Tuesday, October 01, 2013

One last bit of The Shetland Experience

In making my booking with FlyBe, I chose to sit on the left-hand side of the plane so that I could see Fair Isle as we came in to land. I forgot that airplanes have wings which stick out in the middle.

It was a small plane, not many more than a dozen of us – my dears, it had propellers. We asked the stewardess about Fair Isle and she promised that the captain would let us know. The announcement, if it came, was completely inaudible. But the man sitting in front of me turned around at the right moment and said, “That’s Fair Isle”.

I don’t have a PhotoShop program (or the skills) to draw a circle around it, but there it is, on the horizon near the tip of the wing, rising to a height on the right. Here's a close-up.

What Comes Next?

I began by looking at the yarns for the Rams and Yowes blankie. An immediate problem: Kate Davies identifies them by their wonderful Shetland colour names. The ball bands have only numbers. The J&S website has put that right.

Two shades are missing, I was told, and will be sent on later. So today’s job is to work out which two. Do I have the yarns to get started with? Do I have a sufficiently wonderful circular needle of the right size?

I hadn’t at all grasped how J&S has moved quietly into the 21st century. All their yarns are now balled – knitting a Fair Isle sweater used to involve a week of skein-winding. The range of Shetland Jumper Weight colours  is somewhat reduced, but the new (to me) lines more than make up for it – the Shetland Heritage yarns with their old Fair Isle colours; Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight, in the undyed colours as they come off the sheep; Shetland Supreme lace weight and 2ply lace weight. There are heavier yarns, too – I don’t think they were offered at all, in My Day.

The other thing I want to think about is my Fair Isle vest. Shall I sign up for Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Craftsy class, now that I have gone in for stashing Craftsy? I think I will probably order a Shetland knitting belt. I thought about it while I was there, but decided that that was an easy enough thing to order later.

I gather from a bit of internet exploration that using a belt doesn’t have to dictate one’s knitting style. In fact, they are used sometimes to help stroke victims knit again – an encouraging discovery for me.  In the brief demonstration we had, Doreen knit with both yarns in her right hand – “One above and one below,” she said. I always knit Fair Isle with one in each hand, dropping-and-throwing as usual with my right hand, and knitting-continental with the left.

So I could get a belt, and proceed in my own clumsy way, while trying to learn a better technique. Mucklestone discusses the holding of yarn. She’d have to. But the pattern that comes with the class Won’t Do At All – because the Fair Isle patterns repeat. They ought to change each time, even the peerie ones, while remaining so harmonious that you have to look closely to determine that fact.

Meanwhile, Milano proceeds. It is hard to keep winding skeins fast enough. I’ve done six – six more to go.


  1. Interesting, hadn't come across that last point about Fair Isle pattern repeats, the jumper I'm planning for dad won't have that, I'm using 5 oxo's charted from an old photo in Michael Pearson's Traditional Knitting and that one repeats patterns. There seem to be a lot of different rules about for Fair Isle knitting.

  2. I'm also planning a Fair Isle vest, I'd like to try out the new yarns and one pattern I'm considering adapting is Liz Lovick's Leogh Jacket, here on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/leogh-jacket
    From Rav you can click through to her Etsy shop where she gives a bit more info on the original sweater the pattern was based on and there is a pic of the original V-neck jumper from Fair Isle in the pattern. The patterns themselves are identical to those on the Leogh jacket with small adjustments by Liz to make them all 24 stitches.

    I've already been in touch with Liz about this to get her input on what J&S Shetland Heritage colors she would use (this pattern predates the yarn by at least 5 years), you can check out that thread in her Rav group here:

  3. I was just looking at the Jamieson and Smith shade cards from 1985 and 1996. Unfortunately I don't seem to have kept the price lists, but in 1996 the 2ply jumper weight was 91 p for 25gms plus £2.25 per 500gms p&p. There were eight natural shades of 2ply jumper weight and about 145 coloured shades. They also sold Embo 3ply yarns, 2-ply Soft Spun -like a DK - and Unst Fleece 4ply, which was a chunky yarn.

    The shade card itself was like a work of art.

    1. I have recently bought the Jamieson's colourcard and did consider framing it, the range of colours all together is so beautiful

  4. Very interesting about the not repeating patterns in a true Fair Isle. I am mulling over a colorwork design and am glad to know that bit for authenticity's sake.