In this edition of our Knitwear guide we focus on iconic British knitwear and how the industry and designs have developed over time.
Fair Isle knitwear
The British and Irish Isles have a proud history of knitwear and garmenting. At inception, knitwear was primarily created and used for practical purposes, but within that distinctive styles and patterns emerged as equipment, trade and travel developed.
(The Iggy & Burt, Abstract Fairisle jumper, £75)
One of the earliest examples of hand-knitted sweaters, is the Fair Isle sweater. The Fair Isle sweater has developed significantly since the early 20th century and has many regional and local alliterations which reflect the knitters environment and background. The first origins of the Fair Isle sweater are believed to be from Fair Isle itself, a remote island located between Orkney and Shetland.
Fair Isle sweaters encompass many different patterns and motifs, and its popularity came to prominence during the 1920s due to, in part, the Prince of Wales regularly sporting sweaters in this style as part of his golfing attire.
The pattern continues to evolve and grow in popularity to this day, we and we think it is a classic piece that everyone should have in their knitwear collection.
Aran knitwear is another distinctive style from the British and Irish Isles.
Otherwise commonly referred to as a fisherman’s sweater, its origins lie in the Aran Islands in Connemara, located off of the beautiful west coast of Ireland.
(Image credit: https://www.galwaytourism.ie)
Aran sweaters were traditionally knitted within small communities using natural and undyed sheep’s wool, resulting in off-white or cream colours.
The oil which was retained in the wool (lanolin) made these sweaters waterproof and perfect for the local conditions and seafaring. This knitwear would have been traditionally knit by women on the island for men who worked as farmers and fishermen. They have now taken on a life of their own and are loved and adored across the world by many, and across many style ways.
Probably our favourite style of British knitwear is the guernsey sweater.
Iggy & Burt Burt Roll Neck Lambswool JumperKnown for its traditional association with fishermen and sailors, we love everything about the guernsey style knit. Historically guernsey sweaters were made with tight-sleeved and tightly knitted wool, with high necks, to offer the wearer comfort and protection from the elements as well as warmth.
Often knitted in traditional royal and dark blues, the colourways and knitting patterns on guernseys have expanded, but myth has it that traditionally that a wearers hometown could be identified from the distinctive pattern of their sweater.
Whether that’s true or not, this icon of knitwear has always been adored by us, and that is why our launch pieces for Iggy and Burt, were the aptly named Iggy Jumper and Burt Jumper. Both of which were in this style and our homage to the rich legacy of this natural designer knitwear.