The þing - Shackleton's Gansies

The Inspiration - The StoryAs we move towards the centenary of Shackleton's expedition more work is being done to investigate the details of the trip. While trawling through the papers relating the supplies gathered for the voyage it was discovered that all of the knitwear was bought from Shetland. It was purchased from a woman in North Nesting and shipped to London. The garments would have been knitted in the croft houses of Nesting. The knitting was an important part of the economy. Shetland Knitwear is still world famous and a number of school staff produce wonderful garments. We also sell local women's knitting through our pop up gallery.
Shackleton included many Shetlanders in his crew and was well aware of the suitability of the knitwear in harsh climates. He would have seen the garments in the whaling stations of South Georgia and South Shetland.
mls.jpg Magnus Leask pictured in 1985 wearing a Fair Isle Jumper. Magnus was a pallbearer at Shackleton's funeral in 1922.
The Inspiration - Fair Isle Patterns
Basic two-colour Fair Isle requires no new techniques beyond the basic knit stitch. (The purl stitch is not used if circular knitting needles are used.) At each knit stitch, there are two available "active" colours of yarn; one is drawn through to make the knit stitch, and the other is simply held behind the piece, carried as a loose strand of yarn behind the just-made stitch. To avoid "loose" strands larger than 3-5 stitches, the yarn not in use can be "caught" by the yarn in use without this being seen on the front of the work - see below. Knitters who are comfortable with both English style andContinental style knitting can carry one colour with their right hand and one with their left, although it is also possible to simply use two different fingers for the two colours of yarn and knit both using the same style.
The simplest Fair Isle pattern uses circular or double pointed needles, cast on any number of stitches. Knitting then continues round and round, with the colours alternated every stitch. If the pattern is started with an even number of stitches, a vertically striped tube of fabric will be formed, while an odd number will create a diagonal grid that appears to mix the two colours.
Traditional Fair Isle patterns normally had no more than two or three consecutive stitches of any given colour, because they were stranded, and too many consecutive stitches of one colour means a very long strand of the other, quite easy to catch with a finger or button. A more modern variation is woven Fair Isle, where the unused strand is held in slightly different positions relative to the needles and thereby woven into the fabric, still invisible from the front, but trapped closely against the back of the piece. This permits a nearly limitless variety of patterns with considerably larger blocks of colour.
Traditionally Fair Isle jumper construction involves knitting the body of the jumper completely in the round. Steeks are worked across the armhole openings allowing the body to be completed in the round without interruption. Once the main body of the jumper is complete, the armhole steeks are cut open (sometimes these are secured before cutting). Stitches are then picked up around the armhole opening and the sleeve is knitted down toward the cuff in the round. ("Steek" from the Scottish word meaning 'stitch', 'to close shut'. A knitted steek is formed of several stitches. The technique was first developed in the Shetland Isles.)
Beginning in the 1990s, the term "Fair Isle" has been applied very generally and loosely to any stranded colour knitting regardless of its relation to the knitting of Fair Isle or any of the other Shetland Islands.


The completed panel is now on display at the local textile museum. We will spend the winter constructing more panels for our area at school.

International Textile Festival
During the International Textile festival in Lerwick 80 women knitted a circular garment to capture unity and peace. Our panel was the backdrop for the event.130802-52-1600-1200-100.jpg