NIFA – Fair Isle Part 2

The next day was a hill gather for Kathy while we were left to our own devises!   First on the agenda was the museum, only open that morning while we were there.

The museum is the old school, set on a little hill by the Methodist chapel.   Kathy’s croft entrance is immediately opposite the path up to the museum so it didn’t take long to reach!

Many of the museum’s displays had been changed since I was last there two years ago.   Anne Sinclair is the curator, and she makes sure that the knitwear display is changed regularly to keep the old garments in reasonable shape.  Whatever pieces are out, the display is always interesting and I always learn something on every visit.

After a good long time in the museum we went on to see the chapel.   As in the kirk the artistic heritage of the islanders is much in evidence with the most spectacular piece being a 6 x 4 foot community-made painting.   This was done one Good Friday, and everyone was invited to come and do something on the ‘canvas’ with the overall title of We Still Make Crosses’.   The youngest taking part was 2 and the oldest in his late 80s.

Like the kirk, there are stained glass windows and a lecturn…

… this time withe Twentieth Centuryth a needlepoint frontage:

The glass is older here, but the colours are lovely, especially on the edges:

Then it was back to the croft to work on our knitting in Kathy’s studio:

Our final (planned!) day started with a visit to Stewart Thomson, who makes spinning wheels.  He was having trouble with a knee (well, he IS 87) so didn’t have one on the go at present, but we sat and chatted and I was very self indulgent, spinning Shetland fleece on one of his newer wheels, then some Musk Ox on his own wheel.   I was enjoying myself so much I forgot to take pix!!   Stewart, once a lighthouse keeper, has always worked with wood, but after his retirement he started to make Shetland spinneys.   He learnt to spin so that he would make better wheels.

After spinning for a while he took us into the kitchen for coffee and more chat.  His wife, Annie, was also there and so we obviously also talked knitting!  It was Annie’s family who did so much to keep the knitting traditions alive in the middle of the Twentieth Century.

Stewart then showed us his sweater, spun by him from four colours off the same fleece, and knitted by Annie:

The Thompsons live in the croft by the old Post Office.  This still has a red phone box, so we had to take pix…!

The walk back down to Kathy’s was lovely, with excellent views out to the south.   Kathy’s croft, Upper Leogh, is to the left of the pic, with the top of the South Lighthouse on the right:

In the afternoon we went down to see Tommy’s studio.   Tommy is an artist who came to Fair Isle with wife Liz and son Henry for two years.   That was 5 years ago and he does not intend going back to the US any time soon!   One of the things he excels in is making 2D sculptures out of old wire.   What he uses on the Fair Isle is the core of wiring taken out of the accommodation block from the North Lighthouse, mounted on cork floats which come ashore from the rotting nets of the old Russian trawlers which fished the North Sea in the 60s and 70s.

There was two or three on the windowsill, and I asked how he made them.   He picked up a piece of wire and a pair of pliers and proceeded to show me!   Ten minutes later a puffin was made:

Another couple of minutes later a cork stand was acquired, and my puffin was placed on the windowsill to be photographer prior to coming home with me!

From the South of the island we travelled to the North to see if we could see real puffins again.   This time they were not around, but we chilled in the sun, and I got a nice pic of Anita in the Starmore jacket she knitted:

This being Fair Isle, we had to have a bird pic too – this one is a female Eider:

I also got a rare pic – Kathy’s face!!

This being the correct Thursday, it was a Fair Isle Thursday.   These happen at the Bird Observatory every fortnight, and consist of a slide show followed by music in the bar.   This week was slides of the life and work of a warden on the Farne islands (lots and lots of birds and seals and not much else!) and the music was provided by four generations of the Thomson family.   Stewart (the wheel maker);  his son Stewart;  his son Ewan, and his daughter Martha, recently crowned Shetland Young Traditional Musician of the Year:

No trip to Fair Isle is complete without a worry about transport.   Friday morning was misty, and the big question was whether and when we would be able to fly back to Mainland Shetland.  In the end, we took off just 15 minutes late….!


5 thoughts on “NIFA – Fair Isle Part 2

  1. I have enjoyed your photos and stories very much (and for a long time)! Oh how I wish I could see the things in person that you describe on your blog. Our local bookstore now stocks two knitting magazines from England and one Irish Quilting magazine. I look at them over and over and over!

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