Monday, August 01, 2011

Hand Knit Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep (Hat) - The Tall Ships - Museum Fund Raiser

Hand Knit Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep & Museum.
The hand knitted kep shown could be yours!
with a donation to George Waterston Memorial Centre - Fair Isle's Museum.

Fiona Mitchell, one of the Fair Isle knitters.

Many of you will know Fiona if you have ever been to Fair Isle. She is the woman hopping out of the fire truck at the islands airport (landing strip) to help unload your bags after you have landed safely. Fiona has the distinction of being Fair Isle's Fire Chief. Plus she runs Stackhoull Stores "The Shop" with her husband Robert with occasional help from their 2 teenagers. She is also the Post Master and teaches art classes at the school. In her spare time she chairs the Fair Isle Community meetings and is on the board of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust. When did she find time to knit? And who knew she was such a talented Fair Isle Knitter? Inspired by the Tall Ships event and still knitting but by no means in mass production, a hat or knitwear by Fiona is a rare creation. So here is your chance to get a piece of the legendary knitwear while supporting Fair Isle's history.  

Traditional Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep 

Fair Isle, a name synonymous with a rich heritage of colour and pattern in knitwear, is the most remote inhabited island in Britain. A stepping stone in the seaway between Orkney and Shetland, the Isle lies at the centre of a major sea route, and our tradition of bartering with passing vessels is a long and strong one. From Viking times fresh produce and textiles have been traded for whatever the Isle could not manufacture, and the beautiful knitwear for which Fair Isle is renown has been traded for hundreds of years with passing ships.

As part of this year’s Tall Ships race, we brought this important part of our history to life by hand knitting Fair Isle fisherman’s keps (hats) and trading them for Norwegian goods with the crew of the Norwegian full-rigged ship Sørlandet. This barter took place on Tuesday 19th July (see blog link below).
Only a handful of keps were knitted, each one is unique and could be considered priceless!  Fortunately, besides those used for barter, there are a few available to help raise funds for our museum extension - and you can be part of this historic trade with Fair Isle without a sailing ship!
 This hat will be sent to the person who gives the highest bid/pledge by August 31st 2011. On receipt of the donation The Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep pictured here will be sent to the generous contributor when payment has been received by way of cheque or paypal.
Bids start at £100

Bidding opens August 1st -  ends August 31st, 2011

Bids will be posted in comment below.

Send bids to: email , call me 01595 760 349
or contact George Waterston Memorial Centre & Museum - 01595 760 244

payment - Cheque or Paypal at the end of Auction.

Fair Isle Fishermens’ KEps: Hand-knitted Fair Isle Fisherman's hats knitted in Fair Isle are currently not sold on Fair Isle and haven't been for years. Until now they had been made only by a few people for family members. The skill have been revitalized throughout the island by the women of a few households who have handed down the history stitch by stitch. The project was sponsored by Jamieson Spinning in Shetland, who donated the pure Shetland yarn used.

Thank you Jamieson's for supporting our heritage.

George Waterston Memorial Centre & Museum
Thousands of pounds are need to add this small but much needed extension. Designed to mimic in shape the kjyls (kilns for drying grain) built onto some of the barns on the Isle, the new extension will house a much needed office and toilet.  The new wind and weather buffering entrance will help to ensure the collection  is doubly protected from the elements every time the door opens. The Museum & the Islanders are very appreciative of any donations of any size beyond this fundraising event. The museum has chairitable statisis (SC005177) and is a member of Museum Galleries Scotland. Donations can be sent to:

George Waterston Memorial Centre & Museum - Fair Isle - Shetland - ZE2 9JU - UK.

Thank you.

Museum Extension Floor Plan.

Museum Extension Elevation Rendering

To see more of the Fair Isle Tall Ships barter with the Sorlandet follow this link to an earlier post.

1774 - The dairy of Janet Schaw, passenger 'Jamaica Packet' travelling to North Carolina.

The yoals coming out to trade with the ship off the coast of Fair Isle. 
 "were loaded with the Island manufactures; such as knitted caps, mittens, stockings and the softest coarse cloth I ever saw made of wool"

Please Share This Post... no pun intended

Please bid now in comments, phone or email. Cheers!
Bidding has ended.
With bids from England & the USA the winning donation of £300.00
is very much appreciated by the Museum an Fair Islanders.
See comments below for more details. Cheers!


  1. Hi Tommy, Thanks for commenting on my blog the other day. I am sorry I took the title My Fair Isle...perhaps it would be even better suited for your blog, but 'tis done I suppose.

    Your story is amazing. Fair Isle hold a place in my dreams - maybe someday I will get there - but in the meantime I enjoy your photographs and this small sense that I know the place through your blog.

    The hat on auction is amazing, but the woman who made seems even more so. Hope it raises lots of cash for the project!

    Best, Robyn

  2. Hey Tommy hows the auction going? No idea where to look to see where the bids have reached.

    Some great birds recently on FI.

    I have just been catching up on some year ticks hear altho best of all - Sabine's Gull - a lifer
    my 400th(BOU) UK species!


  3. The minimum bid is 100 pounds, and increases in 5 pound increments.

  4. I would like to bid 125 pounds. I am in the United States, but have a PayPal account. Thank you Glennice

  5. Thank you Glennice! you are the top bidder with 3 days to go...

  6. A bid of 150.00 pounds has been made by Corrina from England by the phone and by comment on the other post "Last chance to own a Fair Isle Hat" one one day to go... cheers Tommy

  7. Hi Tommy

    First of all, thank you for such an informative site. It provides great interest for all. Especially over the school holidays.
    Hopefully, in the near future, some of the younger ones will make their own journey to the stunning Fair Isle area.

    Am I too late to bid?
    If not, I would like to put in a bid for £200.

    Good luck with the fundraising from all of us here in The Peak District.

    Best Wishes
    Lorica Brown

  8. Lorica, you are now the highest bidder! with one day to go... Cheers and Thank You! Tommy

  9. Ok Tommy just seen this £205.00 is the new bid

  10. Hi Tommy,
    I like to increase my bid to £250.
    Thanking you
    Lorica Brown

  11. Ok Tommy this looks like a new bid of £255.00


  12. Hi Tommy, if you have not received my further bid, I hope this will be sufficient. I now bid £300.00

  13. Lorica! is the lucky WINNER! The Museum and the folks of Fair Isle thank you and your generosity. Cheers Tommy

  14. Wow!!! What more can I say? But, a huge Thank You so, so much.
    I never, ever won a bid.
    I am over the moon.

    The beautiful Fisherman's Kep will be a special gift for my 86 year old dad, Eric Holmberg.
    Especially, with his memories of years gone by, of the link with the Norwegian and Fair Isle people, your community will certainly be top discussion, during my Christmas visit.
    All I now have to ensure, is a visit back to Fair Isle, sooner, rather than later!

    I must admit, Elizabeth Riddiford, knitted me a fabulous Fair Isle cap and dad was quite upset, when I refused to part with it.
    Therefore, the present will be even more of a surprise.

    Once again, thank you.
    Also a big thank you to the remarkable Fiona Mitchell. Her craftwork will be treasured by the Holmberg family, for years to come.

    Kind Regards
    Lorica Brown