Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Traditional Hand Knit Fair Isle Fisherman's Keps (6 Hats for Auction) Museum Fund Raiser


Knit by Annie Thomson
Your chance to own a bit of the "Legend"

As part of this year’s Tall Ships race, the knitters on Fair Isle brought an 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!

All knitted in Fair Isle by masters of their craft , the keps shown below will be auctioned over the next few weeks. The final one to be auctioned, shown above, was knitted by Annie Thomson, né Wilson, born in Springfield, Fair Isle in 1922; doyen and mentor of us all.

Each kep will be sent to the person who gives the highest bid/pledge by the appropriate date. On receipt of the donation the Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep will be sent to the generous contributor when payment has been received by way of cheque or paypal (instructions below).

On offer 6 amazing pieces of Fair Isle Knitwear!

Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep # 1 - by Triona Thomson
present pledged donation £150.00 Sold
Auction ends Oct. 30th 2011 - 10:00 pm.

       Triona Thompson

Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep # 2 - by Katherine Montgomery
present pledge donation £150.00 Sold
Auction ends Nov. 6th, 2011 - 10:00 pm.

Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep # 3 - by Katherine Montgomery
present pledge donation £150.00 Sold
Auction ends Nov. 13th 2011 - 10:00 pm.

Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep # 4 - by Elizabeth Riddiford
present pledge donation £100.00 Sold
Auction ends Nov. 20th 2011 - 10:00 pm.

    Elizabeth Riddiford

Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep # 5 - by Elena Mera-Long
present pledge donation £150.00 Sold
Auction ends Nov. 27th 2011 - 10:00 pm.

        Elena Mera-Long

Annie Thomson           The Legend...
Late 1930s, Annie, 2nd from right, knitting with her mother and sisters outside Springfield on a sunny day.

Annie Thomson in 1958 in Edinburgh
demonstrating her skill at the Ideal Homes Exhibition.

 Annie’s husband, Stewart, noted spinner and maker of spinning wheels,
 displaying the final kep in this fundraiser.

Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep # 6 - by Annie Thomson
present pledged donation £755.00 - Sold
Auction ends Dec 4th 2011 - 10:00 pm.
Born to Knit!

Annie (Wilson) Thomson - born 1922 and still knitting!

Traditional Fair Isle Fisherman's Keps on displayed in the Museum 
prior to the tall Ships barter.

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.

Bidding on all hand knit Fair Isle Keps is now open

Bids start at £100.00

Bid by posting in comment below.

confirm bids to: email tommyartgallery@yahoo.com , or call me - 01595 760 349
or contact George Waterston Memorial Centre & Museum - 01595 760 244

payment - Cheque or Paypal at the end of Auction.

Present bidding:

Kep # 1  £150.00 - end date Oct. 30th 2011 - Sold
Triona Thomson

Kep # 2  £150.00 - end date Nov. 6th 2011 - Sold
Katherine Montgomery

Kep # 3  £150.00 - end date Nov. 13th 2011 - Sold
Katherine Montgomery

Kep # 4  £100.00 - end date Nov. 20th 2011 - Sold
Elizabeth Riddiford

Kep # 5  £150.00 - end date Nov. 27th 2011 - Sold
Elena Mera - Long

Kep # 6  £755.00 - end date Dec. 4th 2011 - Sold
Annie Thomson

Bid now it is for a good cause

The first Fair Isle Fisherman's Kep raised a £300.00 donation - see details:

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 charitable status (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.

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"

Crew of the Norwegian Tall Ship Sorlandet and their newly bartered Fair Isle Keps - July 2011
A chance to own a piece of a legend... a museum piece!
We have no more... when these 6 truly unique keps are gone?
Please bid generously 

Thank you for your Support

please share these posts... Cheers!


  1. Hiya Tommy
    Its the three red ones that I prefer - although they are all attractive and very clever!
    Annie's I am sure will be v.popular what with all the history.Since I have a little head it looks like the best fit for me.
    So I might try for a couple so I have one to give away as a gift!

    £100 bid for the first Triona Thomson Kep


  2. We have an early bid for Annie's Hat! keep them coming! cheers Tommy

  3. Tommy
    £125 for Annies Hat


  4. Hi Tommy, Liz and Henry,

    We'd like to bid £ 125 on Kep #1

    Donald & Maureen

  5. bid of 100 on Elena's Hat #5 please.
    from Tereaz

  6. Hi Tommy

    I am happy to bid £150 for Triona's Kep.

