(Photograph courtesy of Visit Scotland)
Just above the north west corner of Fife and to the north of the city of Perth is a large old cotton mill called Stanley Mills. It’s now owned by Historic Scotland and part of it has been restored into a museum.
By the 1850s, the cotton industry in Scotland was based mainly in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire. A weavers’ village was founded in 1705 in the Carlton area in the east of Glasgow, where many weavers were involved with serious industrial and political disputes. The mills at Stanley were built more than 200 years ago on the banks of the River Tay. The power of the river drove machinery that manufactured fabrics from 1787 until it closed in 1989. The original Bell Mill at Stanley was designed by Richard Arkwright who invented different machines to speed up the process of making cotton fabric.
Cotton was imported from India and America and shipped to Glasgow. The bales then travelled eastward by road to Stanley Mills. It was then cleaned and spun into yarn before woven up into cloth. Stanley was one of the first mills in Scotland to use power looms. The finer better quality cotton was make into handkerchiefs and underwear while the thicker cotton was made up into coarser jackets, book covers or used for sale cloth.
This is a beautiful old mill in a lovely setting. Many of the old buildings have been converted into apartments and offices, but it is still a lovely place to walk on the banks of the River Tay. I spent some time last year working with Historic Scotland, running ‘discovery days’ for primary school children making visits to the mill. The children had a tour of the mill, learnt about the people who worked there (many of them children themselves) and then had a go at weaving on small looms. It was great fun.
Simon Caplan came up from Bristol today to take some professional photographs for Heritage Crafts Association. This was for the weaving activity I submitted for their Teachers Resource Pack, but the brief also included images of me at my loom and some of my work. We had great fun and I highly recommend him.
Check him out on www.simoncaplanphotography.co.uk
I look forward to seeing the finished images but until then, here are some shots I took of him!!
Some of my scarves in a setting arranged by Simon.
This is a stunning time of year to visit the Isle of May, an island in the Forth of Firth just off the Fife coast. The natural beauty of this country never fails to amaze me. Click on the images to enlarge them.
These visitors to Scotland are always a delight to see.
The two photographs show the same swallow, taken through a cafe window. Perhaps he is placing his order! Click on the image for a larger picture.
Finally it feels like summer has arrived. Last winter was long, the spring was brief, but the summer brings hope of new colours and patterns in the landscape around Fife. These pictures were taken during a walk around the Hill of Tarvit Estate. This is a National Trust for Scotland property near to Cupar. It particularly interests me because the estate was bought in 1904 by Frederick Bower Sharp, who was a wealthy jute mill owner from Dundee.
During the 18th and early 19th centuries the east coast of Scotland concentrated on producing linen goods which could best be made from Dutch, Flemish and Baltic flax. Designs, patterns and quality of cloths were all influenced by these connections. Fife no longer grew it’s own flax. Much was imported and spun in Kirkcaldy. The 1830s saw the introduction of the power looms and by 1860 the cottage industry was dead. In 1867 over 11,500 people in Fife were employed in the linen industry, but by 1938 this had fallen to just over 7000.
Fine patterned table linen was woven in the Dunfermline mills, while sheetings and window blinds were woven in Falkand. Linen was often mixed with cotton and woven up into shirting and striped ticking fabrics, used to cover mattresses and pillows. Other coarser linens were also woven into sail cloth, tarpaulins and for packaging goods, especially in Dundee before it was replaced by cheaper imports of jute.
During the war years of 1914-18 and 1939-45 flax was grown again in many counties in Scotland and factories were revived to spin, bleach, dye and weave linen cloth again. During the first World War this was mainly for aeroplane fabrics. In the second World War mills in Aberdeenshire, Blairgowrie and Cupar were under government direction and factories tided the UK over during a difficult time. However, costs involved in treating the Scottish flax became prohibitive and they closed down.
There is one last main manufacture of linen left in Fife today and that is Peter Creig & Co, who were established in 1825. They are still weaving in the same mill in Kirkcaldy.
This research is so inspiring me to weave with linen again and to connect to the weavers who lived in my local area. It feels rather like they are talking to me. It would be good to bring back some handwoven linen to Fife. Perhaps even mix it with cotton as some of the local mills would have done to produce softer shirting and ticking. I feel that my next design process is beginning………….
These are some photographs I thought you might like to see of some weaving projects I did in two primary schools in Shetland. Theses were Bells Brae and Whiteness Primary Schools. The photographs are courtesy of GlobalYell, The Centre for Creative Industries in Shetland. (www.globalyell.org). An inspiring organization that promotes education and training in textiles and music in Shetland.
Weaving a school Shetland tweed, on a 4 shaft table loom.
All ages contributed to weaving the tweed.
Children used recycled materials to make woven wall hangings.
We used plastic bags to make mats for sitting on.
We also had a go on a peg loom and made a rag rug.
Weaving on a peg loom.
More photographs can be found on the GlobalYell website.