Thursday 26 August 2010

Ancient History

Can it be possible?
I was rooting through my old photos and I have found a 'thing' I haven't shared yet.
I made it for a City and Guilds project, and that was in 1996.
How remiss of me.
There is a bit of everything on it. It was made form an Ikea carrier bag in the days when the big brown ones were free and made of very sturdy paper.
Its a hat for Perseus. In the myth he had a magic hat of invisibility. I thought if I made it look like the sky, or more particularly the weather, he would become camouflaged and that was as near as I could make it to invisible.
So I added raindrops, sunshine and showers. There just happened to be a 'Sunshine and Showers' theme to the 'Fashion and Embroidery Show' competition that year so it was killing two birds...with one hat.
I painted the brown paper and added little things to it, including 'words of invisibility', then I covered it with tea bag paper and other tissue, and printed and painted motifs onto the top surface. Strictly speaking it wasn't paint but food colouring, some of it mixed with acrylic pearl medium. 
Thats where the irridescence comes from. Even now, 13 years later, it still retains its colour.
I stitched spirals and stars on water soluble fabric, added some tiny pearl beads and mirrorfoil behind cut areas, some shisha and some hand stitch. Some of the spirals were slit and re positioned, and moved to add shape and structure.

Then I constructed some beads from the paper and covered some wire with stitch..
and constructed the hat in the shape of an African Chiefs hat I had seen in the Museum of Mankind.
The sunshiney bits were on the outside and on the top and the showery bits were inside the flaps.
And the Competition?
Entries had to be 2d and framed.
So I didn't bother.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

A week in the Outer Hebrides

This post is a  'scrapbook' of my week on the Isle of Lewis. Its as much for me as for readers so I hope you might enjoy a glimpse.
I thought I'd start with the above collage which I think is really worth clicking on for the amazing detail in the plants and barnacles that the clear,clean air made so easy to photograph.

Oyster catchers on Tolsta beach ..ours were the only other footprints.

The Islands have been inhabited for many thousands of years and the structures left are testament to that habitation.
These magical stones are on the west coast at Callanish. The site is full of standing stones in a cross shape-lots of them. Amazingly there were a lot of people here too but at times they were hidden by the stones,and when the person who left her luminous green co-op carrier bag in the middle removed it, I could take a photograph that looked as  it may have looked thousands of years ago.
Also on the west coast not far from the standing stones is the Blackhouse Village. Much more recent but a lovely place to give an idea of what life was like before the modern age. 

One of the houses is a museum and I was delighted to find their 'pot rack' contained some of the same plates as mine!(Top row) Such a cosy atmosphere was in that cottage. The floor sloped considerably up to the bed at the other end of the room. I felt like jumping in . 

Inevitably there was a room with a loom.

You may be interested to know that a couple of these Blackhouses are self catering holiday cottages, and one is a Youth Hostel. It would be a beautiful place to spend a few days and this was the only day I considered swimming in the sea. (Fortunately for the general public and the fish, I didn't have my cozzie with me)
Once you got across the lovely smooth round rocks the sea was clean and clear and not very cold..I had to make do with a paddle.
Along the way there were other signs of habitation and my husband is a big fan of the decrepit corrugated iron shed..the rustier the better. This one with its almost Farrow and Ball collection of greys, caused him to screech to a halt and get a picture.
On another beach on the Island of Great Bernera joined by a bridge to the main Island is made of beautiful sparkling white sand. Excavations some time ago revealed Iron Age houses. One is reconstructed but as it was Sunday it was closed . The beach is stunningly beautiful . The atmosphere is peaceful and it made me ponder the lives of the people who had their community in such a remote spot. 

I was looking at it from the wrong direction..they didn't 'travel outwards' to the far edges of the British Isles, but probably 'sailed in' to a safe natural harbour. I had a happy hour trying to imagine them. What they looked like, the clothes they wore, their relationships, community, work and lives together in that beautiful quiet place. The winter would have been a different story..the house is partly sunken and faces away from the sea. I think thats a clue. There is more about it here if you want to find out.
The only people on that beach besides us was a big group of Liverpudlians having a whale of a time. The children happily shrieking and shivering in the sea, while the adults chatted and laughed. I wondered if the Iron Age children would have been much the same work allowing.
Below is the beach viewed from just above the Iron Age site.

I took the picture below because it was the only time we got a bit of blue sky.

Safe harbours abound on these Islands. This is a tiny village on the far southern tip of Harris called Rodel. There is a big hotel there but still it was absolutely quiet. 
Just 'around the corner' from this harbour is the western side of Harris. 
The character of the west is completely different to the rocky east. Grassy moorland..Machair I think, slopes down to more amazing white sandy beaches.This is the area around Uig. 
This beach was vast.
The sea was out and we walked to the water's edge across ridge patterned sand.

There was no one else was raining...Sunday....
The beauty is in the details.

The patterns in the rock, the sand and its flora, and a holiday gives you the time to look closely.

