Monday, 28 November 2011

The Return of the Fair Isle sweater ...

HRH The Prince of Wales
(Edward VIII)

The Prince made a big impression, and not just by abdicating the throne in order to marry American divorcée Wallace Simpson. The knitting world was less interested in his personal life, and more impressed with what he was wearing. And, starting in 1921, the Prince was wearing Fair Isle sweaters.

Beginning with a gift from a draper named James A. Smith, the Prince began to wear Fair Isle sweaters to golfing events, during his globe-trotting public relations trips, and even for a portrait painted by John St. Helier Lander.

According to the grand doyenne of Fair Isle, Alice Starmore, the Prince of Wales wearing a Fair Isle pullover "was undoubtedly the single most important event in the commercialization of Fair Isle knitting."

In the 1920s, Fair Isle sweaters became so popular that most Oxford and Cambridge students owned one, and suddenly it seemed that Fair Isle hats, gloves and cardigans were seen everywhere.

in "Knitty"

My own sweater is more than 30 years old ... Slainte Mhath !! ... Jeeves

Alice Starmore (née Alice Matheson) is a professional needleworker, photographer and author of books on needlework, born in Stornoway, Western Isles, Scotland.

Growing up in a traditional Scottish fishing community with Gaelic as her native language, knitting was one of the skills she learned at an early age, already creating her own designs by the age of five. She decided to make it into a profession in 1975, when she produced a collection which was sold in London boutiques. In 1978, she was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship and travelled to Norway, Sweden and Finland to study their textile traditions. Her books are widely considered to be one of the authorities on Celtic and Fair Isle design and technique. As well as her books, she has written articles for Threads and Vogue Knitting magazines and now markets her own lines of threads and yarn.

In 1991 she founded Windfall Press, which started as a specialist publisher and producer of knitting titles but which is now known for its expertise in the design and production of books in Scottish Gaelic.

Her professional career has widened from knitting design into the sphere of fine art. Her first major solo exhibition, Mamba, was shown at An Lanntair, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis during Summer 2008. She makes occasional appearances at textile and knitting events, including recent presentations and worksops at the official Dutch Stitch 'n' Bitch Day (Rotterdam, 2006) and at I Knit London's Weekender (September 2009).

Her photographic work is now focused on the natural world, particularly birds and insects, and she contributes to publications of the British Dragonfly Society. She is regarded as an authority on Scottish moorland habitats, and is employed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as their Education Officer for the Isles of Lewis and Harris.

Her daughter, Jade Starmore, is a professional needleworker and artist, and has published her own books.


Janice Issitt said...

Hi there I posted a link to your page as I just blogged about fairisle knitting

Janice Issitt said...

just linked to your blog as I blogged about fairisle on

Johannes said...

In the 1920s, Fair Isle sweaters became so popular that most Oxford and Cambridge students owned one, and suddenly it seemed that Fair Isle ...