This article was written for knitters out in the wilderness, who don't have access to a local yarn store or a group of knitters in your area who you can learn from. The wonderful thing about this technique is that it looks complex, but it is very easy to do once you master the basics, which are not difficult if you have knowledge, and knowledge is key - finding it is another story, that is the true challenge of 2 color knitting. Information on technique seems to come and go as each new book is published and then goes out of print. It is miraculously kept alive through online chat forums, blog sites, and knitting groups, camps and conferences. But knowing where and how to access this information can feel like a great mystery when you are first getting started.
After sifting through alot of this information as someone new to 2 color knitting, I put together a list of all the teaching resources that I found to be the most helpful in my case, but keep in mind, your experiences and needs might be different:
Best Teaching Resources for a Beginner
The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques by Margaret Radcliffe. Just released in Dec. of 2008, a fantastic new teaching resource. (In addition to Fair Isle knitting, it also includes instruction on double knitting, entrelac, and intarsia.) There are several beginner patterns in the book including hats, mittens and handbags.
Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting
This book is now back in print (see more information here). (Or you can borrow a library copy through a local library (check out worldcat.org) or through inter-library loan.) Another resource is Ann Feitelstein's Art of Fair Isle Knitting.
A Nice Place to Get Started With Two Color Knitting in the Round for Beginners:
Knitting Workshop DVD, Schoolhouse Press
(Secrets to Successful Norwegian knitting/2 color stranded knitting)
Wonderful inspiration, good sound advice on technique, a great foundation course!
Cardigan Details DVD, Schoolhouse Press
For when you are ready to cast and on get serious about steeks. The DVD takes you through an entire sweater (Lupine Cardigan from Meg Swansen's Knitting - knits up fast!).
Meg Swansen's Fair Isle Vest DVD, Schoolhouse Press
(A great tutorial for a "V-Neck" Fair Isle vest with armhole and neck steeks)
Eunny Jang's "The Ivy League Vest" DVD from Interweave Knits
After you Master the Basics and Want to Study All Construction Strategies:
Knitting in the Old Way
When you are ready to select your own colorwork charts for a project, these two classics will provide a wide range of options to select from: Traditional Fair Isle Knitting by Sheila McGregor, and Traditional Scandinavian Knitting by the same author.
Photo Tutorials for Knitting with Steeks
Since many valuable books have gone out of print and can be very costly to buy, some experienced knitters have developed online tutorials to help fill in the gaps. I found these free tutorials online to be very helpful, particularly for their photos:
Eunny Jang's Steek Chronicles
Wendy Johnson's Article on Steeks at Knitty.com
Steek Photos by Wendy Johnson for a Dale of Norway Norwegian Sweater:
Steek Photos by Wendy Johnson for a Fair Isle Sweater:
Crochet Steeks (nice photos!):
2 Color Knitting Video Tutorials Online
Video Tutorial at the Philosopher's Wool Website on 2-Color Stranded Knitting:
Video Tutorial on 2-Color Stranded Knitting at Knittinghelp.com:
Continental Knit and Purl Stitch Video Tutorial at Knittinghelp.com:
Two Handed Two Color Knitting on Double Pointed Needles:
Purling in Two Colors
(Extremely useful if you will not be knitting in the round.)
Other good reference resources:
Knitting in Color Blog:
(Scroll down to see the link list on the right for other great tutorials online.)
Many knitting teachers offer class projects that are mini size sweaters that help you learn the basics without investing alot of time. This teddy bear project is perfect if you've already mastered two color knitting and want to try out your first steeks on something little:
Norwegian Pullover Teddy Bear Sweater from Knitty Gritty
One final word of advice: knitters can be very opinionated, because we all have different experiences that lead us to successful mastery of these techniques and different preferences for how to accomplish what we want to achieve. So don't just take my word, be sure to ask around and get opinions from people you trust. There are probably as many ways to knit a sweater as there are people who knit and you will most likely develop your own unique style as well. Perhaps one day you will invent a technique that will be named after you! I hope one day you will share what you learned and pass it on!