Proper Fair Isle knitwear will always be my favourite I think. I love how something with such a simple, and strict structure (no more than 2 colours a row, no more than a handful of stitches between colour changes) can produce such spectacular garments that manage to be both traditional and visually striking.
Oooo, that’s familiar isn’t it? (clue – look up!)
So when I spotted a gorgeous (albeit probably machine knitted) Shetland men’s jumper on a market stall on my birthday, I decided it was fate, and snapped it up (complete with birthday discount it was £8 – less than the yarn would cost alone). It looked good on when I was standing in front of the dodgy mirror on Corn Street, but on reflection at home it did seem to make me resemble a barrel, thanks to the copious horizontal patterning. Oh dear.
I’ve felted jumpers before to use as fabric, like the squirrel doorstop I made for Cloth magazine, but this one was just too nice to boil to death, so instead I carefully cut it into pieces, while formulating A Plan.
First, I cut the front piece out of the jumper, as close to the side seams as I could, and neatened the edges to make a rectangle of fabric. I left the seams on the remaining back of the jumper so that I could use it without any further work.
Then I used some of my own Shetland yarn from my stash and a 2.75mm needle on a 150cm cable to pick up stitches around the three cut sides of the front piece, about 1.5cm in from the edges.
Once the stitches were picked up, I unravelled the few rows of the original fabric before the top edge to give a nice even finish.
I’ve been too snowed to get any further, but if you like this idea, here’s how to make the cover:
- Knit back and forth along this very long three-sided row a dozen times before binding off purlwise to give a nice finish. Then lightly tack down the cut edges to the wrong side of piece. They’re unlikely to unravel thanks to the double stranded nature of the fabric. Voila! A beautiful piece of Shetland fabric.
- Make the back of the cushion using the other side of the jumper – which still has all it seams and is in no danger of unravelling. Simply overlap the piece with the new edging over the top of the ‘back’ piece and blanket stitch them together with your cushion pad already inside.
- If you want to make an opening to take the cover off (sensible I admit) you could alternatively, just put the two pieces right sides together and seam them on three sides, before turning right sides out and closing the fourth side with buttons, or a zip, or just some ties.
- You could also leave the fourth side unsewn, but hanging over the back to overlap it, and make a folded over opening, which would be even neater.
The floor cushion my jumper will eventually cover will be made by cutting my daughter’s old organic wool and natural latex cot mattress (which was gorgeous, but v pricey) in half and sandwiching the two pieces on top of each other. Now that’s what I call recycling!
If you like the idea of Fair Isle knitting then do check out the reprint of Alice Starmore‘s classic book on the technique, which contains all the information and patterns you’ll ever need to make your own fairisle masterpiece.
There is a great tutorial on speedy Fair Isle knitting at The Knitter’s website – definitely worth a look too.
Ta ta for now and happy thrifting!