Come and see where the colours come from! These are sold out now.
This is a cotton and linen shawl inspired by the moorland around the slopes of Suilven, a Scottish mountain in West Sutherland. The photograph was taken on a visit to the area last summer. The richness of the pinks and purples contrasting with the lush green grasses and the grey mountain where calling to be woven!
Click on any of the images to enlarge them… and see the detail!
A design full of contrasts, both in the weave pattern and colour. I think I was looking to develop something very different and went on a journey of exploration. I hope you like the results. The colours include black, natural, red, rust orange, pink and blue. Woven in 50% Swedish linen and 50% USA cotton.
These are my latest two shawls, which were inspired by the colours of Elie Beach in Fife. They are now in my shop, along with other photographs.
The first is made of 100% Swedish linen. Colours: grey and sand.
The second wrap is made of 75% Swedish linen and 25% mercerized cotton from the USA. Colours: sea blue and sand.
I am now designing and weaving a new collection of scarves and shawls/wraps for spring and summer. These are lightweight and made with linen or linen mixes with cotton or wool for a slightly more textured look to the fabric. The first of these is now hot off the loom and available in my shop. It blends the richness of cherry reds, oranges, and purples together with the natural colour of linen to create a beautiful tweedy look to the check.
Click on the images to enlarge.
We went down to West Sands beach this morning, near St Andrews, to take some photographs of my latest hand woven wrap and stole. It was a beautiful morning. My son ‘C minor’ accompanied me and we walked up as far as the Eden Estuary. I’m drawn again and again to this beach for the colours of the sea, sky and landscape and for the patterns in the sand.
Click on each image to enlarge.
I wanted to show you the complete process from inspiration to finish product. All of of my work is inspired by the outdoor world around me. I love to walk and roam and I see colours and textures on my walks around the Fife countryside, coastline and elsewhere in Scotland. Until recently I preferred to weave with British wools and alpaca yarns, but living in a old weaver’s cottage, made me think differently. Something seemed to tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘hay, we used to weave linen cloth here’, and I started delving into the history books. You can read more about my discoveries in earlier editions of this blog. I am intrigued to learn who used to weave in this cottage 220 years ago, but I am saving that research for another day. I wanted to weave this project with British flax, similar to that which used to be grown in Fife, but I couldn’t find yarn spun thin enough from the UK. So this linen is from Sweden. It is a beautiful yarn and very good quality. I have also added some cotton from the USA, which was similar to that imported to Stanley Mills over 200 years ago. Eventually flax was no longer grown in Fife and all supplies were imported from countries around the Baltic, as I have done for this project.
Click on the photographs for a larger image.
The wrap will be available to buy from my shop very soon!
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………….
As you can imagine, having researched the history of weaving linen in Fife, I am now enthusiastic about designing and weaving my own linen fabrics. It’s been a while since I have woven with this fibre having spent the last couple of years concentrating on using British wools and alpaca. Which I absolutely love working with. However, there is something about flax and linen that’s calling my attention. Perhaps it’s knowing that the fields around East Fife were once swathed in blue when the flax plant was in flower. Something I wish I could of seen. But I think it’s also intriguing to know that someone sat at a floor loom and wove linen cloth in this very cottage, over 230 years ago. Who was he (I say he, because I understand that it was mostly the men who wove the cloth at that time while the women spun the flax), but maybe it was a she after all. I wonder if the house is whispering to me!
I am currently searching high and low for British grown flax linen yarn. An organization called the The Flax Growers and Processors in the UK, have told me that flax is now only grown on a small scale and there are no longer any manufactures of commercially spun flax in Britain. Which is such a great shame. If I had the land it would be fascinating to grow some flax myself, but I am not a spinner. If there are any hand spinners out there in the UK that work with British grown flax, I’d be very interested to hear from you. I’m still looking though, maybe I’ll find you first! I may however, have to look eastward and import linen yarn just as the merchant manufactures did from the late 18th century.
I came across an interesting tale of a merchant called John Lockhart who lived in Fife around this time. He did business with the hand loom weavers by giving them imported linen yarn that they wove up into cloth. He then paid them for the finished fabric. Before the railway came to Fife it was said that John would leave Kirkcaldy by road and on foot on a Monday and walk to Leuchars (a distance of about 25 miles). The next day he walked to the ferry and did business in Dundee, (7 miles) perhaps stayed a day and on his way back he would walk far into the night in an endeavour to get home to Kirkcaldy, (30 miles approx). I wonder if any of my walks have crossed his paths.