26 April 2007 – Fair Isle knitting might be high fashion again but more importantly it is a unique Scottish art form full of the personality of the knitter that has been made in the Shetland Isles for nearly 400 years. Luxury goods purveyors might have the ‘alleged’ cachet of a designer label, but their pieces made in Italy or the Far East fail to reflect the full expression of the art. What’s more those garments adversely affect the continuation of this unique element of Scotland’s heritage.
“Today, what the consumer is generally buying is a Fair Isle style knock-off that’s machine knit. Bringing genuine Fair Isle hand knitting, with its high quality and incredible variations, to this best in class event to is a wonderful opportunity educate people as well and create positive economic impact for women living in this remote island chain,” says Teresa Fritschi, Managing Director of Thistle & Broom. “Made popular by Edward, Prince of Wales at the turn of the 20th century the influence of Fair Isle knitting has been sighted regularly in designer collections from America, Britain and Europe over the last five years. Then, last year, fashion editors identified the Fair Isle as one of the top trends to own and suddenly department stores and web blogs alike were abuzz over this fashion icon.”
Fair Isle knitting is distinguished by the use of two different colours of yarn in each row of knitting and a full size hand knit jumper (sweater) will require over 100 hours of patient expertise to complete. Thistle & Broom will showcase and provide the opportunity to order the original work of Shetland Islands Fair Isle hand knitters as part of the company’s presence at Celebrations of Celts to be held 5 and 6 May at the Meadowgreens’ Golf Resort in Ghent, New York.
“To the uneducated Fair Isle is simply a style of knitting, but this is one of Scotland’s most unique pieces of intellectual property,” explains Fritschi. “The crime of it is that these talented women were still being paid about 50 pence an hour until we launched our Fair Isle Knitting Project. Now 2/3’s of our retail price and all shipping costs go directly into the knitters’ bank account when Thistle & Broom receives an order. How many bespoke services take only a 33% mark-up on their product offerings?”
Rosabell Halcrow was the first woman to become part of Thistle & Broom’s Fair Isle Knitting Project and she is now joined by Agnes Bowie, Helen Jamieson, and Thomasina Irvine - all have been knitting since the age of four. More hand knitters are expected to join as word of mouth spreads through the rural community.
“Thistle & Broom offers the real deal, authentic hand knit Fair Isle of Shetland yarns and created by women creating in their seventies and eighties,” said Anne Macpherson, Director of the Celebration of Celts event. “In an attempt to preserve this piece of Scotland’s heritage Thistle & Broom has set upon a path to educate the public about this art form and subsequently create demand with the hope that younger generations will learn this incredible craft from these women before it’s too late, we’re clearly delighted to support such an effort through our event.”
About Thistle & Broom, Limited
www.thistleandbroom.com Edinburgh-based Thistle & Broom is a sustainable luxury ecommerce initiative based upon the Fair Trade model. All of the offerings are sourced exclusively from within Scotland’s borders, with 2/3’s of the retail price on more than 90% of the products going directly to the trading partner. Eight percent of the related pre-tax profits are donated to carefully selected Scottish not-for-profit organizations which serve to preserve, protect or restore elements of Scotland's heritage. Thistle & Broom was legally incorporated in Scotland in April 2004 and commenced trading in May of 2005.
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