Finding Fair Isle


My sister-in-law Patricia and I met for our usual cheery birthdays date at the coffee roastery in the tiny north Napa Valley town of  St Helena. We enjoyed delicious cafe cremes (lattes) in a bowl with pastries, then a short stroll down the old town road to our favorite tiny thrift shop behind the Catholic church. I usually do not find a single thing, yet when I look back, some of the best finds I’ve made were there. Today was one of those rare days when I did, and as I was doing my fast size-up of the racks, expecting nothing, something shyly captured my eye, as a busy patterned woolly thing was in the vests. With a closer look I found ~~ it was hand-made!


It has that particular thickness, a substantial feel in one’s hands which can not be mistaken for anything but long-labored handwork of some expert knitter. Need I even mention (no, I shouldn’t have to) there are no labels nor store bought sort of tags saying ‘made in Shetland’ anywhere on it. It is completely hand-made, and slowly and surely realized this but not until I inspected it quite closely. There was never any doubt really, that there probably exists in St Helena a genuine and maybe even extreme Fair Isle knitter (perhaps the same knitter who donated the two skeins of Harrisville Designs Shetland yarn I got for $1 each months ago, another rare great find.)  I suspected, but I am certain now such a knitter exists in St Helena!


I felt the fabric, and it seemed a little too soft & smooth to be Shetland wool, yet, after examining for quite a while I realized in all of it’s years of being worn, it very likely is Shetland wool,  though met the dreary fate of becoming washed in the washer and dried in the dryer, shrunk hopelessly, and thus it became of no use to the owner, or why else would such a prize be donated to this little thrift shop?  Even if not Shetland wool, and though only barely felted, and that would explain for the unusually soft feel.,  very fuzzy & ‘pilly’ and worn a lot (hopefully). I knew that I must must SIMPLY MUST take it home, even if just to have it.  One single dim thought occurred to me, that there was a glaring possibility that it would NOT fit me.


Just look at the classic “OXO” border and little “oxo” peerie motifs, and very artful colorway of a charcoal grey background with rich blues and a signature center round of bright bright green.  And, of course,  the very signature steek work….


However, when I got home I measured the bust and thought I couldn’t wear it, I thought no way.  But miracle of miracles, I did manage to slip it on!   Only barely. Perhaps after a time of calorie deprivation or since that is not likely,  extreme hiking (a little more likely), that after a few pounds lost, I could indeed wear this Fair Isle Vest with a little room to breath. Even so, tight or eventually looser, I’ve thought wouldn’t it be nifty for this vest to be my ‘cold days hiking vest’ accompanying me as Emma and I haul over hill & dale, bringing Fair Isle beauty along the many steps from my door to the peak & beyond.

Even if I don’t,  I am happy just to have it~~~  and only cost  three dollars!  It made my day!

14 thoughts on “Finding Fair Isle

    • Hello Raymonde! Yes, I am sure I will run across her, there just aren’t that many knitters of Fair Isle in the Napa Valley, we will be drawn together like magnets ! 🙂 xx

    • Didn’t it just??? I can’t believe it, I really just was in shock when I picked it off the hanger and saw that steek. The pounds have been only rolling ‘on’ since the holidays started !! I hope they will begin reversing soon! xx

    • Hazel Tindall what a lucky find even more so, to discover your commenting all the way from Shetland on my blog. I am now wondering how you found my little post all the way over here in Napa Valley 🙂 Nice to meet you, I know you’re a real celebrity and well… I can’t help but be profoundly flattered about your comment! Thank you xx

      • I’m not sure how I found your blog! Your Fair Isle blog was especially interesting as a jumper I donated to a charity shop ended up in the USA. It was photographed, and used for a pattern, in Ann Feitelson’s book. Ms Feitelson did learn who had knitted it so I hope the same happens for you.. Hazel

        • Hazel, that is very interesting indeed, I’m sure you’d have said if it was yours…lol… so I suppose it’s only one of those really fun coincidences. Do you recognize anything about the colorway & pattern as to who the designer could be if it is a published design? (( I’m still so impressed I found a Shetland Knitter celebrity commenting on my blog!! )) Thanks for speaking up. xx

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