Monday, November 24, 2008

Fair Isle

This isn't necessarily for me, but I'm quite pleased with a new technique I've learned.

Fair Isle stripes

This is called fair isle knitting. It's related to the Scandinavian style sweater I made, but it uses smaller patterns and more color changes. This is a pretty common technique used for sweaters, so I'm sure you've seen it before. This is just the first time I've used this technique to make anything myself.

You can see here that the yarns end up a bit woven on the back side.

Fair Isle inside

This style is fascinating to me because it is a traditional style of knitting that still looks modern today. It also represents the merging of cultures and techniques that developed to create this look. It takes its name from the island of Fair Isle off the north side of Scotland, which is near the Shetland Islands and the Hebrides. These islands have long been trading hubs, even from the days of the Vikings, so many different cultures and peoples have passed through them for centuries.

The romantic history of this style of knitting involves a shipwreck from the Spanish Armada. Around the time of the Armada's defeat by the English at the end of the 16th century, one of the galleons sailed up the coast, only to sink off Fair Isle. Spain has a long history of intricate textiles (many further influenced by textiles from the Middle East), so the lore is that those Spanish textiles made their way from the shipwreck onto the island to influence the styles there.

I love this story as it makes a connection across a variety of countries and continents. There are other conflicting originations, most involving sweaters and designs that came through as a part of trades from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, but this is one is my favorite.

Regardless of how it came about, it produces a wonderful design, and there are many, many designs out there, and the process of creating it is fun as well.

I'm still working on The Gravedigger's Daughter, and hopefully I'll finish that soon so I can have a non-knitting update.

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