Looking Backward

          I just put the finishing touches on a Fair Isle cardigan, one I worked using vibrant hues of Jamieson's Shetland yarn.  I love the Fair Isle technique, not just because the patterns are aesthetically pleasing and interesting to knit, but also due to the fact that this style is evocative of a particular time and place, one discussed by author Sarah Laurensen in an article in Scottish Memories magazine.  She recounts how in the mid- to late- nineteenth century, “. . . Fair Isle knitwear became a sort of souvenir that epitomised rural Scotland.  Associations with the everyday life of fisherman fed in to romantic notions of Scottishness at the time, as well as a revival of all things Nordic” (100). To me, knitting Fair Isle, with this connection to a pre-industrial, and perhaps, mythical, past makes me feel tied to tradition and history.     

          Knitting the Foxglove sweater also evoked more current times, last July in particular, when my husband and I visited friends in the English countryside.  My gracious hosts made certain our week's itinerary included a visit to the nearby Oxford Yarn Shop, where the owner introduced me to some of Kate Davies's publications.  Davies is a designer whose work reflects her links to the Scottish Highlands, where she resides, and to its heritage of wool and knitwear production. While Davies often employs traditional styles, her engaging designs appear fresh and have a viable appeal to contemporary knitters.  

Kate Davies' blog provides instructions for finishing a steek in a way that's a little different from the other crocheted steeks I have seen in books and videos.  With her method, a neat covered seam is made in the the center and then is cut open.  

I actually like cutting steeks.  The experience is scary, but successfully executing the precise
process  fills me with a great sense of accomplishment.  

         Now that I’m done knitting my Fair Isle cardigan, I’ve moved on to another garment, one that perhaps does not reflect a tradition grounded in a particular location or time, but one that is certainly evocative of the past.  The Marianne sweater from the latest issue of Jane Austen Knits is next in my queue, and I have some lovely Fiberspates Vivacious yarn to use to complete it.  While Marianne Dashwood in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility probably never wore anything of the kind, the lacy cardigan brings to mind romantic trysts on woodland paths, walks in the rain, and fireside recitations of romantic poetry.  This sweater should take me lots of places—at least in my mind.  Romantic Marianne eventually grew up and ceased her woolgathering (I love this word!). Maybe I will do the same one day.  

I found some inexpensive Celtic-looking buttons to use.  After showing a friend my finished garment, she told me about friends of hers who make and sell hand-crafted pewter buttons, many in Celtic designs.  I'll have to buy some for my next cable or Fair Isle project.  I checked out their website and saw that they also make knitting inspired jewelry!

I love this "Bunny Button" from The
Rams Horn.    

This is the artists' "Large Bold
Celtic Spiral" button.

Davies recommends trimming the crocheted steek edge.  I was afraid to do this but steeled myself and went ahead.  

The edges didn't fray.  

Davies shows a vintage sweater on her blog with a blanket stitch used to finish the steek edges.  I used this method.  I'd bought ribbon to cover the steek but it was polyester and didn't go with the organic feel of the sweater.  I need to find some 100% cotton grosgrain ribbon for my next project.  

Cited Source 

Laurenson, Sarah. "Fair Isle Knitting." Scottish Memories (2015): 100. MasterFILE  
Complete. Web. 12.  Nov. 2015.


  1. Your cardigan is beautiful - well done is getting it finished so well. I've never tried a steek. It looks very scary indeed. Would it not just be easier to knit two separate fronts?

  2. Ooh you've finished it! it is stunning! What a wonderful result! You must be so pleased! Your garden in the autumn sunshine is a perfect backdrop too. Wish we had some autumn sunshine here but it's absolutely miserable -grey, wet days enlivened only by a howling gale - I am toying with hibernating! E xx


Post a Comment

Popular Posts