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The Faroe Islands, continued

Since the islands are rugged and rocky with some low peaks, and the coasts are mostly cliffs this makes it a challenge to find enough grassy areas to graze sheep. There are even some sheep that are taken out by boat on the ocean and placed on a small grassy area between the cliffs above and the ocean, and picked up again in the fall. Some sheep, if they reach the ocean during low tide, will eat seaweed. Here is a photo of a grassy slope between cliffs and the ocean where lambs get dropped off in the spring. Those white specks are sheep that will spend all summer there fattening up before being picked up in the fall for slaughter.

While most of the knitters now are women, traditionally men were the big knitters. In the 17th and 18th centuries, with fewer than 5000 people living on the islands, annual exports of knitted woolen stockings numbered in the hundreds of thousands but eventually the Faroese were knitting too many stockings. Prices tumbled, but production continued, and stockings remained the main export product throughout the 18th Century, making up 98% of all exports from the Faroe Islands. By 1850, half of Faroese exports were fishermen’s sweaters instead of stockings. Faroese sweater patterns traditionally were handed down from generation to generation, and have distinctive Nordic patterns. Each village has some regional variations consisting of two to three colors from undyed organic wool. Lace knitting is also a traditional handicraft and the most distinctive trait of Faroese lace shawls is the center back gusset shaping. Instead of a more familiar triangular, rectangular, or circular shape, Faroese shawls are shaped like butterfly wings.

The following are yarn and woolen goods distributors that feature Faroe Island wool:


Carried in the US by Kelbourne Woolens

Gudrun and Gudrun
Johanna Steinum

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