Sunday, September 24, 2017

Enjoy Fair Isle Knitting- Chihiro Sato

I've got lots to write about at the moment, but am off to Inverness for a few days tomorrow so most of it is going to have to wait until I get back - but Wool Week has started in Shetland (I'm just not getting far enough North) and as the Instagram pictures start coming through I feel increasingly home sick.

On the upside the lovely people at The Shetland Times have been extremely generous with review copies (this was the first bookshop I knew, it's a wonderful bookshop, and splendid publisher of local titles). First there was Sharon Miller's fabulous Heirloom Knitting and now I have a slightly early copy of Chihiro Sato's 'Enjoy Fair Isle Knitting'. (It's showing as available for pre order in the website, but as I have a finished copy I guess it won't be a long wait for it).

Chihiro Sato lives in Tokyo where she has a shop called Shaela. Shaela refers to a particular natural shade of grey Sheep fleece which is one of Chihiro's favourite colours. Looking at the shade cards at the end of the book it looks like she stocks the entire range of Jamieson's Spindrift yarn (and a very fine yarn it is). She first came to Shetland in 1989 and has been returning ever since. In that time her love for, and knowledge of, Fair Isle Knitting has continued to grow.

I'm constantly fascinated to see what individual knitters bring to the techniques they use and the traditions they encounter. There is a school of thought that says if it doesn't come from Fair Isle, you shouldn't call it Fair Isle. I have a certain amount of sympathy for this approach, not least because describing all of Shetland's traditionally inspired stranded colourwork as 'Fair Isle' doesn't do the rest of the islands many favours when it comes to recognising distinct local trends (I'm thinking of the Whalsay exhibition here). On the other hand that's the name that's stuck -  much in the way that London Gin describes a style rather than a geographical provenance. (That I think about this so much is a testament to the 'Authenticity in Culturally Based Knitwear' study day broadcast I watched.)

Back to Chihiro Sato, and the chance to see how she combines her own traditions with Fair Isle techniques. There are 18 projects altogether, and whilst in some the colour inspiration come direct from the Shetland landscape, and the motifs are entirely traditional, others have Chihiro's own motifs that reference waves, bamboo, ancient beads, and so on. There are also colour ways that look to Japan (there's a jumper called Sakura that call on the ancient cherry trees she can see from her window) and ways of using colour and pattern that are all her own.

The book is translated, so although the English is clear, there are idiosyncrasies to it, but the instructions look clear enough - it only turned up yesterday, so I haven't had a chance to investigate the details. Even if I never knit anything from it though, the chance to see how Sato responds to the things that inspire her is inspirational in itself