Northern Isles

Shetland ponies being relieved of their loads of peat, Fetlar, Shetland, 1930. On their backs are riva kishies, or nets, and woven straw kishies. Scottish Life ArchiveBoth Orkney and Shetland have extensive examples of basketwork used up until the 1950s, and some even later. As in the Highlands and west coast, Orkney and Shetland baskets were used for a lifestyle closely linked to crofting, needed for flittin’ peats, collecting seaware and for crofting-fishing. Basketwork includes regional variations of the creel or pannier (the caisie or kishie), smaller baskets (budies or bødies), and ropes, all made from different combinations of black oat straw, bent (marram) grass, heather and to a degree, imported cane. Limited local availability of wood, such as willow, materials led to using available plants for containers, household artefacts such as meal measures, salt holders, and even furniture. The extent and range of material in museum collections and archives in the Northern Isles today is probably due to the strong sense of concern about heritage of these two areas, and increased availability of finance following the development of the oil industry.

Museums in Shetland

Ian Tait, Director of Shetland Museum, in the museum store, with a large wool basket

Shetland Museum Tangwick Haa Unst Boat Museum    

Gallery of Cubbies

Cubbie replica by Alisdair Davidson made from heather

Below are some images of cubbie replicas by Alisdair Davidson. Alisdair explained that in Orkney cubbies could be used for carrying, or containing, anything but in the past were often used to keep food, and other items off the floor, …Continue reading “Gallery of Cubbies”

Orkney straw basketry tools

National Museum H.QP 3,4 & 7 Straw plaiting tools, Orkney

Orkney straw basketry tools held in Leith Customs House, Edinburgh. These include a straw-winder or check reel,  a straw rope twister, tools for splitting straw, samples of prepared RYE straw from Sandwick, and horn needles for sewing the straw.    

The Oldest Basket In Scotland

Replica by Alisdair Davidson of the oldest basket in Scotland

  The National Museum of Scotland has in its archives the remains of a basket which was found preserved in a bog in Eshaness in Shetland. It has been dated as being around 1500yrs old and is thought to be …Continue reading “The Oldest Basket In Scotland”

Use of Oat Straw in Shetland

Oats were the staple grain in the Shetland Islands prior to the 20th Century and as in all rural communities at that time their use was completely sustainable, nothing was wasted. The threshed grain used for porridge, flour and animal …Continue reading “Use of Oat Straw in Shetland”

The Kishie Maker’s Year

Ewen Balfour and his father building skroos after the harvest. Photo: Pete Glanville

Kishie maker Ewen Balfour explains here what needs to be done each month to grow and gather materials as well as make the kishies January – Kishie making February – Winnowing previously saved seed either mechanically or outside on a …Continue reading “The Kishie Maker’s Year”

Gallery of Cuddies

Shetland Museum AGR 2012.125 straw bait basket

Some images of cuddies from Shetland