10 Free Fair Isle Patterns for Go-Getter Knitters!

Originating from the Shetland islands, fair isle knitting is a beautiful technique commonly used to knit colorwork sweaters, beanies, and other items. Named for Fair Isle, a beautiful island found in the Shetland archipelago it’s also called stranded knitting, or colorwork.

What is Fair Isle Knitting?

Traditional fair isle projects were knitted in a round using no more than 2 colors to knit each row. Fair isle knitting also exclusively used the stockinette stitch to create smooth, intricate and colorful patterns and seamless color changes. Today, “fair isle” can refer to all kinds of multi-colored projects made using stranded colorwork!

Fair isle knitting patterns!
Fair isle knitting patterns for beginners!

At first glance, fair isle knitting looks like knitting on “hard mode”. But it’s actually much much easier than you might think. Experienced beginners can start knitting fair isle patterns as soon as they know how to cast on and knit!

Want to get started? Me too!

Materials You Need for Fair Isle Knitting Patterns

Fair isle knitting patterns might look hard but with the right tools, your first project can be smooth sailing! I put together a list of the most handy tools that will make the process super easy:

  • Knitting needles – You will need a sturdy pair of non-slippery knitting needles. You can use straight needles for flat projects, but a pair of wooden circular knitting needles will make fair isle knit sweaters, hats, and socks feel much less intimidating!
  • Yarn – Make sure to check the pattern to see what yarn weight to use. You can typically find all of the details on your yarn band or in the “suggested yarn” section of your free fair isle knitting pattern.
  • Scissors – A pair of scissors is another important tool that you will use for all of your crochet projects. You’ll need them to cut the yarn when you’re done!
  • Yarn/darning needle – You will need a yarn needle or darning needle to sew in the loose ends.
  • Knitting thimble or knitting ring – Tangles can quickly happen when knitting with two colors or more. Knitting thimbles or knitting rings can help you manage these yarn strands and make your knitting experience just a bit more pleasant!
  • Magnetic chart keepersMagnetic chart readers are life-savers for any pattern that uses a chart. These pattern keepers have long, horizontal magnets that you can move around, making it easy to mark which row you’re on.
  • Fair isle pattern – You can free-hand some fair isle designs. But if you’re still new to the technique, there are tons of free fair isle patterns on this list that will get you started!

10 Free Fair Isle Patterns for Go-Getter Knitters!

The key to succeeding in fair isle knitting is to ease into it. With that in mind, I’ve organized this list starting with the simplest knits to more complicated colorwork.

Ready to explore fair isle knitting patterns? Let’s get started!

Disclaimer: This article contains links to external unaffiliated websites.

Fair Isle Hat
© Louise Bollanos

1. Fair Isle Hat

By: Louise Bollanos

YARN: Super Bulky

SIZE: Adult

Starting off with the basics, this Fair Isle Hat pattern blends small spots of white yarn, just single stitches, sprinkled across the entire surface of the beanie.

We’re just a few weeks away from Valentine’s Day and this lovely little fair isle pattern would make the perfect seasonal knit!

The pattern is quick and easy to follow for new fair isle knitters, making it a fantastic first-time project.

Get the pattern >

Hot Water Bottle Cover Fair Isle
© Tara Marie

2. Fair Isle Hot Water Bottle Cover

By: Tara Marie

YARN: Super Bulky

SIZE: One Size – Standard hot water bottle

Hot water bottles can get, well, hot! The best way to protect your skin while still staying toasty cozy is to make a nice little cover for it.

Why not take this as a chance to practice fair isle knitting too? This project is small enough that you can figure out the ins-and-outs of this technique without struggling with a whole sweater!

Get the pattern >

Knit Baby Fair Isle Hat
© 2008 Coats & Clark

3. Knit Baby Fair Isle Hat

By: Red Heart Design Team

YARN: DK + DK = Aran

SIZE: 6 – 18 months [16″ circumference]

The fair isle technique is often used for wearables like this Knit Baby Fair Isle Hat. This is a great example of a modern take on fair isle with a less traditional pattern.

Beginners can get a feel for simple color changes without the stress of a super complicated color chart!

See the pattern >

Fair Isle Plant Cozy
© Yarnspirations Design Studio

4. Fair Isle Plant Cozy

By: Yarnspirations Design Studio

YARN: Worsted

SIZE: Approx. 6.5″ tall and 19.5″ circumference

Spice up your potted plants with this Fair Isle Plant Cozy! This pattern gets a little closer to more traditional Fair Isle patterns while still looking modern and approachable.

