Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A 1930s Fair Isle Sweater

We were admiring a Fair Isle sweater at Lee Mills yesterday.  It has seen a lot of hard wear - it has been mended in several places, and the neckband and cuffs are a bit ragged.  And it's been attacked by moths too - there are quite a few little holes in it.  Even so, it is a beautiful piece; very well knitted, and the colours are as fresh as if it were made yesterday.  

It was donated to the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection a few years ago, and had belonged to the donor's father.  He came from a farming family in Banffshire, in Scotland, and it was made for him in the 1930s, by one of his aunts.  He wore it for more than 20 years, and from the signs of wear must have been one of his favourite garments.  The short waist is typical of sweaters of that date that were intended as working clothes.  

In some Fair Isle designs, a different pattern is issued in every band, but here the Greek key pattern, in two shades of brown, is re-used in alternate bands.  I guess that helps to tie together the overall design.  It's interesting to see how the different combinations of colours work together.  At first glance, the colours in each of the wider bands are different, but in fact the same colours are re-used - they just look different because of the way they are combined.  ( I think there are 9 colours in all, including the two browns and two shades of green.)

On the inside, you can see that the knitter wove in the colour not in use, rather than stranding it across the back of the work. It's very neatly done.

The donor said that her mother had kept it after her father died, for sentimental reasons, and that she found herself unable to throw it away.   It has been very gently washed, but we shan't attempt to mend it.  It is too fragile to go on display or be handled more than absolutely necessary, but it will be treasured.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, just one of the lovely things we have in the KCG collection.

  2. How marvellous that things like this have survived at all!

  3. Now that is stunning and a real labour of love.Those colours still look so vibrant - I'm going to bookmark these photos for future knitting inspiration. Thank you for sharing Barbara.

  4. I like the fact that the patterns are not restricted to a band around the yoke, but cover the whole jumper. Also, some of the patterns look usual, to my untrained eye.

  5. "usual" in my earlier comment should of course be "unusual".


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