I put the tam on a time out, but then I came back to it and knit another swatch. I am definitely making progress, but it is very slow. When I am designing, I am usually pretty decisive. I will make a swatch and can decide right away whether or not it is working, and furthermore, I can usually figure out why it isn’t working, which leads me to a solution. However, I am finding that figuring out the stitch patterns and the color patterns at the same time is very challenging. This swatch shows more experiments with both. I am having a hard time deciding because there are so many possibilities, and so far, none of them has leapt to the fore and shouted “I’m the one!”
I think that I am now happy with the stitch patterns for the ribbing and the band. As for the colors, I was not happy with what I had knit, so I used duplicate stitch to try out other colors in place of the ones I didn’t like. What I finally decided is that I am using too many colors, so I am eliminating the blues and the yellow, leaving purples, pinks, grays and black. I took one more stab at varying the colors in the corrugated ribbing, but this time I left the purl stitches all one color and varied the knit stitches, which makes for clearer delineations. I like this effect, and this will be the ribbing pattern I will use. I found The Art of Fair Isle Knitting by Ann Feitelson very helpful for this. She is a master of colorful corrugated ribbing, sometimes varying the colors on both the knit and purl columns. I think these work best when the colors in a group are very close to each other, so you get a subtle shading as the colors shift. I realized that the steps between the colors that I am using are too wide to achieve this effect, so that will have to wait for another project. On the right side of the swatch you can see where I forgot to knit all the stitches of the first row, but then I remembered about halfway through. This is why you can see the gray purl bumps peeking through the black; these will not be in the final project.
I like the stitch pattern in the blue band, but as I said, I am going to eliminate the blue yarns because I think it is just too much. I will use the medium purple as the background color throughout, and I will use the maroon color in place of the dark blue pattern. The center stitches will be the light pink. I may swatch this, or I may throw caution to the winds and just start knitting. I am getting tired of swatching!
I like the purple diamond band as it is, except I will use the dark pink for the center row, instead of the maroon, because I think it reads better. I have also decided to mirror the dark purple peerie pattern at the bottom and top of the band, rather than using different patterns as I did here.
Then there is the wheel section. Heavy sigh. I am having so much trouble with this section! My brain is having a tough time seeing how the pie wedge of stitches works into a seven-part wheel. The two books that I have found the most helpful for this section are Knitting Tams: Charted Fair Isle Designs by Mary Rowe and Traditional Fair Isle Knitting by Sheila McGregor.
Mary Rowe’s tams are gorgeous, and she uses a highly efficient method of charting that uses only two black and white symbols to convey both the stitch and the color information. Genius! Sheila McGregor’s book offers much about the history and some advice about designing, but the bulk of the book is devoted to stitch patterns that are composed of black dots on graph paper. I found this was really helpful to me because it took color completely out of the equation allowing me to focus on the pattern itself and then add the colors later, which made the task less overwhelming. Another reference that I used was 200 Fair Isle Motifs by Mary Jane Mucklestone, which presents many of the same stitch patterns actually knitted into swatches and graphed using colored squares. This was a great way to see how the colors can play across the pattern, but I found it difficult to imagine the pattern knit with my colors, which was why, at least for now, it was helpful to have the black dot format to work from.
So, it looks like I have more work to do on the wheel section before I am ready to cast on for real. Hopefully I will figure it out soon because I have given myself a deadline of the end of the year to finish this hat. Stay tuned to see if I make it!
Note: I have not received any compensation for posting these links. They are here solely to help you find the books if they are of interest to you.