Friday, January 21, 2011

The Bishop visits Fair Isle and so do the Birds! - Knitwear & Twitching - memory from Sept. 25th 2008

You can see 2 prototype Mitre Hats made in sample fabric as I cut out the finished products.

I got the call... from the future Episcopal Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney
including Shetland and Fair Isle.

The Very Revd. Robert A. Gillies also know as Bob was awake late one night listening to the radio. Bob heard the story of our coming to Fair Isle from America on the BBC. Bob deiced then if he did need a Mitre Hat made it should be made within his congregation and there is a just the hat maker I need in Fair Isle. It wasn't long after that Bob was selected and needed a Mitre and a matching stole. I found our original phone conversation very humorous at first as Bob didn't really know what type of hats I normally made. As we talked I realized that no one makes Mitre hats in Scotland and I had as much experience as anyone. So much to my surprise I said Yes! I'll do it.

at sewing machine

I couldn't find the fabric I wanted in Lerwick. I asked Bob to find something he liked in St. Andrew's at a bridal or fabric shop. With much back and forth of fabric samples etc. we agreed the very expensive gold fabric was perfect. It also meant no mistakes! Bob sent me the fabric a vintage mitre hat and stole on loan from a previous Bishop. I then could make new patterns and understand construction. I worked out all the logistical problems in the samples with the inexpensive fabrics. This took some time as the learning curve was great. I did manage to finish the Mitre Hat in time for Bob to wear as he was ordained Bishop.

The finished products

We aren't done yet, originally Bob had asked for a stole that incorporated Fair Isle Knitwear?


I contacted Rachel Eunson at Fair Isle Crafts Co-op and asked for her collaboration with the project.  She accepted and to a stunning result. Choosing traditional Fair Isle knitwear patterns with cross shape motifs including the Spanish Armada Cross, Rachel use just the perfect colors of gold and red all symbolic to Christianity. 

Fair Isle Hand Framed Knitting for Bob the Bishop

Now all I had to do is sew a loose stretchy curling piece of precious knitwear to a thick rigid expensive gold material top and bottom with a flimsy backing fabric to the other side... with no mistakes! Have you ever tried to sew 2 pieces of the same fabric together for any distance with out twisting? You couldn"t imagine 3 more different fabrics sewn for 8 feet? on 2 sides? Took some fiddlin' with my tension on the machine but I over came my fears and finally achieved an end result we all can be proud of. 

I finally met "Bob The Bishop" about a year later Sept. 25th 2008

The Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney, The Very Revd. Robert A. Gillies outside the Fair Isle Chapel.

Birdwatchers Rejoice!

The day before the Bishop came to Fair Isle on 23th of September 2008 the Birdwatcher were already a exuberant flock with sightings of Fair Isle Specialities "PG Tips" (Pallas Grasshopper Warbler) and a "Lancy" (Lanceolated Warbler) plus Buff-Breasted & Pectoral Sandpipers... and a Red-Throated Pipit!

(Asian) Brown Flycatcher - Rubbish Photo - Amazing Mega Rare Bird! 

With the arrival of Bishop on the 24th also came a Brown Flycatcher in the morning and a Red-Flanked Bluetail just before dinner! Bob being interested in birds he was keen to go "Island Twitching" with me. Other birds noted that day (Rosefinch, Bluethroat, Yellow Browed Warbler & Corncrake) 

Island twitching the Red-Flanked Bluetail in the crop at Kenaby - Fair Isle

It just happened to be my Birthday the 25th of Sept. Bob was going to give a short sermon at the Methodist Chapel in the afternoon. That morning most of the birdwatchers on the island were searching the crofts in the southern end of the isle. I was informed of a Siberian Thrush! Seen up on the north west cliffs at Guidicum. Thank goodness I have a car! it's about 2 miles up hill all the way. My car quickly filled up with birdwatchers, but we still felt sorry for all those we passed along the way. Even after we parked it was quite a hike. Eventually everyone who wanted got to see the bird. I'm sorry all these mega birds were to far away for my camera to take decent photos, but these birds are well documented as Fair Isle records.

One needed a scope and no fear of the afterlife to see the Siberian Thrush from the cliff tops of Fair Isle

The Siberian Thrush flew into a twitching location viewable from one precarious place.

We had great views of the Siberian Thrush thanks to so many scopes being present and sharing birders. After ticking the bird and taking in the scene and scenery we quickly return back to the Auld Haa to find the only 2 birders not viewing the Siberian Thrush with a Arctic Warbler on the roof of my Shed! This caused all the birdwatchers to race back down island as fast as they could...
You never saw a happier bunch of birders breathing so heavy!

Finger Ticking Good... Lifers! British! & Island Ticking away like Mad!

With most of the previous days sightings still on the island I heard one birder refer "it was like Heaven".
I was thinking, thanks for the birthday gifts! For those of you not into "Birdwatching" these birds seen in the UK. maybe a once in a life time experience for those lucky enough to see them. A truly amazing few days of birding.
Bob The Bishop left the next day on the 26th. The same day as a sighting of a Siberian Stonechat!
 I guess Bird Listing is just another way of counting your blessings...

Arctic Warbler I had the pleasure of seeing ringed - Autumn 2010

Good thing Bob heard I was a hat maker on the radio...
if he had first seen this puffin hat he might of had second thoughts.


  1. What a truely "heavenly" experience all round!

    I wish I could afford a small piece of Fair Isle knitwear plus on a hat!

    Great memories!

  2. Very impressive and professional job on the mitre and stole! I also love the shot you took of the twitchers at the cliff edge, terrific perspective. Happy Birthday.

  3. How d'you manage to get hold of them birds?

  4. Wow, just wow - a great job on the bishop´s hat and stole.