Fair Isle Crochet Overview and Beginner Patterns

Fair Isle Crochet is a crochet colorwork technique that creates beautiful designs. Learn the basics and practice on beginner friendly patterns.

Fair Isle crochet is a crochet colorwork technique that will create stunning crochet designs using various colors.

If you always adored knitted sweaters with intricate yokes full of colorful designs, you can also do that with crochet!

You can translate a knitted yoke sweater into crochet too and create a gorgeous sweater to wear proudly.

However, these designs are quite complex, so if you have never tried fair isle crochet before, I suggest starting with a smaller and simpler project.

This way you can get used to the color changes and work out the best way to hold the different colors.

We are going to look at the basics of fair isle crochet and start with some simple crochet patterns you can practice on.

In this post you will learn how to change colors and how to catch floats in fair isle crochet.


fair isle crochet step by step tutorial

Fair Isle Crochet Overview

Fair Isle Crochet is a technique of changing colors following a chart design to create pictures or geometric designs using yarn.

Each stitch represents one square on a design chart. You will see very often a smaller chart that is easily repeated over and over to create a larger piece.

Here is an example of a chart for fair isle crochet. The white squares are your main color (MC).

The blue squares will be the contrast color (CC). Each square represents one stitch.

fair isle crochet chart example

The secret to fair isle is the choice of stitch. You will use split single crochet which also comes under a few different names.

Split Single Crochet

You might also know it as centre single crochet, waistcoat stitch or knit stitch in crochet. The stitch used gives the fabric a knit-look.

split single crochet stitch swatch

The split single crochet is worked through the “V” of the stitch at the front of the fabric rather than through the top loops.

You will insert your hook into the middle of the “V” and “split” the stitch. Hence why it is called split single crochet.

waistcoat single crochet V

The secret to working split single crochet is the size of the golden loop. Golden loop is the second loop on your hook you pull up after you inserted your hook through the “V” and yarn over.

Keep your golden loop loose! Do not tighten it too much otherwise it will be tricky to insert your hook through the “V” at the front on the next round.

So when you insert your hook, yarn over and pull up a loop, make sure to pull up that loop to the height of your current stitch or slightly above the stitch and give the ‘V’ some space.

In this case, it helps to be a lifter of stitches rather than yanker.

lifter of golden loop

This also counteracts the tendency of stitches to slant slightly and create a diagonal line rather than a straight one.

You might also come across some fair isle crochet patterns that use single crochet stitch worked through back loop only or simply just use single crochet.

The choice of stitch does not determine whether the technique is fair isle crochet or not. Fair isle crochet is the technique that refers to carrying your yarn on the back and having yarn floats.

As opposed to intarsia or tapestry crochet which both crochet over the strands of contrast color yarns to carry them along your work.

How To Fair Isle Crochet

Fair isle crochet pattern will very often come with charts as well as written instructions. This is very similar to other color work techniques like intarsia or tapestry.

The main difference between those and fair isle crochet is the way you carry unused colors. With intarsia and tapestry crochet, you crochet over the colors you are not using.

Then pick them up when you need them for the next color change.

Fair Isle is all about keeping two colors running simultaneously and switching back and forth between them.

Many colorwork charts will have short color changes of 3 to 4 stitches that work perfectly with fair isle crochet. That means your floats won’t get too long or tangled up.

However, you might have some longer color changes of 7 to 8 stitches. In this case you will simply carry the unused color on the back of your work, “catching” them every 3-4 stitches.

That means you will crochet over the unused yarn every 3-4 stitches to carry them until you need them. See photo tutorial below.

What Are Floats?

When you look at the back of fair isle fabric, you will see little sections of yarn strands. These are called floats.

The secret to carrying yarn as floats is the tension. You do not want your floats to be too tight so that your fabric gathers up and pulls.

Neither do you want your floats too loose, so that they will obstruct you when working or create tangles.

fair isle crochet floats on the wrong side of work

The biggest advantage of carrying the yarn strands on the back is that you will create a more flexible fabric that isn’t stiff and thick.

However, you must remember to allow plenty of length for the yarn strands so that they stretch as much as the fabric you are creating.

Secondly, carrying yarn on the wrong side will prevent the colors bleeding through your work.

As you can see on the photo below, the blue is being carried at the back so it does not poke through the gaps and become visible when not needed.

fair isle carrying floats

How To Change Colors in Fair Isle Crochet?

Very often you will come across a stand-alone stitches in contrasting color. The color change differs for fair isle crochet as opposed to other techniques.

Normally, you would change color on the last pull through of the last stitch. With stand alone fair isle crochet stitches, the technique is slightly different.

Firstly, insert your hook into the stitch you need to change color in.

insert hook

For your first stitch in contrast color, join in the new color by placing the strand on your hook.

yarn over with contrast color

Pull through the stitch with the contrast color. You will have two loops on the hook.

pull through the stitch

Then drop your contrast color and yarn over in the main color again to finish off the stitch.

yarn over with main color

Pull through the stitch to finish it off. This way, it is only the “V” at the front of the stitch that changes color rather than the top loops. This allows for neater color change.

finish stitch with main color

Changing Colors in Fair Isle Crochet For Subsequent Stitches

After you work your first contrast color stitch, all your subsequent stitches that use contrast color will create a yarn float at the back of your work.

