Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Island of Sheep

Earlier this year we were approached by Arena Travel to see if we could get involved with one of their Stitchtopia holidays by providing needles for the knitters taking part and we were delighted to oblige.  The holiday is to The Faroe Islands – a fascinating location that is rich in knitting history.

The islands lie halfway between Iceland and Norway but today they are a self-governing country within the Danish realm.  Many knitters will know the islands as the home of designers Guðrun&Guðrun who created the iconic sweater used in the very successful TV series, The Killing.

On the Faroes there are lots of sheep, more than humans, in fact the name is thought to mean sheep island.  Most are Faroese sheep, a small hardy breed, and their fleeces come in up to 300 different shades all with their own names – the shades that is, not the sheep! 
Wool related trades have always been important to the islands.  During the Napoleonic wars the Danish army bought several thousand jumpers a year from the island communities. In 1898 the Norwegian parliament decreed that their soldiers should wear Faroese jumpers under their uniforms in winter time.

You may well have already knitted or crocheted with Faroese yarn from brands like Snælden, Sirri and Navia who produce beautiful products in natural hues as well as vibrant colour.  Although today knitting is mainly a social activity on the islands rather than an economic necessity, the traditional, distinctive Faroese motifs still play an important part in any native design.  In the 1920s they were collected and published in 1932 and take their influence from images such as stars, dancing figures and Thor’s hammer.  The National Museum has many wonderful examples of these designs.

For such a small archipelago, the Faroes are packed full of wonderful experiences for knitters and we hope you have the chance to visit in the future.

Arena Travel run regular holidays to the islands and you can buy Faroes yarns from The Island Wool Company who also kindly let us use their images.

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