Growing up in a small Clackmannanshire town situated at the foot of the Ochil Hills, Gillian Henny, our Joules Knitwear designer, always knew she wanted to work in the wool industry. Surrounded by five Scottish knitting mills, sadly since closed, she would walk the sheep-strewn glens with her father dreaming of designing, stopping to take inspiration from the colours of the forest floor and wildflowers. When her Gran enlisted her help knitting blanket squares for Romanian orphans, Gillian was hooked.

So who better to help us understand some of the Scottish textiles and techniques used our in our Allie Jumper? We caught up over a cuppa and shortbread biscuit to understand the folklore tales and centuries-long traditions behind our favourite Joules styles.

Fair Isle is a tiny island in Shetland, in northern Scotland, where this geometric pattern structure knitting technique originates. Legend has it that Spaniards, stranded on the island after the break-up of the Spanish Armada in 1588, taught the islanders to use the colours and patterns typical of Fair Isle knitting. The literal translation of Fair Isle is tranquillity, which we try to translate into each garment at Joules, putting the wearer at one with nature in soft, soothing, woolly Knitwear
Fair Isle jumper began as a working man’s staple – the way the yarn is structured means you get floats on the reverse of the garment, which added extra insulation when outdoors. The distinctive patterns of Fair Isle knitting stem from a clever way to combine the many odd scraps of different coloured yarn that originally came from the native Shetland Sheep, which have evolved a variety of natural fleece colours. Knitting with two yarns was also a great way to create extra layers that trapped air to create a warm and flexible fabric.

It was Coco Chanel who really brought Fair Isle to the forefront of fashion and it is a long-standing favourite of the royal family.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love that I get to fuse knowledge from my own upbringing with textile traditions and contemporary design. I feel really proud to work for a company that still cares so much about the British heritage.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

There is quite a bit of maths involved. For example, every pattern needs to be equally divided horizontally and vertically. It is quite a disciplined and structured process. As a child I hated maths, but now I love the geometry of developing patterns. It’s challenging, but also there is a certainty to the outcome.

What is your most treasured piece of clothing?

When I went to university, my Gran hand-knitted me a chunky, bright pink jumper (pictured left). I still treasure it today. The craftsmanship in it still blows me away.

Where is your favourite place to visit in Scotland?

The Isle of Jura. It’s a wild, remote island I used to visit with my family. We would stay in a cottage without running water, so we’d don our best woolly jumpers, collect water from the well, go fishing for crabs and lobster and just connect to nature. I’m still inspired by the peace and tranquillity of Jura.

Shop our Allie Fair Isle jumper here


  • Sheila Hill

    19.02.2023 at 07:37 Reply

    A delightful article.Really enjoyed reading it.

  • Joan Knight

    19.02.2023 at 08:58 Reply

    Loved reading Gillians journey and her modern twist with vibrant colours to an ancient craft. It put sole into owning such a jumper .


    19.02.2023 at 09:03 Reply

    What a lovely story, very interesting and how inspirational is Allie, I love her passion for the work she does, Ive learnt something . Its made me want to get back into knitting.

  • Jean Burkle

    19.02.2023 at 11:12 Reply

    It is wonderful to see real craft and read about Gillian Henny’s family. Being older, I can remenmber when life was simpler and even my swimming costume was knitted by my mother (not the best knitted garment when wert!). I have waited a long time to see fairisle come back into fashion. How about some tank tops please. Best wishes Gillian

  • Mrs Victoria Bambridge

    19.02.2023 at 11:33 Reply

    I love your Jumpers but I wish someone would knit a really nice gillet for a women. They are so useful especially with a pocket! Just an idea!!!

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