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Community / Knitting fundraiser for MRI appeal sparks global interest

A finished version of Harriet's Hat alongside copies of the pattern.

THOUSANDS of pounds have been raised for the Shetland MRI scanner appeal thanks to a knitting campaign which has attracted interest from across the world.

A Fair Isle hat designed by Shetland knitter Harriet Middleton has sold a staggering 1,200-plus patterns at £4 a pop in just two weeks, with hundreds more sold in local shops too.

It comes on top of her MRI Maakers group, which sees local knitters come together to create pieces which are then sold on to raise money for the appeal.

Harriet Middleton at one of her stalls.

Harriet was one of the first few fundraisers for the MRI appeal, which was launched last year in a bid to raise £2 million for the scanning equipment.

The fundraiser, who started knitting when she was five years old, has had to travel to Aberdeen for MRI scans for the last few years to check that she is cancer-free following a previous diagnosis.

She said she wanted to give something back to the NHS after her treatment.

Harriet initially started selling knitted items at events at halls to raise cash for the appeal, but that evolved into the MRI Maakers group.

Members of the knitting community meet up every second Thursday at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick as a ‘maakin and yaakin’ group to make knitwear or crafts which can be sold on to raise money for the campaign.

This also makes use of wool that is donated to the group.

The Harriet’s Hat pattern has been bought by people around the world, with word of mouth spreading across the internet.

Its colours reflect the theme of the MRI scanner appeal branding, while the likeness to the Shetland Rugby Club shirt has also prompted interest from the team and its supporters.

Harriet said she had already raised £3,200 for the MRI campaign by selling items at craft stalls even before the Maakers group started.

“The pattern sales come to £5,299 roughly so with the finished hats sold in the last couple of weeks it totals £8,649, but we’re not finished yet,” she said on Tuesday.

“The rugby 7s are kindly selling finished Harriet’s Hats and patterns at Clickimin this weekend so that’ll hopefully be another good boost.”

It has been something of a family effort, with Harriet’s son Billy organising the online sales of the pattern.

He also documented every stitch and transcribed them to form the pattern.

Purchases have been coming around the clock – at two or three in the morning, for instance – as knitters from around the globe snap up the pattern.

Knitters who have made Harriet’s Hat and have leftover wool have also been invited to make another hat and donate it for selling on as a finished product.

Harriet Middleton explains how and why she is using her knitting talent to raise money for the Shetland MRI Scanner Appeal. To make sure you see our next video and where Harriet is selling her knitwear, follow ShetlandMRI on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. #ShetlandMRI #IslandMedics #NHS #Shetland #ShetlandCan

Posted by Shetland MRI Scanner Appeal on Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Local wool broker Jamieson & Smith, meanwhile, is selling a kit containing all of the wool shades required for the hat, as well as the pattern, with all proceeds going to the appeal.

Knitting supplier Jamieson’s of Shetland has also donated wool to the Maakers group, while it is selling the pattern too.

Harriet said the support shown to the knitting campaign is “overwhelmingly really, but it’s fantastic to see a community of knitters coming together in such a big way”.

“I really can’t thank everyone who has contributed or supported us enough,” she added.

“I’d like to thank the MRI Maakers in particular, they’ve really only just gotten started but have already stepped up to get finished hats ready for this weekend and I’m sure the variety of other things they’re knitting from donated wool will raise much more in future.”

Over 600 patients from Shetland are sent south for MRI scans every year, some several times, placing a strain not only on the patient but on NHS Shetland’s finances too.

Having an MRI scanner based in Shetland would allow quicker access to diagnostic tests and reduce unnecessary patient travel.

Among the stockists of the Harriet’s Hat pattern are the Bod o’ Gremista, Loose Ends, Hoswick Visitor Centre, Sandness Wool Mill, the Aywick Shop and the Gilbert Bain Hospital reception.

Find out more about the MRI Maakers and Harriets Hat here.