The complex and colorful knitting is named for the tiny island of Fair Isle ( 1x3 miles, population 70) in the north of Scotland where it originated. The women and men of the island have been knitting these traditional patterns for centuries. Some scholars have speculated that the original inspiration for the unusual designs arrived with ancient shipwrecked sailors from Spain. Others suggest a possible Celtic, Norse, or Scandinavian connection. Traditionally the women would knit the colorful clothing with wool form the island sheep, and then the men would board visiting ships and trade the knitwear for necessary goods. Today, the art is dying out, and only a few authentic pieces are being made each year and sold on the island to tourists.
This blog is actually written from Fair Isle, and tells the history of knitting on the island and also what's currently happening with the remaining local artisans today. I'm hoping for a full-fledged revival of the art. (If this has piqued your interest you can listen to an interesting BBC radio interview about the future of knitting on the island here.)
You can buy similar authentic Scottish knits here, among other places.
|On Ebay right now|
|This one from Ralph Lauren is on sale for $64!|
|also from the Sundance catalog|
|Fellow blogger DaniBP likes these from the Scottish retailer Brora|
|Turtle Fur cap|
|$$$$ but beautiful!|