The Everyday Lore Project

19 July 2020 – Spanish Armada

19 July 2020 – Spanish Armada

Today I made this:

It’s the anniversary of the first sighting of the Spanish Armada in 1588, off Lizard Point in Cornwall. And one of the legends that surrounds the Armada is about the ship, El Gran Grifon. It’s said that when El Gran Grifon ran aground off the coast of Fair Isle, Scotland, the surviving sailors taught the island knitters some design tricks that were then passed down generation to generation. Or it could have been the Vikings. Or neither. I ignored the naysayers, went with the Armada chaps, busted out my needles and had a go at stranded, or Fair Isle knitting.

Traditional Fair Isle motifs are said to reflect what life is like on the island, so lots of flora, sea stuff, hearts, ram horns etc. plus some religious iconography. I can’t say the design I used, Deathflake by Art Fiend, is entirely traditional, but then a floral skull and cross-stalks isn’t that far off.

I started it three times. The first time I didn’t build in a border, and it needed a border. The second time the cat appropriated my lap and I lost my place in the pattern (there is a lot of counting and yarning changing). Third time was a charm. My last Fair Isle attempt was a cushion cover covered in sheep. I lost patience. This square was perfect as it was easy-ish and quick once I’d got started. 

It’s now pinned out on a towel to block it into shape. And in case you’re wondering what the reverse looks like, wonder no more:


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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