Completely hand-knitted by a select group of four island ladies, to own and wear an Eriskay Jersey really is something special.
Traditionally made and sold through the Eriskay Community Shop, Co-Chomunn Eirisgeidh, the jerseys hit international headlines in 2015 when one South Uist resident, teacher Marybell MacIntyre, travelled to the Vatican in Rome to personally present Pope Francis with an Eriskay jersey knitted by herself.
And self-confessed 'jumper junkie', adventurer, author, broadcaster and Taransay 'Castaway' Ben Fogle also boasts through blogs of his 'beautiful hand-knitted jumper from Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides'.
Traditionally the jumpers were knitted by the women of Eriskay for their fishermen husbands with the finely knitted seamless jerseys offering warmth and protection and each bearing an individual pattern, said to enable identification if a man was lost at sea.
Catriona Walker, from Co-Chomunn Eirisgeidh, said: “What I've read is, they were first introduced to Eriskay by an Eriskay lady who was a 'Herring Girl' herself. [Someone who followed the traditional work of gutting herring from the Islands to the East Coast of Scotland and England]
“While the ladies awaited the return of the fishermen they would knit to pass the time. Each lady would have been from various areas and each had their own patterns. The Eriskay lady decided that she liked all the patterns and knitted them all on one jersey, thus giving birth to the now famous Eriskay Jersey.”
Knitted traditionally in navy or cream, the Eriskay yarns are indeed a feat of knitting skill, with separate 13-stitch panels made on four pins, the shoulder area is grafted together before the sleeves are added which are knitted down from the shoulders.
“They are grafted together rather than seamed,” continued Catriona. “And the reason for that was that if the men fell in the water the jersey was stronger and less likely to tear while being rescued.
“And the way in which the sleeves were knitted down meant that if they got damaged, it was easy to take the cuff back to repair it.”
Originally a 'work-wear' item, the Eriskay jersey is undergoing something of a resurgence in popularity with 18 of the bespoke pullovers being sold through the Eriskay shop last year alone.
“We've found they've become very popular over the past few years and a lot of people visit the shop especially because of the jerseys,” Catriona said.
“Many people have got to know about them through the Peter May Trilogy [Hebridean based fiction novels 'The Blackhouse', 'The Lewisman', and 'The Chessmen' by author Peter May] and we just sent one jersey off to the US after a couple visited the shop specifically to buy a jersey having read up on them.”
Co-Chomunn Eirisgeidh has four knitters making the Eriskay jerseys for sale through the shop. Waiting time for the hand-crafted jumpers can be range from three to 12 months, and come at a cost of £250.
But it all adds to the uniqueness of owning a small part of island tradition, as Catriona added: “One of our ladies knits without even looking at a pattern. She was taught how by Mrs Flora MacDonald, a neighbour, and any mistakes she made, she just had to take it back and start again, that's how she learnt.
“They are a real labour of love to make and the ladies rightly take pride in their jerseys. We hope that all those who have bought the jerseys feel that pride when they wear them also.”