The Beauty Of Fair Isle

Fair Isle From Fair Isle

One of the most popular items on our website, for both men and women, is the Fair Isle Tank top. Fair Isle is a traditional knitting technique used to create multiple coloured rows of pattern. It is named after Fair Isle, which is a tiny island in the north of Scotland, that forms part of the Shetland islands.

The Island Of Fair Isle

Royal Approval

Fair Isle knitting gained a considerable popularity when the trendsetting Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, wore a Fair Isle V neck jumper in 1921. It remained popular, especially for men, through the 1930s, 1940s, and 50s, with the V neck tank top becoming a staple. There was another wave of popularity along with the folk designs of the 1980s along with the advent of home knitting machines. We have also seen Fair Isle style knitwear on the high street again in the last five years.

Prince of Wales

Traditional Fair Isle patterns have a limited palette of five or so colours. Between each section of pattern the threads are carried across the back this is called stranding. It makes the garment thicker and warmer than other types of knitting.  We have had some lovely traditional styles for women too. namely, jumpers and cardigans. Another classic look for Fair Isle are the round yoke styles. These are created using a special round knitting device. Looks a bit tricky to me!

Round Knitting
Hand Knitting

In the 1980s home knitting machines became popular and Fair Isle started to be produced on them. I can remember some nightmare scenarios when I used them on my fashion design course in the eighties. Usually due to impatience, whizzing the carriage across like a maniac only to see my vision of a Missoni like master piece unravel in front of my eyes as it come unhooked in the middle. 

Knitting Machine


Revival Fair Isle Tank Tops

Over the years we have had some beautiful colour combinations.

Fair Isle Patterns

We struggle to keep up the demand for these stunning garments, in particular mens vintage Fair Isle tank tops. So much so that in the last couple of years we have produced our own design, inspired by forties knitting patterns We have just introduced a second colour combination of grey, blue and yellow.

Most of our customers buy our vintage style tank tops for 1940s nostalgia events. They look authentic worn with other items from our 1940s selection for men.

Fair Isle Tank Top

I have always loved Fair Isle. I think it suits children, men and women alike. My favourite look with Fair Isle is a fitted knitted sweater with a 1950s pleated skirt or short kilt. One of my winter uniforms.

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