To change colors again, you will insert your hook and yarn over with the contrast color that is already attached to your work.

fair isle crochet color change

Make sure the float is long enough to reach the stitch you are working on. The yarn float connecting the two stitches should be comfortably loose.

It should not pull the fabric or create any resistance when you stretch the fabric. You need to account for the fabric stretch as it will be crucial to comfortable fitting garments or accessories.

catching the contrast color

Then finish off the stitch with the main color again.

finish the fair isle crochet stitch

Here is an example of yarn floats on the wrong side of the work. The hang loosely at the back without creating any resistance.

fair isle crochet floats on the back

How To Catch A Float In Fair Isle Crochet

As I mentioned above, most color changes happen within 3-4 stitches.

However, sometimes you might need to carry the yarn at the back over longer color changes. In this case, you will need to “catch” the yarn float in the middle of the longer color change.

That means fixing the yarn to the back of your work without the contrast color showing at the front.

Firstly, insert your hook into the stitch. Place the contrast color yarn strand between your hook and the main color yarn as shown in the photo.

catching a float on fair isle crochet project

Yarn over with the main color and pull through the stitch fixing the contrast color but not pulling it through to the front of your work.

how to catch a yarn float

Then finish off the single crochet stitch as usual. And that is how you catch the yarn float when it is not needed but the color change is too long.

fair isle crochet yarn float

Fair Isle Crochet Terms

MC – stands for main color

CC – stands for contrast color

Sometimes you will have patterns that use multiple colors. In this case, the CC might be followed by a number, so CC1, CC2, CC3 and so on.

Floats – pieces of yarn that are carried on the back of the work

Beginner Friendly Patterns

Now that we have gone over the basics of fair isle crochet, you can have a go at these beginner-friendly crochet patterns.

Crochet Glasses Case

This crochet glasses case uses this great technique to incorporate an easy and modern looking design. It is wonderful that just a few arrows can create such a striking design.

You can practice fair isle crochet on this small and quick project and make something useful at the same time.

I find it frustrating sometimes that you end up with useless bits of crochet fabric when you learn a new technique.

However, that is not the case with fair isle crochet as I incorporated this fun colorwork technique into this crochet glasses case.

Easy Crochet Glasses Case – Free Pattern & Tutorial is available on my blog.

fair isle crochet glasses case pattern

Crochet Basket

This is a fantastic beginner-friendly pattern that uses fair isle crochet technique without any further shaping.

You will also be working with two colors which makes it slightly easier.

FOLLOW THIS LINK for the free pattern

fair isle crochet basket

Crochet Bauble

This is a great beginner-friendly pattern that will teach you the basics of fair isle crochet on a small scale.

The spots and stripes bauble is a great introduction to the Fair Isle crochet technique and you’ll have it made in no time at all.

You can either pop a ready made bauble in it like I have or stuff it to create the shape.

CLICK HERE for the free pattern.

fair isle crochet bauble

Fair Isle Crochet Hat

This stunning fair isle crochet hat pattern comes in baby, child, teen and adult sizes. As you can see in the picture, you can use two or more colors.

The design might look complicated, however it comes with a video tutorial so you can follow along and learn this great technique.

It also contains different styles of colorwork charts so you can try a few different styles and see which one suits you best.

You can see the pattern ON THIS BLOG.

fair isle crochet hat pattern

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this fair isle crochet overview. If you think your crafty friends will like it too, why not share it with them?

Firstly, you can share a direct link to this pattern on your social media. 

Do not forget to pin this tutorial to your favorite Pinterest Board so you can easily find it later too.

If you like this pattern, you might also like these:

  1. Chunky Crochet Hat Pattern – A Shade of Grey
  2. Easy Knit Look Crochet Hat Tutorial – Bay Tree Hat Free Pattern
  3. Knit-look Crochet Cowl Free Pattern – Etela Cowl
  4. Knit-Look Crochet Stitch – Waistcoat Half Double Crochet – Free Video Tutorial
  5. Easy Crochet Color Change To Create A Sharp Edge

Thirdly, I also send out a fun and free newsletter full of crochet goodies! It is full of free crochet patterns, hand-picked round-ups, and stitch tutorials. 

You will also become one of my VIPs and receive exclusive discount codes on newly released patterns that I do not share anywhere else! 

So, my crochet newsletter is THE place to be! Sign up below today for a free PDF delivered straight to your inbox right after you sign up!

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About Veronika Cromwell

Hi, I’m Veronika! I design modern and wearable crochet garments, accessories and homewares. Grab your hook and find your next project!

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2 thoughts on “Fair Isle Crochet Overview and Beginner Patterns

  1. This article is amazing! I’m trying to teach myself more complicated crochet techniques. I like that this breaks it down so someone like me who’s fairly new to crocheting can understand! 🤓

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