This pattern features easy color changes that beginners can follow along with minimal difficulty! Paired with a cute plant, this would make a fantastic housewarming present too!

Get the pattern >

Little Fair Isle Hat
©  Purl Soho

5. Little Fair Isle Hat

By: Purl Soho

YARN: Fingering

SIZE: 14, 16, 18″ circumference

Let’s go up another difficulty level! This Little Fair Isle Hat takes basic colorwork and creates larger more complex motifs.

This fair isle pattern showcases what looks like small pine trees decorating the whole knit beanie!

Get the pattern >

Graphic Fair Isle Hat
© Yarnspirations Design Studio

6. Graphic Fair Isle Hat

By: Yarnspirations Design Studio

YARN: Bulky

SIZE: One Size – Adult

You can’t go wrong with rustic tones when it comes to fair isle knitting!

The Graphic Fair Isle Hat is a beautiful pattern that teaches you how to maintain nice tension throughout an entire project. It’s actually easier to change colors regularly and avoid large spaces in a single color.

It’s a bit of a tricky knit as you need to pay close attention to maintain accurate color-placement, but it’s definitely worth all that work!

Get the pattern >

Fair Isle Snood
© Cascade Yarns

7. Fair Isle Snood

By: Monica Russel

YARN: Worsted

SIZE: One Size – Adult

Snoods are perfect for keeping your neck warm without being too bulky or constantly unwrapping themselves like scarves can. All you have to do is slip it over your head and you’re good to go!

But most snoods (aka: cowls) sold in stores can be a tad bit plain. Why not spice yours up with some fair isle patterns?

The Fair Isle Snood is fantastic for chilly weather — and even more fantastic for adding that extra bit of Ooomph to your OOTD!

Get the pattern >

The Fair Isle Sock
© Yarnspirations

8. The Fair Isle Sock

By: Patons

YARN: Worsted

SIZE: S, M, L (Shoe Size 5/6, 7/8, 9/10)

We’re heading into more complicated fair isle knitting patterns. But still definitely worth the try!

The Fair Isle Sock is a warm knit that is handy in colder weather. It features snowflakes and geometric shapes, perfect for cozy winter outfits!

Get the pattern >

Fair Isle Pullover
© Yarnspirations Design Studio

9. Fair Isle Pullover

By: Yarnspirations Design Studio

YARN: Aran

SIZE: Women’s XS – 5XL

Ah, now we’re finally diving into hardcore fair isle knitting territory…

It’s true that mostly intermediate and pro knitters feel confident casting on for fair isle sweaters. I love adding patterns that are aspirational for new knitters, it gives us all something to work towards!

The Fair Isle Pullover gives you a taste of more advanced colorwork knitting without the headache.

Time to give this pattern a solid try!
Get the pattern >

Fair Isle Cardigan
© Sandy Huff

10. Fair Isle Cardigan

By: Sandy Huff

YARN: Aran


Now for a cardigan you might want to save until you’ve tried a few smaller projects: the Fair Isle Cardigan!

This fair isle knitting pattern has an elaborate pattern that means you’ll have to pay close attention as you work.

Not to mention the gradients too! Pro tip: try using a color-changing yarn as one of your colors, it might take some of the work out of changing colors all of the time for patterns like this one!

This is definitely a more intermediate to advanced knit but it’s still good to have a goal to work towards — especially with a skill as attention-demanding as fair isle knitting.

Get the pattern >

Choosing the Right Yarn for Fair Isle Knitting

To have the best fair isle project comes down to yarn choice. It can make all the difference! Go for “grabby” yarns like wool or wool blends for the best colorwork fabric. These yarns fluff up after blocking to make a nice, smooth fabric. Some acrylic yarns make a great choice if you’re working on large projects on a budget or want super bright colors.

Cotton yarns can be tricky! It can be hard to maintain a consistent gauge with cotton yarn and the finished fabric doesn’t ‘bloom’ the same way that wool yarns do. While it’s possible to make fantastic fair isle projects with cotton yarns they’re not as beginner-friendly as animal fibers.

Final Thoughts

Fair isle knitting patterns are some of the most beautiful knitting patterns to ever exist! There are so many ways to incorporate fair isle patterns into your projects, but many knitters of various skill levels sleep on it because of its complexity.

This pattern round up was made to show you that fair isle knitting isn’t as impossible as it looks. You don’t need the skills of a knitting deity to pull it off. Heck, you can even cast on for one as a new knitter!

I’m not as experienced with Fair Isle knitting as other knitters are, but I’ll definitely be trying the Fair Isle Pullover one of these days!

Ready to level up your knitting skills? Here are some AMAZING knitting patterns for you to try out next!

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