    Best wishes

    Andrew Tweedie

  7. Am I too late £155 for Trionas Kep.

  8. Tommy. Unfortunately I did not receive it until 2:37 local time (we are still on daylight time in Nanaimo, British Columbia) and don't change to standard time until next weekend so I miss-calculated the difference. We would like to start the bidding on Kep # 2 for £100.


  9. Hello to all .Thankyou for putting the min bid on Elena's hat on my behalf. I would Like you to increase the bid to 125.00. Therese Mc Croy

  10. Hi Tommy

    I'm not sure if you received my previous email, but I now bid on Kep 2 - £120 and Kep 4 - £100


  11. We now bid 130 pounds for Kep # 2


  12. Hi Tommy
    I bid £140 for Kep #2

  13. Hi Tommy,

    We want to place bids of £100 on Katherine's Kep # 3 and £200 on Annie's Kep # 6

    Donald and Maureen

  14. Hi Tommy

    I bid £130 on kep #3


  15. I got 2 last minute emails 9:58 & 9:59 pm
    the winner wrote:

    please up our bid on kep # 3 to £150


    Donald & Maureen

    Congrats Donald & Maureen in Namaimo, British Columbia - cheers Tommy

  16. We have had 4 hats auctioned, and 4 different winners! I think that's GREAT! great for the museum too. Tommy

  17. From the Friedrich Van Acker Family in Catskill, NY $135 for Kep #5

  18. I am delighted by the latest bid, as I knitted this hat! Thank you so much! Hoping to raise a good sum, as our museum is at the heart of the Fair Isle community; it is a little gem, and it is worth all the support we can raise for it.

  19. Hi Tommy

    We wish to up the bid to £150 for Kep #5

    Donald & Maureen

  20. Elena - your museum is a little gem- we visited it in 2009 after getting drenched in the morning birding and all our gear was in the drier in Tommy's- and Anna Sinclair took us on a guided tour- brilliant!
    I have my Kep- but i think a couple of my friends might like one too!

  21. Yes, Anne is a wonderful authority on Fair Isle history, and visiting the museum with her is memorable for all of us! I always feel excitement when she talks about times past; she has so many fascinating anecdotes related to items in the museum, and she makes us feel as if we really know the folk who struggled to survive on this tiny and remote island so many years ago. I know that visitors to the museum go away enchanted.

  22. Hi Tommy,
    I’d like to place an initial bid of £300 on kep number 6 – Carol loves her hats!!

    Thanks,Tony Vials

    We’ll be on the island in late May next year – makes a change from late October

    If you are trying to place a face to the name, we were in your car when you photographed the dead Lancie at the plantation this October.

  23. Please up our bid on Annie's kep # 6 to £350


  24. Hi Tommy,

    Please increase my bid on kep#6 to £450


  25. please increase our bid to £500 on Annie's kep



  26. I know the auction isn’t over (you have one more day to go, folks!!!) but we – the GWMC committee - have some ‘Thank-you’ s to send out before the finale.

    To the knitters from the Tall Ships project who donated their few remaining works of art to raise funds for the proposed and essential extension to the museum. None of this would have been possible without you.

    To all the bidders – we are overwhelmed by your support. The keps for which you have bid are unique, are part of Fair Isle’s heritage and will, we hope, become family heirlooms. We cannot thank you enough for the generosity you have shown to our museum.

    To Tommy, who has given up time from producing his own phenomenal hats to setting up this auction, photographing the keps so beautifully and overseeing the bids. We couldn’t have done it without you. Tommy – you are a STAR!!!!!

    To all concerned - THANK YOU

    Anne, Hollie, Dave & Stewart

  27. Hi Tommy

    I just received my Kep, knitted by Elizabeth Riddiford. It is absolutely gorgeous. Although the photo's are stunning, the reality of the product, unbelievably beautiful.
    Now I'm not envied of Dad's prezzie.
    I am so pleased no one beat me to it!!!
    Thank you for making this possible.
    Please thank Elizabeth for her beautiful craft and Annie for the kind corresponding work.
    To all The Islanders, I wish you a Peaceful Christmas and lots of success, in the fundraising for the Museum in 2012.
    Now I just have to ensure Dad gets his surprise in time!

    Kind Regards

  28. Hi Tommy,

    Lets go for it. Please increase my bid to £750.


  29. Donald & Maureen bid 755.00! by email concluding bidding on Annie's Kep # 6

    Well done to you all for being so generous. Annie is thrilled to have spurred on such donations to aid our museum. All the knitters & bidders are AWESOME! Thank you so much everyone.

    Cheers Tommy

  30. Is this a yearly event? If not would love to buy/bid on a hat from your beautiful island.