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FROM SCOTLAND WITH LOVE: SCOTTISH KNITTING TRADITIONS

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Scotland has a long and rich history of knitting, with many distinct styles and techniques that have been passed down through generations. Scottish knitting traditions are steeped in history and culture, and they continue to be a source of inspiration for knitters around the world. Today, Scottish knitting styles can be found in knitting patterns, classes, and online communities, and they remain an essential part of the country's cultural heritage. Whether you're a seasoned knitter or just starting out, exploring the rich and varied world of Scottish knitting is a rewarding and fulfilling experience.



Fair Isle Colorwork

Fair Isle Colorwork

Fair Isle knitting is a traditional style of colorwork that originated in the tiny island of Fair Isle, one of the Shetland Islands of Scotland.


This technique involves using two colors in a single row of knitting to create horizontal bands with geometric patterns, such as anchors, flowers, and hearts. They're typically worked in the round, and the floats of unused yarn are carried across the back of the work, creating a thick, warm fabric.


Fair Isle sweaters gained popularity in the early 20th century, especially after HRH Edward Prince of Wales wore one while golfing. Today, Fair Isle colorwork remains popular and beloved by knitters, and it's often used to create hats, sweaters, and other warm garments. Many knitters enjoy the challenge of working with multiple colors and creating pieces that showcase the traditional style and techniques of Scottish knitting.



Shetland Lace

Shetland Lace

Shetland lace is a traditional knitting technique that originated in the Shetland Islands, which are located off the coast of Scotland at the center of many trading routes.


Shetland lace is known for its intricate patterns and cobweb-like texture. Its openwork stitches incorporate motifs such as flowers, leaves, and geometric shapes. Shawls and other garments require great skill and patience since they're worked with fine needles and a high stitch count, resulting in delicate and airy fabric. Traditionally, Shetland lace shawls should be light and fine enough to pass through a wedding ring.


Shetland Lace

Today, Shetland lace remains a beloved and enduring tradition in Scottish knitting that is admired for its beauty and craftsmanship.



Sanquhar Gloves

Sanquhar Gloves

Sanquhar gloves are a traditional style of glove that originated in the small town of Sanquhar, located in the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland.


Sanquhar gloves are known for their distinctive two-color square patterns on the hand and fingers. They’re knit in fine wool with a ribbed cuff and usually feature the owner’s initials on the cuffs.


Sanquhar gloves have a long history, and the patterns have been passed down through word of mouth from generation to generation. Today, they’re still a beloved knitting tradition and a testament to the skill and creativity of Scottish knitters.



Gansey Sweaters

Gansey Sweaters

Gansey sweaters, also known as Guernsey sweaters, are a traditional style of sweater that originated in the British Isles, including Scotland. They were originally worn by fishermen, who needed a durable, warm sweater to protect them from the harsh conditions at sea.


Gansey Sweaters
© Di Gilpin

Gansey sweaters are knit using a tight gauge and heavy wool, which makes them sturdy and durable. They're often knit in the round, with a seamless construction that adds to their durability. The traditional patterns used in Gansey sweaters often feature textured stitches, cables, and other decorative elements, and they're designed to be both functional and stylish. The sweaters also feature a distinctive stitch pattern at the underarm, which allows for greater freedom of movement.



Shetland Hap

Shetland Hap

Shetland haps are a type of knitted blanket-sized wrap that originated in the Shetland Islands. The word "hap" comes from an old Norse word meaning "to wrap," and women traditionally wore the pieces as a form of protection from the harsh island weather.


These haps are traditionally made with fine wool in natural shades and are known for their cozy warmth and fineness. Hap shawls are typically square or rectangular, featuring a garter stitch center panel with a lace border and peaked edging. They can be worn as a wrap, draped over the shoulders, or even as a baby blanket. They are perfect for staying warm and comfortable in chilly weather. Nowadays, Shetland haps are considered heirloom pieces.

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