Prep Craze: The Fair Isle Sweater

It has been very warm in Massachusetts this week, but the cold will come. My winter uniform is a sweater over a button down….I wear all the combinations I own until the weather warms up. There is so much variety in sweaters….cable knit, crew neck, fisherman, v-neck, honeycomb, aran, argyle, intarsia, wool, cotton, merino, cashmere……I could go on and on. Today though, we talk about the fair isle sweater.

Fair isle is actually a knitting technique from the Fair Isle of Scotland. The designs that we know as being fair isle are supposed to be in rows that go around the sweater circularly, no more than two colors per row, and really no more than five colors per sweater. There are rules about how many stitches the patterned rows can be too. All that being said, we can probably assume that not all sweaters that we call fair isle are actually fair isle. Popularity of this knitting technique started back in the 1920s when the Prince of Wales, later to be Edward VIII, wore fair isle tank tops.

Here he is in a fair isle v-neck. I love it, this was actually a portrait of him with his dog that was used for this advertisement….the media…even then.

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Anyway, I have jumped on the bandwagon as affordably as I could. Here are my two sweaters from Old Navy, both older…..the navy one on the right is probably not a true fair isle because the stitching is more just around the neck, like a yoke design I guess.

Fair Isle Style Sweaters from Old Navy
Fair Isle Style Sweaters from Old Navy

Currently, I can’t recommend any fair isle sweaters from Old Navy. What they have right now under fair isle looks more like just geometric shapes…..not the classic fair isle. And then here are my two fair isle sweaters from J. Crew factory. The one of the left is old, the one on the right is current. Its on sale too, $34.50. Its very soft, we will see how it holds up.

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So where else can we find deals on fair isle? There are always a few from Vineyard Vines. I remember the photos of Sarah Vickers, Macy Medema, and Devon Mackenzie from the KJP crew all wearing c/o Vineyard Vines fair isle sweaters a few years ago. It was lovely, but those sweaters are hitting you at ~$140 and upwards? The sweaters are really nice looking, but a little pricey for me.

Here it is, I think its from a couple years ago…its kinda preppy perfection with the scenery, vest, Barbour, bean boots, and Hunters.  Fair isle has always been a winter trend, but I remember around this time it became a really hot trend for the preppy crowd.

Devon, Sarah, and Macy in their beautiful fair isle sweaters, C/O

Woolrich has some nice looking ones Mohair Fair Isle Sweaters at $99. I am concerned though because reviews for some of their other motif sweaters have been negative, and there are no reviews on these yet…

Woolovers has a nice crew neck sweater in lambswool, all different colors, and I can speak to the excellent quality of these sweaters: Fair Isle Sweater and these ring in at $48 plus shipping from England haha. The only thing that stinks is returning sweaters to England is expensive, so pay attention to reviews and sizing info. Here is my favorite.

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Talbots always has some nice fair isle options…although they too have some that they are labeling as fair isle even though its just some zig zags and diamonds….here’s my two faves together actually! The one on the left I know is actually a dress but its here for $119 and the sweater on the right is here for $89. Great thing about Talbots though is they have awesome end of the season sales, so get one their email list and wait if those prices are still too high.

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Here is one from Brooks Brothers. The color combination is not for me, but $88 is not a terrible price for a sweater from them. Its kinda a weird one though because the pattern is only on the front and the elbow patches? They have another one for $148….which puts it in the same category as the Vineyard Vines sweaters…..beautiful, but not realistic for me…and probably many of us right now.

And lastly, LLBean….this sweater from the LLBean Signature collection is on my Christmas/birthday list. I love the colors, and I am sure that the merino is very soft. Its $94…..which is out of my price range, but…its a wish list item, something I wouldn’t buy for myself. We can dream right?

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Another amazing place to check out would be Etsy. There are sooooo many vintage sweaters on there from LLBean, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, and others. You have to be careful because some of the Etsy stores don’t accept refunds and sizing has changed over the years but there are some real gems if you have the time to look. Then when people ask where you got it….you can say, oh, its vintage.

My fiancé and I are doing an engagement photo shoot this weekend….which of those J Crew sweaters should I wear? Looking for opinions! Its an outdoor shoot….so there’s either the cream sweater with navy and orange stitching OR the gray with navy, mint, and white stitching….lemme know what you think!!

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10 thoughts on “Prep Craze: The Fair Isle Sweater

  1. 1. That photo is one of my favourites of the later Duke- although I really just love it for the westie… (the turmoil he caused! Harumph) 2. Even though I have a good deal of fair isle sweaters/hats/mittens, I have now decided to hit up my knitting mother and sister, because you can’t have too many fair isle mittens. 3. I vote for the grey/navy/mint/white!! And for you to post a picture of what you decide!

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    1. I also love that portrait, he looks so serious holding that adorable pup ha. I was torn whether to post the portrait alone, or in this ad, the ad was great though with the quotes around fair isle, so I went with it! My fiance as I was posting this said I should learn to knit, I have never knitted before! That’s awesome that your mom and sister can help you out! I will definitely post pics from the sesh, I am leaning toward that one too! Thanks for reading & commenting! ❤

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