Monthly Archives: April 2013

Bessie and her spinning wheel.

” I bought my wife a stane o’lnt,

As gude as e’er did grow,

And a that she has made o’that

is a’e puir pund of tow.

The weary pund, the weary pund,

The weary pund a’tow,

I think my wife will end her life

Before she spins her tow.’

A poem by Robert Burns (1759 – 1796).

The Howe of Fife was a poorly drained boggy area of land where only one crop, flax, was able to grow. So since before the 16th century the production of linen cloth had been the main source of employment locally. In Scotland, linen was known as ‘lint’.  The flax was pulled and spun by hand and then woven into cloth on hand looms.

The farmer, in order to get labourers for his farm, gave 10 yards square to the labourer to allow him to sow the ‘lippy’ of lint seed. The flax was grown for the labourers family, who spun and wove the cloth for their own use.

In 1680 the government passed a law declaring that, ‘ hereafter no corpse of any persons whatsoever shall be buried in any shirt, sheet or anything else except in plain linen…………………made and spun in the Kingdom.’

There was not a village in the county that did not have it’s hand loom weavers. They were even found in the fishing villages of Crail, Pittenween, Anstruther and Largo. The cottage of the weaver might be described as a ‘but’ and a ‘ben’. The ‘but’ housed the kitchen, beds and living area and the ‘ben’ was a separate room for the loom. As time went by weavers would take their cloths to merchants to sell in Edinburgh and London.

Fife  weaver's cottages, single storey and nestled into the hillside.

Fife weaver’s cottages, single storey and nestled into the hillside.

 

Two Munros.

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I took a walk up two Munros yesterday in the Angus Hills, (south side of the Cairngorm National Park). They are called Driesh and Mayar. Accompanied by a friend JM and her dog, we saw some stunning views.

The contrast between the dark textured rock and the white snow always fascinates me.

Photo shoot of new shawls for my shop.

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I was down on West Sands beach, St Andrews today, taking photographs of some new shawls I’ve woven. Take a look in my shop. It’s a beautiful location for a photo shoot, sandwiched between the sea and the Royal & Ancient golf course. I took the last picture for inspiration. The soft browns, blues and whites would make a lovely wool and alpaca stripy scarf.

 

 

Spring has sprung!

The swallows have arrived! I saw two of them sitting on a telephone wire from my kitchen window. They usually arrive here in Fife sometime between the 15th and 17th April, having flown all the way up from West Africa. I thought they might be late this year because of the long winter we’ve had. But they made it here on time!

When I am away from Scotland, I am often asked where exactly Fife is. Unless you are a golfer and know about St Andrews, Fife is generally not as famous as other parts of Scotland. It’s the county just north of Edinburgh, on the East coast. It’s boarded by the Forth of Firth to the south, the River Tay and Dundee to the north and the Ochil Hills to the west. I moved here about 10 years ago from England.

For the last year or so I have been weaving with wool and alpaca which have lots of wonderful properties. They are sustainable resources with the animal growing a new fleece each year. Wool keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It repels water away from the skin and is an excellent insulator. Alpaca fibre is extremely fine and soft to handle while at the same time strong and resilient. I have found that by combining these two fibres together in the weave, I can produce beautifully soft scarves and wraps that are also very durable.

Through teaching weaving in local schools, I have started to learn more about the history of weaving linen in Fife. I’ve started to research local libraries and museums looking for information. Hopefully this will lead me to interesting places, walks and on to doing some of my own linen weaving. Watch this space!