Fair Isle is a traditional knitting technique from Northern Scotland. The technique creates distinctive geometric patterns across multiple colours, and you’d probably recognize a Fair Isle sweater if you saw it — the photos here are good examples.
Fair Isle pattern colours can be low or high contrast, and knitted in fine gauge or chunky wool, wool blends or cotton rich yarns. Patterns are positioned throughout the sweater, or as a yoke around the neckline and top shoulder. Sleeve pattern repetition is optional.
We see a little Fair Isle knitwear every year because it’s a classic design. This season it’s making a fashion statement and being edged up by pairings with leather bottoms, like skirts, shorts and pants. Of course, you don’t need to wear it with leather bottoms. Jeans, camo pants, Ponte pants, checked pants and wool trousers are other options. You could also match Fair Isle knitwear with a solid pencil skirt, tweed shorts or a full skirt.
I like Fair Isle knitwear, but do not love it. There is something about this particular design that can look frumpy to my eye, especially when the cut of the pullover is not a fashionable and trending silhouette, and when the knit is extra chunky. Perhaps that’s because I have bad ’70s memories of Fair Isle, or because the geometric patterns aren’t exactly my cup of tea.
That said, I do love the first two styles shown below because they are not classic pullover shapes. The Joie Deedra Fair Isle Sweater, is fine gauge, slightly swingy and looks cheeky at that length and silhouette. I like the way it’s been matched with a plaid shirt and leather bottoms. I also love the Alexander Wang Fair Isle Sweater because of the round shouldered sleeve shape, dropped shoulder seam, high neckline, and upscale sweatshirt vibe. I’d wear both pullovers with white jeans and ink blue booties or white booties, and finish off the outfit with a bright pink coat.
I’m a cautious yay for Fair Isle. I love the traditional knitting technique when the cut of the pullovers are fashion forward and on trend. I like Fair Isle a lot less in a modern classic silhouette. What’s your take?