Knitting & Patterns

Machair Cowl Pattern + Fair Isle Tips

October 31, 2023

We have a new free knitting pattern to share with subscribers of the Eucalan newsletter, the Machair Cowl. Designer Michael Harrigan has shared his talents with us several times and you can read our previous interview here.

The earthy palette for this Fair Isle cowl is reminiscent of the machair – a rare and low-lying grassland close to the sea, speckled with blooms – found particularly in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Several traditional Fair Isle patterns form the design, but it is a relatively easy pattern for any knitter with some colourwork experience. The Fair Isle technique is characterized by the use of multiple colours in a single row or round of knitting. Typically, two or more colours are used in a single row, with the unused colours carried along the back of the work.

Top Tips for Knitting Fair Isle

Choose the Right Yarn! Wool or wool-blend yarns are a good choice because they have good elasticity, making it easier to work with multiple colors. Make sure your chosen yarns have similar thickness (gauge) for consistent tension in your project. Machair calls for Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, a 100% Pure Shetland Wool.

Tension is Key + Keep the Floats Neat! Maintaining even tension is crucial in Fair Isle knitting. Uneven tension can lead to puckering or distortion in your pattern. When carrying the unused colour behind your work, make sure to keep the floats (strands of yarn not in use) relatively short, usually no longer than 5-7 stitches. Long floats can easily snag and create an uneven surface on the back of your work.

Practice Patience: Fair Isle knitting can be more time-consuming than regular knitting due to the need to manage multiple colors. Take your time and be patient, especially if you're new to this technique. Take it one stitch at a time!

A project like Machair is one that will truly benefit from blocking! A short bath in your favourite Eucalan scent, a gentle squeeze to remove the excess liquid, and then laying the cowl flat to dry will help even out the tension and your floats!

We hope you enjoy the pattern and can’t wait to see your versions! Please share them with us on social media using the hashtag #eucalan.

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