Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Faroese Shawls

Faroe islands.jpg

Sheep, outnumber the inhabitant of the Faroe Islands two to one. Strong winds, an abundance of rain, and shallow soil inhibit the growth of trees. Grass covers most of the land on the group of islands in the North Atlantic. There is plenty of grazing for the sheep.

Not surprisingly, there is a strong knitting tradition on the islands.

Though many of the knitting traditions have been heavily influenced by both Denmark and Norway, the construction of Faroese shawls is unique to the islands. Unlike the awkward and impractical shawls I often see worn at various fiber and textile related events, Faroese shawls, were designed with practicality in mind. The shawls are an integral part of Faroese culture, worn by the young and old, as a fashion accessory for an evening out, or during the day with a pair of jeans.

Most Nordic shawls are usually triangular, some made by knitting together two triangular panels. The Faroese, however, knit a rectangular gusset down the center, between the two triangles. Shoulder shaping prevents the shawl from slipping off the shoulders. In addition, the shawls have long ends, allowing them to be tied around the waist, and they are large enough to draw over the head in foul weather. Traditional Faroese shawls are lightweight, but very warm, often lined with a contrasting knit lining.

Though I have knitted shawls as gifts in the past, I have never been tempted to keep one for myself. I dress for comfort and the thought of constantly having to adjust the shawl on my shoulders just doesn’t appeal to me. However, I strongly suspect that if I knit a Faroese shawl, I may not part with it.


  • Knitting Around the World, from Threads, the Taunton Press.
  • Knitting Around the World: A Multi-stranded History of a Time-Honored Tradition, by Lela Nargi. Voyageur Press.
  • Knitting in the Nordic Tradition, by Vibeke Lind, Lark Books
  • Folk Shawls: 25 Knitted Patterns and Tales from Around the World, by Cheryl Oberle, Interweave Press
  • Stahman’s Shawls and Scarves: Lace Faroese-Shaped Shawls from the Neck Down & Seaman’s Scarves, by Myrna Stahman, Rocking Chair Press