Fair Isle panorama from Buness

Thursday March 18, 2010



Fair Isle Straw Crafts

Proprietor Stewart Thomson
Quoy Fair Isle,

Tel: 01595 760241 or 760276

chairs.jpg (16787 bytes)These straw-backed chairs are based on a traditional Fair Isle design, hand-crafted from selected hard-wood timbers and locally grown and harvested straw. The base is fully paneled and fitted with twin drawers, all fastened with wooden trenails. The back is made from Shetland Oats, grown and thrashed on the Isle. It is stitched in a manner particular to Fair Isle, thus making it unique.




Chair sizes:
  • Height - 113 cm
  • Width (to outer edges) - 52 cm
  • Depth (to outer edges) - 43 cm
  • Seat Height - 36 cm

A child's chair

Similar to, and probably originally based on Orkney chairs, the Fair Isle chairs have been made on the island since the middle of last century, and exported since the beginning of this one. The design is variable, depending on the skill of the maker, and on the amount and quality of wood available.

The chairs made today are based on the chair my grandfather, Jerome Wilson, made for his bride in 1908, which is still in daily use.

Harvesting OatsThe straw is Shetland Oats, which produce a fine, long stemmed straw, ideal for working and which grows very well on Fair Isle. Because it has almost disappeared in Shetland, I have to thrash enough seed from my own crop to plant the following year.

Cutting Oats with a sythe Most of the wood is imported, but there are a few choice timbers washed ashore and whenever possible I incorporate pieces into the chairs. Some wood is still available from ships wrecked in the past, but this is getting increasingly rare.



Text and photographs 2008 Dave Wheeler except where otherwise credited. (Logo picture courtesy of Sumburgh SAR)
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