Faroese Shawls

In September I am teaching a weekend on Faroese knitting at The Wool Shed near Aberdeen.  So I am knitting samples, using their Alba lace weight and 4 ply/fingering. I have done a couple of mini shawls, one in each yarn, so far.  This is the lace weight:

I am now working on a full sized shawl using the Artesano 4 ply alpaca I bought on Papay.  I have the main Faroese book on the subject (and the English translation) but I also have photocopies of an earlier book, long out of print.  These were given me by a friend who lives in Thorshavn, the capital of the Faroes.  Unfortunately I don’t have a note of the title of the book.

The book gives general instructions for knitting the traditional shawls at the front, including a diagram of the construction:

It then gives page after page of charts (215 of them) written in the usual Faroese manner – ie a x in the square where the yarn over will be.  These are called ‘eyelets’ and the chart only gives these, leaving you to put in the decreases which go with each eyelet.  I only have a few pages and am using one of them as the basis for my full sized shawl.

chart fron book (left) and my version (right)

Many folk seem to think that it is the shape of the back gusset plus the two triangular ‘wings’ which keep these shawls on the shoulders so well.  In actual fact it is the ‘darts’ knitted in the wings at shoulder level which do the trick.  These are extra decreases in the top 3 or 4 inches of the shawl, which don’t show well on the blocked shawl, but do on the unblocked one (here on a mini shawl in 4 ply/fingering Alba wool):

The big shawl hasn’t got that far yet…  I am currently at the stage where my head KNOWS I have enough yarn to finish it, but my heart doesn’t believe it!  If I knit fast enough I will have enough….  If the worst comes to the worst I can ring Papay for more….

The colour in that pic is not right – it is a much deeper cherry red, as shown in the pic below.  I am using my new Signature Arts circs – which are gorgeous…


10 thoughts on “Faroese Shawls

  1. I can remember trying to explain these charts to my father…now he can follow woodwork diagrams but he still refers to any knitted lace as “that stuff you make with holes in it”….I thought the charts were very clear myself!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I wish books like that would be reprinted. I have the one you spoke of with the translation, but had not heard of this one. The lace charts especially would be interesting to see.

  3. Beautiful work! I’m so glad to see the Faroese shawl getting more exposure! And I’m envious that you have the photocopies of the older one. I’ve heard of it, but never seen a copy. And I love the design in the cherry red shawl. Brava!

    1. Thank you! I only have photocopies of a few pages – well – phtocopies of photocopies. The handwork Guiuld of Thorshavn were trying to get the book re-done, but were having copyright problems – there was some problem as to who holds the copyright…


  4. Lovely! I love Faroese shawls, they don’t fall off your shoulders and you can always tie a knot in the back, as working shawls that they are.

  5. What gorgeous red shawl. I would love to know the title of the book you refer to. Finding old and out of print books is one of my favourite things to do, and knitting one the most. Thanks for sharing the pictures!

  6. I loved the red shawl, such a change from the usual natural colours of the Faroese sheep. As I come from Faroe, I have a special interest in these shawls and I have knitted a few myself. As I livr near the village of Oyne, I might see you next month!

    1. Yes – I saw this red alpaca and it cried out to be used with the pattern I was working on – I had originally intended to make the shawl in some Faroese wool I have from Thorshavn..! Liz

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