Spotlight on Technique: Fairisle

Spotlight on Technique: Fairisle


ERIBÉ is synonymous with the innovation of the one of the best known traditional knitting technique, Fairisle.

The Fairisle pattern is named after the small isolated island called Fair Isle that lies midway between Shetland and Orkney, in the very North of Scotland. Fairisle is a type of knitting that uses at least two colours in one row to form horizontal clearly defined geometric patterns.

Knitting probably reached the islands from mainland Scotland around AD1500. The small or “peerie” Shetland sheep, native to the Islands, produce ideal wool for spinning and knitting. These crafts did not develop into a major cottage industry until the 16th century. The wool has wonderful properties, not only having fine, strong fibres, but becomes soft and hard wearing over time. Important to Fairisle patterns, this wool takes on the striking colours with great clarity, resulting in luminous colourful fabrics.

In 1850 the Northern Scottish islands were busy with maritime traders, stopping en-route to America from Spain and the Baltic countries. Patterns from these countries were copied, developed and passed on from croft to croft. Colours were bright with indigo blue, madder red, yellow and contrasted with natural undyed black, browns, greys and creams. By early 1900s, Fairisle knitting became increasingly popular. Especially when in 1920, the royal family were seen sporting these brightly coloured pullovers. It was a period of great innovation in knitting. These fisherman’s working garments were adopted as leisure wear for all the classes making the Scottish Islands prosperous. We knit some of our Fairisle designs in Shetland to preserve the craftsmanship, authenticity and heritage of Scottish knitwear.

By playing with proportion, colour and introducing touches of special effect yarns, ERIBÉ have innovated Fairisle from its homespun roots to give it world-wide appeal.

Check out some of our Fairisle knits here.

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