THE WONDERS OF WOOL – FAIRISLE

Talia by Rachel Coopey for Pom Pom Quarterly

Today we are not only celebrating Wool Week with our #WOWeek hashtag, but also joining in with Instagram’s #fairislefriday fun! Take a look at these incredible socks designed by Rachel Coopey. Talia are a tour-de-force of fairisle design. These socks would keep your calves perfectly snug on a rainy winter’s day. Rachel used Northbound Knitting’s Superwash BFL Fingering in the colourways Sterling, Absinthe and Midnight. We just love these colours together! The grey and acid green combination is a fun yet sophisticated take on the age old Fair Isle knitting tradition.

Talia knitted by Liz, Photo credit Liz

Fairisle, or stranded colourwork, is a relatively simple technique which creates a wonderfully complex-looking fabric. This combination of ease and WOW-factor make for very addictive knitting! We love watching those gloriously geometric patterns emerge from beneath our needles. But don’t take our word for it. Why not ask Raveler Liz? She loved Rachel’s pattern so much that she’s made not one, but two pairs! Aren’t they both gorgeous? Her second pair are a riot of colour knitted using The Uncommon Tread’s Lush Twist. We are experiencing a serious temptation to pop them on and dance around the living room to 90s dance anthems.

Talia knitted by Deb, Photo credit Deb

Raveler Deb has also made a pair of Talias. Hers are in a far more classic colour combination of red, mustard and brown. These are perfect colours for Autumn! Deb’s socks would give any outfit pizzaz. Fairisle is amazing; it is great seeing the effect different colours have upon the same design.

Stranded colourwork is traditionally found all over Northern Europe. It was invented around 200 years ago because it creates a warm dense fabric perfect for chilly climates. Scottish Fair Isle in particular is characterised by its bold, bright colour choices and the use of many different colours in a single pattern block. It is not unusual for a design to have between 7 and 10 different colours – what a lot to keep track of!

For these Shetland women knitting was not a hobby, but an important source of income. These women did everything including hiking miles to gather peat and housework with their knitting on the go. They were capable of producing an entire Fair Isle jumper in a week! Using the continental method, they were incredibly quick, knitting about 100 stitches a minute. We take our (colourwork) hats off to them – what an incredible talent these hardy women had! If you’d like to read more about these women and life on Fair Isle then find yourself a copy of the amazing Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting. It’s not just a fascinating read, but also a wonderful resource for anyone interested in creating their own fairisle projects.

Stranded knitting is still incredibly popular; it crops up in everything from kids’ toys to mittens and is a glorious way to experiment with a pop of adventurous colour. Have you knitted (or noticed) some fantastic fairisle recently? Let us know on either Facebook, Instagram, Twitter  – or all three! Don’t forget, every time you post you will be entered to win a copy of Pom Pom!

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