These flowers were tiny, just a few millimetres across, and so beautiful

At absolute opposite end of the whole of Harris and Lewis is the port of Ness. 
The harbour there is fascinating.

The tide was right out and the amazing colours of the complicated harbour wall were visible against the white clean sand.
The water was clean and clear on the deeper side, 

and there is a huge empty beach there too.

Of course, it was sunday, it was raining...what can I say?
I'm going on a bit aren't I? 
Here's another little beach we happened upon, Shawbost I think. I was looking for another Tweed was raining... the tideline was perfectly semi circular, and so quiet.

Finally, the last day of the holiday. Do you notice anything about this view from the back of the house taken on the evening before we left?
Something thats been missing?

The view from the kitchen on the morning we packed up?
Something 'different' as the boat left Stornaway? 

Any other business section: Mary please send me a contact e mail. I can't get in touch with you.
And: Yippee! Blogger has a spam filter at last so I'm abolishing word verification.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Harris Tweed Production

When I knew I was going to the Isle of Lewis I was desperate to get to this place..the Tweed shed at Tarbert on the Isle of Harris which adjoins Lewis. It contains rolls and rolls of beautiful Harris Tweed, piled up to the ceiling. 

It was a long drive but well worth it and I was in a state of high excitement collecting samples but restraining myself, being mindful or the bursting cupboards I still have at home.

After Tarbert  we followed 'The Tweed Route' and turned down 'The Golden Road' 

until we came to a sign for Plocropool, a tiny place by a little rocky inlet, home of the weaver who sent me my Harris Tweed. 

I think it was the delightful Catherine, not Katie Campbell who I spoke to. 
She remembered my work and asked to see some, and is interested in stocking it in her shop. I remain a little confused by the Katie/Catherine puzzle. I think they work together and are mother and daughter.
(But I may be wrong)
Anyway here she is in her shop. This lady is the one who wove the lovely bright stripey Tweeds I used at Christmas. She says she doesn't have a lot of time to weave now .The shop was full of tourists buying Tweed.

This is her father's loom which she uses...

I have now learned quite a lot about Harris Tweed production so I would like to record it here both for myself and for anyone else who is interested. Its long but I hope some may find it informative.

We had a tour of Carloway Mill on Lewis who 'produce' Harris Tweed. The main requirement of Harris Tweed is that it must be Handwoven in weavers' homes, so the mill doesn't actually weave the Tweed, and not all weavers work for the mill. The mill has its own designers who prepare the yarns and send them out to be woven into 'their' fabric. 
With that in mind here are the processes involved in the production of Harris Tweed.

First the washed wool arrives in the mill. (In the old days it was wool from sheep on the Islands but nowadays it comes from Yorkshire)
Next the wool is dyed in these big vats. Nowadays chemical dyes are used.

Here's some jet dyed.

Next several colours are weighed carefully and mixed to produce the desired shades.

Then its sucked into a big blending and carding machine and mixed together. (this is a different colour to the above)

The carding begins, that is, combing it all into the same direction, separating it into sections and a slight twist put in it prior to spinning.

It comes out blended ready for spinning.

Next its spun into yarn.(I don't have a picture of that bit)
The yarn is threaded onto a roller via a very complicated machine, in sections of colours according to the patterns required. This is the warp . 

    The warp threads are wound in order onto a huge beam.

    For the single width looms there is a complicated frame system for a narrower beam.
    (I saw one of these when we visited a weaver's shed.)

    The warps are packaged ready with some extra spools of threads to mend any breaks.

    At this stage the beams are sent out to the weavers who sit at their handlooms in sheds and cottages all over the Islands. 

    Some weavers make their own designs, and their own warping, and some weavers work for this and other mills producing the mills own designs. 
    We spoke to a couple of weavers who said that nowadays they often have a 'day job' and weave as an extra. One had lived in 'The City' and had returned to his family home and weaving shed.
    The handwoven cloth returns to the mill for finishing. The first stage is the checking and darning any ends in, repairing, examining over a light box.

    The two ends of the long cloth are stitched together

    and then its put into a machine with soap, and washed to felt it. 
    The machines are old and mostly wooden and wonderfully 'Heath Robinson, resembling old boats. ( In the old days it was done by women who sang as they did it like this)

    After washing it has to be put into another machine to be rinsed.

    That big old worn roller goes round and round 

    and then its spin-dried. (noisily!)

    The drying is quite an has to be stretched and tensioned so that it comes out exactly the right length and width to conform to the standard size of either double or
     single width.
    This is a view of the complicated machine with a side view of the washer . I think it looks like Noahs Ark.

    Finally the cloth is inspected and stamped with the Orb mark of the Harris Tweed Authority.

    Well I hope you managed to stick with it. I found the tour fascinating...but then I'm obsessed
    As you know.

    For the official version click to go HERE

    st of my pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

    Dear Anonymous.....

    ....don't waste your time...I have a spam filter.