When I posted about the Shetland Heritage Fair Isle Jumper last week, eagle-eyed Felix spotted that the design was familiar to her. She pointed me towards Mary Jane Mucklestone's excellent 200 Fair Isle motifs, and sure enough, on page 35 there was a photo of a jumper that appeared to come from the same design!
How I wished I had seen that photo before I wrote the pattern for Jamieson & Smith... But all was not as simple as it at first seemed.
I was lucky enough to have worked with Mary Jane last year, when I edited her lovely hat and gloves for the Knit Real Shetland book, so I dropped her an email to ask her if she knew any more about this lovely Fair Isle jumper in the photo in her book. Despite being in the middle of deadlines and travelling, she was kind enough to email me straight back, to let me know that the photo was from the Shetland Museum Photo Archive. You can see the picture in question over on their website here: Fair Isle Allover Jumper in photo archive.
I was fascinated! On looking closely at the photo, it seemed clear that the design was the same. There are so many different Fair Isle motifs, all in exactly the same positions, that there was no chance that this was a coincidence. However, it was also clearly not a photo of the same jumper before it was worn and cut into pieces... If you look closely at the motifs on the bottom band, you can see that in the cut up jumper I worked on in the archives, the motifs are unsymmetrical and "incorrect", whereas those in the jumper in the photo are correct. I speculated all sorts of explanations for the design similarities!
I fired off an email to Carol Christiansen at the Shetland Museum and Archives, to ask her if she knew anything about the Fair Isle jumper in their photo archive. I received this information in response:
The jumper in the photo of SM01003 is a replica of the one in pieces that you looked at (TEX 8943). We went through a period in the 1990s of having replicas made of some items in the collection, so they could be used for handling, etc. but they were never exact replicas, using modern yarns in colours that were available at the time. The replica was hand-knit in 1993 of machine-made yarn and the knitter ‘corrected mistakes’ she felt had been made in the original.
So the photo is of a new garment knitted from the cut-up jumper in pieces that I worked from in the summer. It is interesting to see where the new photo-archive garment, and the new pattern I've written differ - I think that most of the differences come from the fact that I was writing instructions that had to work as a printed pattern for other knitters, whereas the knitter in the 90s was just making a one-off piece. The charts would have been even more enormous if I had kept to the arrangement of different motifs on front and back!
In related-news, Jamieson & Smith have released the kit for the Fair Isle Cap that I worked on at the same time. This is also a pattern written from an item in the archives.