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Fair Isle Knitting

🧶 F A I R   I S L E 🧶

Fair Isle is a tiny island north of Scotland, which lies between Orkney and Shetland. It is the most remote inhabited island in the U.K. with approximately 60 residents. 

Fair Isle is an important breeding ground for sea birds. But most famously Fair Isle is known for its knitwear of the same name. Fair Isle knitting features intricate colour work designs. Using two colours per row, Fair Isle was traditionally knitted in the natural colours of Shetland sheep and natural dyes. 

It is not clear how traditional Fair Isle knitting came about but there is a romantic tale of Spaniards, shipwrecked in 1588 after the break up of the Spanish Armada, teaching locals to use traditional colours and patterns. Or there are thoughts that it may have originated from even earlier times within Viking history. 

Traditional Fair Isle knitting as we know it today was originally used for fishermen’s caps and sweaters. This style of knitting, with two colours used at once produces a thicker knit as the colours are looped behind when not is use, which I imagine would have been nice and warm when out at sea. 

There continue to be a few knitters on Fair Isle still producing authentic traditional Fair Isle knitwear using patterns that have been passed down the generations. This authentic knitwear is much sought after. 

Worldwide, designers have been inspired by the intricate coloured patterns of the Fair Isle iconic sweaters and Fair Isle style prints and knits can be found across the high street and from top designers.

Popularised by the Royals, the 1920s saw Edward VIII wear a Fair Isle knit in public. Princess Diana, the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte have also been pictured wearing Fair Isle style knitwear. 

This handmade matinee jacket features a fair isle pattern around the yoke. Hand knitted in baby alpaca and silk, this matinee jacket is the softest piece of knitwear and is hypoallergenic making it perfect for babies. Featuring intricate colour work, many hours go into making a baby cardigan in this style. This cardigan is available made to order in pink, blue or off white. 

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