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A Look At One Of Fall’s Hottest Trends – Fair Isle

If we think of trends as being transitory, then it follows that what is hot today may not be so popular tomorrow. But certain trends stay with us. They ride the tide of fashion and wash ashore, season after season. These trends are a wonderful opportunity to reinterpret, explore, and redefine their established qualities.

Clockwise from top left: Celine FW2013, R.E.D. Valentino Fall RTW 2016, J. Crew Fall 2016, Balenciaga Fall 2016, Pringle of Scotland FW 2016, Pringle of Scotland FW 2015
Clockwise from top left: Celine FW2013, R.E.D. Valentino Fall RTW 2016, J. Crew Fall 2016, Balenciaga Fall 2016, Pringle of Scotland FW 2016, Tom Ford FW 2015

Fair isle is one such trend. Enjoyed by knitters and non-knitters alike, fair isle has stood the test of time. It has graced countless runways, magazine editorials, and boutique windows. However, its roots lie in the hand knitting trade. Fair isle is steeped in tradition, yet is open to interpretation. Knitters are free to change and vary designs, play with unique color choices, and experiment with fiber. Fair isle traditionally uses Icelandic wools, but over the years I’ve witnessed everything from light and supple cashmere fair isles to striking metallic fair isles (see Christian Dior below).

Christian Dior Fall/Winter 2015
Christian Dior Fall/Winter 2015

Chanel experimented with fair isle as a fine gauge textile this season to interesting effect. I thought the far left dress below, with its embellished fair isle details in the neckline, was especially beguiling.

Chanel Fair Isle Collage
Chanel Pre-Fall 2016

While it isn’t apparent from the above photos, that particular detailing was accomplished with beads. From a distance, it looks like a classic fair isle yoke. Gucci did a similar interpretation of fair isle in their Ready-to-wear collection in 2015.

(L-R) Close up of Chanel's beaded fair isle dress; Gucci Fall RTW 2015-16
(L-R) Close up of Chanel’s beaded fair isle dress; Gucci RTW 2015-16 beaded sweater

In terms of classic fair isle, I love what Lars Rains has produced in his recent book, Modern Lopi. A local designerLars has helped revive the tradition of the classic fair isle sweater. Designs like Hildur (below right), with its rich and vibrant coloring and rolled neckline, feel like a fresh take on the archetypical fair isle lopapeysa sweater.

Hildur from Modern Lopi
Hildur from Modern Lopi

All these classic and contemporary fair isle interpretations informed me when I strategized fair isle pieces for Tahki Stacy Charles. I looked at J. Crew’s staid, straightforward fair isle, R.E.D. Valentino’s tribal interpretation, and Pringle of Scotland’s bold color pairings. I also thought about the process of hand knitting with multiple colors, and what that entails for knitters. Everything went into the pot to help guide me this season.

Fair isle can be a daunting technique for novice knitters. It often involves working with several colors at once, which can be tricky. I wanted to explore the modern tribal patterning seen in recent fair isle executions, but in a way that was approachable to new knitters. The Mountainside Poncho from Tahki Yarns’ Knit Country grew out of that desire. Tribal printed ponchos are also trending right now, so it presented the perfect opportunity!

Tribal print fair isle ponchos are having a moment
Tribal print fair isle ponchos are having a moment

The Mountainside Poncho uses 3 colors of Alden Print and 2 colors of Alden, but you’re never working with more than 2 balls at once. Alden Print‘s multicolor design creates the illusion of intricacy with quick color changes, elevating the simple, tribal-infused patterning. It’s a wonderful entrée into knitting fair isle.

Knit Country‘s Valley Vest & Wristers was inspired by more traditional techniques, and should satisfy advanced fair isle practitioners. The Valley Vest & Wristers uses 5 colors of Alden and features several different stitch pattern motifs, but like Mountainside, no more than 2 colors are worked at the same time.

Valley Vest + Wristers in Alden
Valley Vest + Wristers in Alden
Mountainside Poncho in ALDEN & ALDEN PRINT
Mountainside Poncho in Alden & Alden Print

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m excited to see knitters’ interpretations on these fresh fair isle designs. Please share your photos and fair isle stories on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Yours in style,

Stacy sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacy Charles