Sunday 11 October 2015

Fair Isle in Leighton Buzzard

I was in Leighton Buzzard (Bedfordshire) yesterday for the 'pop-up museum' on woolcrafts held in the town's library.   There was a display of work by local knitters and demonstrations of spinning, and a film from the 1970s about spinning in rural Ireland was running all day in the library theatre.

Knitted 'Fair Isle' cushions

Rose cardigan inspired by a 1953 pattern 
The event was sponsored by the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and I was there to give a talk on Fair Isle knitwear, based on items from the Guild's collection.  Actually two talks, or one talk twice (morning and afternoon), however you want to think of it.

I talked about the history of Fair Isle as fashionable knitwear, starting in 1922, when the Prince of Wales wore a Fair Isle sweater to play golf in St Andrews, and was later painted in a Fair Isle sweater (presumably the same one) for the Illustrated London News.

Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII) 
published by Illustrated London News, after John St Helier Lander, 1925.
From the National Portrait Gallery Reference Collection, NPG D34119

I took a suitcase with seven pieces from the collection, ranging in date from the 1930s to around 1990 - some professionally knitted, including one that is authentically "Fair Isle made in Fair Isle", according to its label.  Others were made by knitters elsewhere, for themselves or their families, at times when Fair Isle knitting was popular - the late 1940s and the 1970s in particular.

1940s jumper  
Two waistcoats and a pullover, knitted from Patons pattern 1595 

Patons 1595, published 1970s 

It was a very successful day, I think - a lot of people visiting the library called in the see the display and/or the film, and both my talks were well-attended, with about 25-30 people each time - almost a full house.  And I got a quick look at Leighton Buzzard, which has a nice-looking town centre - including the excellent library and a very good yarn shop, Nutmeg Needlecrafts.   (Yes, I bought something.)

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