This basket called a Kishie in Shetland or a Caisie in Orkney is used in a similar way that the back creel is used by crofters in the Highlands and Islands off the west coast of Scotland. Rather than woody material like willow however these baskets were made of soft materials like oat straw, dockans, and soft (field) rush. The construction was completely different and involved making lengths of cord, or simmens, usually from soft rush, and using a twining technique with this to tie bundles of straw or dockans together. There are many photos from Shetland of women and horses carrying peat in these baskets but as Ewen Balfour, a kishie maker from Shetland, makes clear in his article ‘Kishie and Its Uses in Shetland’ they were also used to carry many other things, the use changing with the age and condition of the kishie. In fact he doesn’t even mention the kishies use for bringing in the peats in his article! This article also describes the socialising that took place around making the simmens in the winter months. His article ‘The Kishie Makers Year‘, explains what needs to be done each month in preparation for making the kishies in the winter and he has also given us a step by step guide on ‘How to Make a Kishie‘.
by Julie Gurr