Sumburgh Lighthouse and my Tam

In the week before we left for our holiday I knit a fair isle tam. I chose 15 different Shetland yarns using a triad colour scheme in purples, teals and a hint of orange to add a little bit of zinginess.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

The pattern I used was Tam No 12 designed by Mary Rowe and published in her book Knitting Tams: Charted Fair Isle Designs. I adore this book. It has a short section at the front on the construction of a tam followed by the charted patterns for all 17 tams. I had so much fun deciding how to use my colour choice in the pattern.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

Initially, I had to unravel the centre section when it was half completed because I misread how to do the double decrease and did it incorrectly. Doing something late at night when you’re tired is never a good idea. I looked at it and just thought this looks awful. So I had to do it again!

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

I didn’t have a 12″ plate so I used an 11″ plate to block my fair isle tam. For blocking my tam I soaked it in water for 25 minutes.

When I decided I wanted to knit a fair isle tam for wearing on my holiday on Shetland, I’d no idea if the tam shape would suit me or not. It was magical seeing the change in how the patterning looked when it was stretched on the plate.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

When the tam was stretched out the star pattern on the crown looked utterly beautiful. One of the things I love about shetland wool is how quickly it dries. The finished tam is light and warm and I loved wearing it.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

I know I was careful when knitting the fair isle pattern but when I blocked it, some of the single stitches went awol. I’m wondering if this was caused when I was sewing in the ends after I finished the knitting? or perhaps I didn’t allow the floats to be loose enough? Anyway, I’ll be more careful about that when I knit my next tam.

Fair Isle Tam SumburghFair Isle Tam Sumburgh

We visited Sumburgh Lighthouse on my birthday… I’ve always loved lighthouses and Sumburgh is a particularly fine Robert Stevenson lighthouse.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh


Loved Sumburgh Lighthouse.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

The views from the fog horn were incredible. In the exhibition area Neil pressed the button and a huge loud noise emanated around us. I know huge seems like a weird descriptive word for a sound but I’ve never been up close and personal to a fog horn before. I have tinnitus and usually make it a point to avoid odd sounds that can make it worse.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

Apparently, the slopes and cliffs around the lighthouse are the best place to spot puffins and I held my breath in the hope that even a couple might remain… but I knew they would all have gone by the end of August.

Puffins Folder Sumburgh

The best I could do was a very cute folder decorated with puffins wearing fair isle vests, scarves and hats. Yes, it really is too cute 

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

The light was elusive and very changeable. By the time we came out of the Sumburgh Hotel after a delicious lunch of Fish and Chips the lighthouse was completely hidden beneath a shroud of cloudy fog. It meant that although the photos were all taken on the same visit during the morning of my birthday they look like they were taken on completely different days!! There is a hint of the fog drifting in towards the lighthouse in some of the photos.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

The lighthouse was last manned in 1991. When it was first built it was home to 2 or 3 families. One of their annual tasks was to paint the lighthouse and its buildings white each year.

Fair Isle Tam Sumburgh

An elegant lighthouse and fascinating complex of buildings with beautiful views.


About Nicolette


  1. Christine says:

    Where can I purchase tam 12 knitting pattern?

    • Hi Christine, I bought my copy of Knitting Tams: Charted Fair Isle Designs by Mary Rowe from School House Press in the US. It is a 40 page booklet with 17 charted patterns for tams. I added my own colours. Her earlier book Knitted Tams by Mary Rowe is out of print but is available on Amazon UK. I have both books. Knitted Tams explains how to design your own Knitted Fair Isle Tam in lots of detail. Both publications are great in slightly different ways. Hope that helps, Nicolette

  2. Christine S says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts and experiences (albeit a year after your writing) Thanks for sharing–a very fun read. Your tam is lovely. Well done.

  3. Another interesting post! Almost as if had been there with you.
    The photography is great, the commentary too–as are your knitting skills. Your Sumburg Tam is a beautiful piece of work.

    • Thank you Joyce. I knit the Tam before I went on holiday. Great fun choosing the colours. The Sumburg Lighthouse was amazing. I love visiting lighthouses when I get the opportunity. Nicolette

  4. Nikita Eileen Krupoderov says:

    This post caught my attention because I love lighthouses…your knitting of course is perfection…only wish it was for my Sasha doll…but keep up the awesome traveling and knits…Nice to see your posts…Kindly , Nikita

    • Hi Nikita
      Lovely to hear from you. Thank you for your kind comments about my knitting. We had such a wonderful time visiting Shetland and then the Cairngorms National Park (where I photographed the red squirrels on the picnic table with my mitred square blanket). Thanks so much, Nikki

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