
  • Cut a yarn tail long enough for grafting and seaming the project.
  • Graft the 26 bottom stitches together, then seam up the side of the project using mattress stitch.
  • Make an I-cord two inches long and fix to the middle and back of the project.
  • Sew a button onto the front side of the cozy, in the middle of the 2 by 2 ribbing.

2. Calculate the Space That Can Support the Chart

You need at least two rows on each side of the chart to support either the chart or seaming.
For this cozy, I’ve calculated that the chart can support up to 10 stitches wide and up to 14 rows long.

3. Design Your Chart

When designing your chart, there are two major rules for Fair Isle.

  1. You have only two hands, so keep the colors in one row restricted to two.
  2. Minimize floats. A float is the yarn that carries along behind the knitted work. When one color continues uninterrupted for more than five stitches (or one inch depending on your school of thought), you will need to wrap the carried yarn to secure the float. In other words, it’s best to keep the number of one color’s stitches to five at one time.

I've added an owl to my cell phone cozy, but I didn't need all 14 rows in the chart. It's up to you if you would like to use all the space or only some of the space.

Owl ChartOwl ChartOwl Chart

4. Start Knitting Your Project

Begin the project as normal and knit up to the row where the chart starts.
In this tutorial, knit the ribbing portion of the pattern, and then six rows of stockinette (or stocking) stitch.

Cozy Pattern StartCozy Pattern StartCozy Pattern Start

5. Start the Color Work

Step 1

Knit the first row of your chart in the main color (MC) until you reach the first contrasting color (CC) stitch. You can give yourself an easy reminder of where you will start the chart by placing a marker just before the first and/or last stitch.

In my case I've placed a marker to separate the front of the cozy from the back (the stitch was placed after 13 stitches were knitted on the right side).

Add contrast colorAdd contrast colorAdd contrast color

Step 2

Leave a long tail in the contrasting color to allow for weaving in ends. If you are choosing to knit one handed, you must twist the CC yarn with the MC yarn to prevent holes from appearing in the work.

This is incredibly important for your finished work to smoothly transition from one color to another. Though it sounds complicated, just remember to always pick up the next yarn from the bottom. You will also have to stop at times to untangle the yarn.

Yarn twistYarn twistYarn twist
Twisted stitchTwisted stitchTwisted stitch

There Are Two Ways to Hold Your Yarn

    You can either have one color in each hand, or you can let the unused yarn hang while you knit with just your dominant hand. Personally I find it easier and more organized to use one hand for each yarn, the main color in my dominant hand and the contrast in my non-dominant hand. The yarn stays untangled and you don’t have to worry about twisting the yarn.
Two Strand KnittingTwo Strand KnittingTwo Strand Knitting

6. Switch Back to the Main Color

Step 1

When you switch back to the MC yarn, keep the stitches loose to ensure the project doesn’t bubble; this is the float I mentioned in Step 3. The looser the float, the better. Continue alternating colors until you’ve finished the row.

Loose stitchesLoose stitchesLoose stitches

Step 2

Continue knitting through the color chart until you’ve completed the chart. At this point you can return to the pattern to finish the project.

Step 3

When you switch back to the MC yarn, keep the stitches loose to ensure the project doesn’t bubble; this is the float I mentioned in Step 3. The looser the float the better. Continue alternating colors until you’ve finished the row.

The floatThe floatThe float

Step 4

Continue knitting through the color chart until you’ve completed the chart. At this point you can return to the pattern to finish the project.

7. Weave in the Ends

Weaving in the ends secures the yarn and you shouldn't need to tie knots in the back of the work. If you are unsure how to weave in ends, you can find a simple tutorial here.

8. Add the Finishing Touches

Step 1

When you've completed knitting, add seaming or buttons as indicated in your pattern.

Step 2

For this project, knit two inches of I-cord, and attach it to the center back of the cozy.

Step 3

Now sew on a button in the center middle of the ribbing on the front of the cozy.


9. Block Your Project

Blocking is very important when you use Fair Isle as it ensures that your stitches are the right size and lay flat. If you’ve never blocked a project before, you can find a really simple tutorial here.

Personalize it!

Congratulations! You have now made your very own color Fair Isle chart to add into a knitting pattern!
In this tutorial you learned how to create a chart size based on the knitting pattern, how to design a Fair Isle color chart and how to knit in Fair Isle. You can now apply these skills to any knitted project of your choice. You could start with a pair of socks or a Christmas stocking.

Final ProjectFinal ProjectFinal Project
Final Project 2Final Project 2Final Project 2

Have you found a knitting pattern and thought that it would look better with a color pattern? Let us know in the comments section below!

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