Using my Silver Reed hand-frame knitting machine, I craft garments and accessories using not only traditional Fair Isle patterns and colour palettes but also more contemporary designs. The yarn I use is 100% pure Shetland wool from Jamieson's of Shetland (the last remaining spinning mill in Shetland) which - luckily for us knitters! - comes in the most wonderful range of over 220 beautiful shades, including 21 'natural' shades.
Although in the past all the knitting produced here on Fair Isle would have been done by hand, using long 'wires' (double-pointed knitting needles), nowadays all the knitwear produced for sale is made on flat-bed, hand-frame knitting machines. People sometimes feel that using a knitting machine is somehow 'cheating', when using one is actually a skill in its own right! The model I use is purely a mechanical aid - there is nothing electronic or automatic about it. Every pass of the carriage is done by hand, increases and decreases by hand, every new colour has to be joined in by hand and then all the ends woven in by hand. Whilst it can certainly be a quicker process than hand-knitting, a garment may still take between 10-15 hours to knit, depending on the design, the size and and the number and complexity of colour changes.
Every item is then finished by hand - for an accessory such as a hat, this means that the crown of the hat, with all the shaping decreases, is knitted by hand and a hand-made pompom added. For a garment this means that the front and back panels are grafted together at the shoulders (producing a seamless join), sleeves are then grafted on, seams hand-sewn using mattress stitch, neck rib grafted on, ends woven in and, finally, all the ends cut off - all by hand. This 'finishing' process can easily take the same amount of time as it takes to knit an item.
All items are then hand-washed (see my 'Care' page for more information) and garments are 'dressed' by being allowed to dry naturally, held in shape on a jumper board.
Every item is knitted to order, so you know that you are getting a piece that has been knitted especially for you, rather than something that has been languishing in a stock cupboard! 'Standard sized' items such as hats, mufflers, hoods and bibs will have a quicker turnaround time and can be purchased directly from the online shop. Garments are all knitted to order after an initial discussion between us to ensure you get the shape and fit that you want. I also offer a fully bespoke service where, together, we design and create a garment that is fully customisable and tailored to your exact requirements.
As well as being inspired by the ever-changing colours of the sea, sky and land around me here on Fair Isle, I also take inspiration from museum pieces, vintage photographs and illustrations in old books (scouring charity shops for clothes and books is one of my favourite off-isle pastimes!). I have always loved vintage fashion - especially from the 1930s and 1940s - and am really excited to offer a vintage styling option on some of my designs, such as tailoring to produce a more fitted silhouette, deep waist ribs and slimmer sleeves.