Granted that I am not entirely happy with the results of my current color work, I do enjoy the process. I know that many people do not. And, hey, knitting is just for fun. You don’t have to do anything you don’t like. (Except, of course, for my determination to make a variegated sweater.) However, if you would like to try color work and hesitate, or think it is too hard, I have some tips for you.

First, if you do not like charts, there are some things you can do to make them easier to work with. In the indecipherable picture above, you cannot tell that I am using magnets, but they are my secret weapon for charts. A big flat magnet goes under the page with the chart, and a long skinny magnet goes on top, pointing out the row. Here is a slightly clearer picture. I have angled the front magnet so you can see it better. The magnet under the page is a large American flag one made for putting on your car. You can also buy sheets of magnet paper at the office supply store, or apply magnet backing to your favorite picture with a Xyron machine. Any way you arrange it, the basic idea is that they mark your row so you don’t get lost.

Next, you use a row counter. The little blue thing on the needle here is a row counter. It has little numbers that you change at the end of each row. Thus, when you are on Row 29 of your chart, you have a reminder. With a magnet under Row 29 and a marker on your needle reminding you that you are on Row 29, your chances of doing Row 28 twice, or half of one row and the other half of the other, are greatly reduced.

If you are using only two colors in a row, as is customary for Fair Isle, then put one ball on the left side of your chair and the other ball on the other side. Hold the main color in your right hand and the secondary color in your left. Now you can easily strand and weave, and you will have no long “floats” on the back of your work. You will notice that you must be able to knit with either hand in order to do this. Here is the back of the work. Granted, you cannot see it very clearly, but if there were long floats, you could. Suffice it to say that it is a smoothly woven surface.

If you are using more than two colors in a row, you should use bobbins, which are another topic entirely.

My final tip is this: if you find the yarns getting twisted up, or if both colors get long stretches in the same row (which is the case with this chart) then stop now and then and shift the yarn. Move the left-hand yarn to the right and vice versa. Untwist them. If you mentally plan on doing this every now and then, you will not find it irritating when it occurs.

I hope this has been helpful. If not, enjoy this song instead: It is “Long Time Ago in Bethlehem,” or “Mary Boy-Child.” This traditional Carribean carol was the number one hit song at the end of 1957, when Harry Belafonte recorded it, and his is probably still the best recording around.