Faroese Shawls

Faroese Shawls…the very name sounds exotic, bringing to mind images of delicate, spidery lace worn by fancy society ladies. The truth is that real Faroese Shawls are anything but fancy. Originally designed by hard-working women of the Faroese Isles about a hundred years ago, these shawls were devised to be a working woman’s garment, allowing freedom of movement while providing warmth in a very chilly seaside environment. The originals are no-nonsense affairs, knitted out of strong wools in plain dark colors, with built-in shoulder “darts” that sit on the shoulders and stay there.
My shawl, drying in my kitchen

This is the thing about Faroese shawls that got me hooked on them in the first place: They stay put. Really. Move, dance, walk, wave your arms around, and the shawl stays where you put it. No lie. I’m wearing one right now, and I’m an arm-waver. The shawl hasn’t budged an inch.

Now, that’s my kind of knitted shawl. With regular shawls, usually I end up arm-wrestling with the darn thing, struggling against the pull of gravity to keep it gracefully draped around me—the end result, of course, looking more slapstick than graceful. A shawl that stays in place, no wrangling required—when I first read about them, I was instantly intrigued.

I decided I had to have one. The Summer Lace Shawlette, my staff project for Interweave Knits Summer 2006, was the result.

I know, I could have just knitted one of the shawls in our vast library of projects. There are plenty of pretty ones there. But I wanted to design my own Faroese Shawl, as a way of figuring out how they worked.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Imagine trying to design a sock pattern without ever having knit one. Yeah. I know. I plead Temporary Knitting Insanity.

It’s a testament to the loveliness of the Jade Sapphire Cashmere yarn I was using that the shawl ever made it off the needles as a finished object. I had to finish, I had to keep going.

You’re knitters, you’ll understand: The yarn made me do it.

Sandi Wiseheart 

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily.


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