“Føroyar” means “Sheep Islands”, knitting is its specialty
Nobody really knows when people started knitting, or where knitting originally comes from but it is known that Faroese wool has been a vital product for the Faroese since the Viking Age. The Faroe Islands even take their name from the sheep from which the wool is harvested. "Fár" means "sheep" in Old Norse and thus "Føroyar" in the native language translates directly into "Sheep Islands".
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Wool is Faroe Gold
An ancient Faroese proverb says: "Ull er Føroya gull", i.e. "Wool is the Gold of the Faroe Islands". This truly reflects the way of life in the days of old. Wool, woven fabric and knitted garments such as socks and sweaters were the main export for centuries and for many the only source of income.
People lived off the land and the land sustained thousands of sheep. The meat was used for consumption and the wool for trading. Around 1880 approximately 80% of the Faroese population earned their livelihood by sheep farming.
The Phenomenon of the Knitting Club
In the Faroe Islands many women, young teenage girls and elderly women, have been known to form their very own social circles which go by the name of knitting clubs. The club setting is the living room of one of its members – they take turns in hosting the sessions once a week or so. Knitting clubs are platforms where friends come together to knit. They share their knitting skills and the various patterns, each member proudly displaying the final product.
Until recently knitting for purposes other than clothing production was highly unusual in the Faroe Islands. Knitting has always been used for functional purposes and practical uses, very rarely in an artful way for purely aesthetic purposes.
But there are exceptions. Randi Samsonsen has showed that knitting can be used to create art as well as clothes. One of the most recent examples of knitted art was created by Randi. She concluded her degree as Master of Textile Design from Kolding Design School, Denmark, in 2012. She approaches knitting as an art form in order to overcome the limited possibilities posed by the craft. Randi feels that this ancient handcraft, having been passed down for generations, offers possibilities of discovering old signs and traces and opportunities to tell the stories for a second time albeit in a different way.