National Post (National Edition)
FAIR ISLE, SCOTLAND
Midway between the Orkney and Shetland islands, Britain's most remote inhabited island is synonymous with the knitting technique to which it gave its name. Fair Isle is a distinctive form of stranded colorwork used to create rows of intricate patterns. It was developed by islanders who from at least the 18th century survived by trading woolen products with the crews on passing cargo, fishing and whaling ships. Word got out, and the sweaters became so renowned for their warmth and durability that they were worn by the 1904 Bruce expedition to Antarctica. Nowadays, while Fair Isle-inspired patterns show up everywhere, only a few knitters make the sweaters on the island. But you no longer have to make the long trip via nerve-shattering eight-seater plane or small boat to buy them.
In early 2020, Marie Bruhat was preparing to welcome the first guests to her Fair Isle Knitting Holidays, a week-long residential experience for knitters of all experience levels. As travel ceased, she put the holidays on hold and pivoted to selling both off-the-peg and bespoke products online. She also now offers one-on-one online instruction; contact her at fairislewithmarie.com for details. Fellow islander Mati Ventrillon has run her online store, selling garments from three distinct collections, for five years. During coronavirus closures this year she launched her own book of designs, “Knitting From Fair Isle,” and “Mak-kist” (“make-box” in Shetlandic dialect) kits for sale for beginning knitters, which contain driftwood needles, traditional yarn scissors and Shetland wool in typical Fair Isle colors. Her website is mativentrillon.co.uk.