About a year ago I spotted this fantastic photo of one of my style icons, Norma Shearer, wearing a wonderful Fair Isle waistcoat. I instantly fell in love with it, and the whole ensemble, and it set me on a journey to find the perfect piece of Nordic knitwear for my wardrobe.
I’ve always loved Fair Isle knits, they have that feeling of a far off, cold and mysterious land full of rugged men in fisherman’s jumpers drinking amber coloured whisky to keep themselves warm. Fair Isle tank tops, or pullovers as I have been corrected, however, make me think of the 1930s and 40s. Everyone seemed to have one back then because it was a great way to create a new garment using all of those leftover bits of yarn stashed away. And what could be more make do and mend than that?
In my endeavour to find one I liked I went through all of the knitwear rails in charity shops, and I mean all of them, the women’s, men’s and children’s. I even trawled eBay, Etsy and all of those lovely vintage fairs and flea markets I spend so much time at. One was bound to turn up eventually, right? Wrong. I couldn’t find one anywhere that actually fitted or was to my liking. Then, last August during a Twitter chat with Mim at Crinoline Robot she offered to make me one, all I had to do was find a pattern and supply the wool. Well, you can just imagine the squealing!
And here it is! Isn’t it incredible? The pattern I eventually chose was actually a modern one, the Debbie Bliss Fairisle Tank Top, because I absolutely loved the design on it. A lot of the vintage ones just didn’t excite me the way this one did. And, of course, the styling on the cover image of the lady wearing a white shirt and tie with it was so reminiscent of the Norma Shearer picture.
I actually wanted to photograph this pullover very much in the style of the Norma Shearer photo but good weather days have been few and far between up until now. So in a panic on Good Friday, when the sun was out and my resident photographer (my Mum!) was visiting, I hurriedly put everything on and we made our way to a sunny spot. I now wish I’d put my 1930s white linen skirt on with it, but I rather like that the burgundy of the skirt is picked up in the Fair Isle pattern.
The yarn that was used was the recommended Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester DK which is a gorgeous 100% wool. No synthetics here and it even smells of sheep! I changed some of the colours to the ones used on the original design because I knew I wanted to highlight burgundy more, rather than the burnt orange, as it’s a colour I wear a lot more. So, we swapped the two colours around to make the burgundy the most prominent colour. The royal blue in the original seemed to be out of stock everywhere, so I opted for a more turquoise blue instead. I actually think the changes work really well and I much prefer the colour combination to the original now.
The only other adjustment we made was the finished length. The original one sits quite low on the hips and I wanted one that was more of a length worn during the 30s and 40s. I did initially decide that a waist length one would be best but, after looking at a lot of photos online, I knew I wanted the patterned section to finish at the waist and the ribbed edge to sit just below. I think it’s ended up the perfect length for me and looks fantastic with both skirts and wide length trousers (the Land Girl look is a must!).
Fair Isle Pullover – Mim, Crinoline Robot
White Shirt – Next
Vintage Olive Green Wool Tie – The Siren Vintage
Burgundy Skirt From 1930s Pattern – Made by Me
Two Tone 1930s Reproduction Shoes – The Swing Dance Store
Sunglasses – eBay
1930s Jade Earrings – Gifted
I am in absolute awe of Mim’s work, I cannot believe how intricate this design is and I actually feel rather guilty not going for a much simpler one! She is amazingly talented and I’m so chuffed I have such a fabulous Fair Isle pullover that will last me for years to come. So, mega, mega big thanks to you Mim! xx