In her book of Fair Isle Knitting, Ann Feitelson says that one feature of Fair Isle is how it "sparkles."
What she means is that between the rows of "normal size" motifs, there will be rows of tiny motifs in different colors.
Fair Isle patterns may have a geometric motif, then a naturalistic motif, then a different geometric, then a different naturalistic.
After finishing each set of motifs, the pattern usually has a row in the background color. In fact, there may be several rows before the naturalistic motif, to let the eye rest.
But Fair Isle doesn't like blank rows. So the interim rows may have tiny motifs -- little squares and plus signs.
These tiny motifs should contrast with the rest of the pattern and also with the background color, but they shouldn't glare, they should sparkle.
So if your background color is white or off-white, and your pattern uses warm colors, your sparkles should be pale cool colors -- pale greens, blues, purples or grays.
If your background color is white or pale gray, and your pattern uses cool colors, your sparkles should be pink, pale yellow, and pale orange.
If your background color is black or dark brown, and your pattern uses cool colors, your sparkles should be in dark red because "dark orange" is almost brown and there's really no dark yellow.
If your background color is dark and your pattern is warm, your sparkles should be purple, forest green or dark blue but not navy.
Warm colors are red, yellow and orange.
Cool colors are blue, purple, and green.
Because the sparkles are tiny, and they are surrounded by background, you can probably get away with using something on the opposite side of the color wheel from your pattern colors.
Red and green are opposites.
Blue and orange are opposites.
Yellow and purple are opposites.
It's all a matter of taste. Just remember, Fair Isle uses contrast well, but it never tries to startle.
Next week I'll show you the pattern I'm going to use in a pullover sleeveless vest made in Brown Sheep Cotton Fine. This is a lovely yarn I've been using for years. It's NOT a real Shetland 2 ply jumper weight, so the end result will be heavier than a real Fair Isle sweater. But it is much cheaper than the real Jamieson & Smith Shetland wool and will give me a thorough workout on techniques.
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