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.
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).
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.
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.
In terms of classic fair isle, I love what Lars Rains has produced in his recent book, Modern Lopi. A local designer, Lars 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.
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!
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.
Yours in style,