I forget exactly where, but I picked up a Milla Mia Elk Cushion kit a few years ago. I thought it would be a good project for trialing Fair Isle knitting, but it soon became clear that I was a bit out of my depth. I’d never done Fair Isle knitting before and it turned out to be a bit more technical than I’d expected. So, I booked myself onto a workshop at Woolaballoo, where we made these little bags.
I thought I’d done quite well! I mean, my bag looked okay and my tension was alright. Now, I don’t know what happened to between the workshop and me actually starting my cushion (which was a while, I’ll admit), but obviously everything I’d learned had managed to fall out of my brain. I just could not get my Fair Isle to look right. I’ll show you.
Can you see the way the stitches are sitting on top of each other strangely and making little zigzags? It was all lumpy and bumpy and wonky. I re-started it about half a dozen times and tried adjusting my tension and using different sized needles, but it just wasn’t happening. After consulting with all of my knitter friends, I finally realised what I was doing wrong. It turned out to be something to do with the way I was carrying my yarn across the back. One tiny adjustment and I finally had my ‘Eureka!’ moment. On about attempt number eight and months after I’d started, I’d finally cracked it. I still had some tension problems, but I was happy enough with it to carry on and hope for improvement as I went. And after weaving in approximately six thousand ends (will I ever learn to weave them in as I go?!), here’s what I came up with!
I found that the further I went, the more I got used to the technique, which was great, after months of being convinced I would never be able to do it. I figured out the best ways to stop my two yarns from getting horribly tangled. By the end I was really quite enjoying it!
I made some changes to the back of the pattern. I did stripes to line up with my front. I knitted it in two halves so the cover would be removable, which it wasn’t in the original pattern – I want to be able to wash my cushion easily if I need to. Plus, any excuse to add buttons to something!
Let me finish by telling you why I decided to try Fair Isle in the first place. My Dad bought a book called Knitting Wildlife in 1989, which was published in partnership with the Worl Wildlife Foundation to raise money for endangered animals. The book contains colour work knitting patterns (mostly jumpers) based on various endangered species. In said book, there is a tiger jumper, modelled rather impressively by Imran Khan. Dad has wanted this jumper since 1989. That’s a long time. My Dad is blind, so he can’t knit it himself, but he mentioned it to me a few years ago and I decided I’d learn Fair Isle and intarsia so I could make him this hideous jumper. He’s now gifted the book to me. Here’s a pic I snapped from the book so you can appreciate just how wild this jumper is.
I mean, I’m not sure this jumper was ever fashionable, even in 1989, but Dad insists he doesn’t care whether it’s stylish or not. So, here I am, still planning to make this mad jumper for him, 26 years after he first spotted it. I might switch up the colours – I’m just not convinced about the different shades of cream and beige going on here. Honestly, if you get a chance to look through this book, please do. Believe it or not, this is one of the nicest patterns in the book. There are some utterly insane jumpers in there. It was all for a brilliant cause though!