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  • FISS Knitting - What's in a Name
  • Helen Robertson

FISS Knitting - What's in a Name

FISS Knitting - What's in a Name

Fiss Knitting - What’s in a Name?

As I mentioned in my last blog I would like to speak about Fiss Knitting.  Especially the name.

Truth be told I came up with this new way of knitting years ago but was advised to hide it until I had time to really explore it. There is a history in Shetland of ideas, garments and even written charts and patterns being copied and sometimes published with no compensation or even acknowledgement paid to the original designer. This, I think, led to my older friend advising me to hide away my new idea.  At the time I had 4 children under 8 yrs old and life was fairly hectic.




I was never very good at getting them all to bed at a decent time and living a piece from the main town, spent a lot of time driving back and fore. (Which I still do).  I did hide my new idea for a while but then I got fed up hiding it and was no closer to creating the gorgeous collection I can see in my head of tricolour garments and home furnishings I dreamt up using this new technique. I’ve written at least 5 books in my head, and have lists (oh yes) of designs that would be in said books. However, I realise that I need DEADLINES! Without deadlines there are many other creative distractions from the task in hand and I languish in time.


 Also like many other creative folk I seem to need VALIDATION – not proud of that but it’s true. That’s why creative folk and designers’ timelines are full of things made and half made. I’m rubbish at keeping secrets and always desperate to share whatever new designs I have just made. Right now I’m wearing a ring from a new collection of five bird inspired enamelled rings that I’m launching at the Bonhoga Gallery. Its killing me not to share it with you but I’m determined to keep it under wraps until all 5 rings in the series are complete. I’ve forced my partner and children to tell me what they think of it several times now. I’ll be very surprised if I don’t crack soon and splash them all over Facebook!




See – told you! Here it is – Shalder Ring. Inspired by my favourite bird; Shalders or Oystercatchers. They migrate here every year. It’s a sign of Spring when they arrive and of approaching Winter when they depart. They are comical little things and make a high Peeeep as they run around.

Anyway back to the knitting thing. To give the organisers time to create the program and website, Shetland Wool Week classes have to be planned and submitted in the first of the year. I knew if I said I was going to teach my fabulous ‘new’ technique I would give me the push I needed to get on with it and create some designs.  I dug my old samples out from underneath the pile they’d been hiding in and then had fun trying to remember what I’d done! When I sussed it out again, I created a few charts to help me remember the technique.

In the intervening years between having the lightbulb moment and the getting down to it moment, I had ordered many books on colourwork knitting to check that no one else had come up with it.  I use the fact that I hardly drink alcohol to justify the amount I spend on books. 2 good bottles of wine = 1 knitting book, even more of you buy through


SO then to come up with a name for my new technique to put in the Wool Week program.

I own a few domain names – including ‘’ and I’m FairHelen on Ravelry. Not really sure why but in the early scramble for domain names I bought it. It really refers to an old Scottish legend but it’s not a very happy story.

So, FairHelen Stitch maybe? Fair Helen Knitting? – While I would like some recognition that I came up with this I also fear being too bigsy about it – small town, head down syndrome I think.

It’s not so much that I want recognition but I don’t want anyone else to claim it for their own if that makes sense. I think the legacy of all those other Shetland knitters’ work being appropriated has rubbed off on me!

Anyway – FISS knitting was the compromise standing simply for - Fair Isle Slip Stitch. At one point I shoved in an ‘H’ in the middle to link it to me but then, felt like a bit of a twat for doing so!

FISS Knitting it remained until a student and experienced knitter on my Shetland Lace Bracelet Class recoiled at the name and said “What on earth is that? – I certainly wouldn’t come to a workshop on FISS Knitting!”

So that got me thinking again, what’s in a name? Some knitting techniques are named after places they originated from; like we all know Aran Knitting means cables, Fair Isle Knitting means stranded knitting with max 2 colours per row. Lace knitting describes the finished fabric whereas Slip stitch describes the process. In Norway, some knitting is geographically defined by pattern, eg Fana, Setisdal (check).

Aurora Knitting sounded good – linked to Shetland and descriptive as in my technique the yarn goes up and down and side to side – just like the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) but no, it was gone.

I tried riffing on the three colours, Tricolour? Trickle Knit? Tickle Knit? All gone – most used as business names or yarn and pattern names.

Tapestry Knitting? – also gone, Feral Knitting? – also gone, Moroccan Knitting? Although descriptive I didn’t want to jump on some else’s culture.

Words and ideas buzzed around my head.  Maverick kept buzzing around my head.   The Cambridge Dictionary defines Maverick as “a person who thinks and acts in an independent way, often behaving differently from the expected or usual way”. That seemed to fit.

Maverick Knitting does sound a bit more exciting than FISS Knitting. I checked back with the person who originally questioned my use of FISS Knitting and she thought it was much more enticing.




But FISS Knitting is up now and starting to grow a following despite there only being 1 pattern published.

24 people have attended workshops in FISS Knitting and the word is starting to spread. This gorgeous hat was created by Gieneke following the very first workshop in FISS knitting. SO for now, its FISS Knitting, boring maybe but descriptive and unique.

As to the future, well it’ll be bright if I can just get that deadlines sorted!

  • Post author
    Helen Robertson

Comments on this post (3)

  • Feb 03, 2020


    I saw your work on the Fruity Knitting website and I love your work and M very impressed with your story. I especially was struck by the fence panels and the lace in the Croft window. Thank you and I can’t wait to see more of your FISS patterns on Ravelry.


    — Leigh Coop

  • Nov 28, 2019

    I was watching Fruity Knitting and saw your FISS cowl. I think it is beautiful! I agree that FISS isn’t great as names go but I have no idea what else you’d call it! I can’t wait to try out the pattern.

    — Karen Diesner

  • Nov 12, 2019

    I first read about FISS this morning on my Patreon website and it did not speak to me at all. I watched the short video and realized you were doing a lot of slip stitching. Why don’’t you call it Helen’s Slip Stitching. It is self explanatory and includes your name. Fair Isle is fairisle and we all know what that is and it has been specialized. But this new way of knitting slip stitch is very unique and should be the prime words of its title.

    — Brigitte Swan

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