Sunday, 17 October 2010

Photography session

On Thursday we had a day out in west Sutherland photographing some of our products for next year's catalogue and for the website. My brother is a photographer and lives in Lochinver - an area with stunning landscapes that provide wonderful backdrops to show off our fashion accessories. We found an interesting hat stand there, but it would have been a bit awkward to take home!
The weather on the way over was not promising, but by the time we reached Lochinver things were a bit brighter. Martin, Mary and I headed out right away to the shores of Loch Assynt leaving Mary's daughters Rachel and Lauren with Martin's wife and children.

We started off with some items from our Moor and Machair range. This "sundew" purse was a new design this year and fits particularly well in this moorland setting. Sundew is a little insectiverous that grows in boggy places. These velcro closing purses are the perfect thing for keeping your credit card, and keys - the times when you want to go out without the encumbrance of a bag.

After an hour or so we headed back to the house for lunch. By the time we had finished the weather had brightened up considerably so we all headed off to Achmelvich beach where the children settled in to beach activities right away - Catherine (Martin's baby - 10 months old) started eating the sand!

Robert wanted to be photographed too - you see him here with Martin showing him the results.

Rachel has shot up this summer and has now grown taller than me so we felt she was ready to help out with the modeling. Of course her little sister, Lauren wanted to join in too.

Martin's wife Cristine joined in as well and between the four of them we managed to photograph hats, scarves, bags and wraps in a wonderful setting.

By the time the sun started getting a bit low for good pictures the children were needing to let off steam and started turning cartwheels on the sand. Mary couldn't resist and just had to prove that even though she is getting older she can still turn a good cartwheel. You see her here modeling one of our tweed belts in a somewhat unusual position!

The patch-pocket wraps pictured here have now been sent over to The Harris Tweed Shop on the Isle of Harris along with some scarves and hats. These wraps can be worn as a wide scarf or as a shawl - perfect when you want a bit of extra warmth around your shoulders. We also do a wider style with triangular shaped pockets and more embroidery, which as you can see here can be wrapped round baby as well!

Parcels of scarves have just headed off to the Isle of Lewis ferry and to Arbroath Abbey and more will soon be heading to St Andrews Cathedral - all windy places where the extra warmth that these fleece lined Harris Tweed scarves is very welcome.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Celtic Designs - research trip

As I write this, I am sitting in our room at the Steam Packet Inn in the Isle of Whithorn looking out over the harbour as the sun sets. It is as idyllic as it sounds, but it's not all play. I had to travel to Glasgow yesterday - one of my embroidery machines needed fixed and I had a trade show to visit so we decided to take a short break and fit in a visit to Whithorn before the museum and visitor center shut up shop for the winter.

In Glasgow yesterday we visited Govan Old Parish Church which has a large collection of Celtic stones including 5 hogback stones. I had visited here before but in the days before digital cameras so had only a very limited record of my visit. While I was photographing the stones my husband was interviewing one of the church elders for a radio programme that he does once a week on Moray Firth Radio. At the time that many of these stones were carved Govan was a very important ecclesiastical site but it declined in importance once Glasgow Cathedral was built. The church buildings on the site have changed over the centuries with the current building having been erected in Victorian times. The stones are housed in the church and in the care of Historic Scotland. There are many different interlace designs along with images of people on horseback and an interesting (probably pre-christian) sun symbol.

We came down to Whithorn in south west Scotland yesterday afternoon and have spent today visiting the sites associated with St Ninian - the earliest recorded Christian missionary to Scotland. Just round the corner from the inn is St Ninian's Chapel - one of the contenders as the site of Ninian's original Church - Candida Casa. Others believe that it was at Whithorn where St Ninian's Priory was a major ecclesiastical centre in early medieval times. At the priory I visited the museum which has a large collection of Celtic stones and crosses. These are quite different from the cross-slab Pictish stones in our own part of the country with influences from Northumbria. The most striking feature is the cross shape - wheel-headed crosses where the arms don't protrude beyond the bounding circle. The next thing I noticed was that although some had true interlace designs made up of a single line of knotwork, in many others the design consisted of lots of interlinking loops joined up with simple circles.

Later in the afternoon we walked to St Ninian's cave - one of the sites of pilgimage. It was a pleasant walk down through a wooded glen and then along a pebble beach. Some of the carved stones in the museum came from here, but were moved to the museum to keep them safe.

Once we get home I will begin work on some new designs that take their inspiration from stones I have seen on this visit. One project is to do a new stole design based on the crosses here at Whithorn and utilising the new St Ninian tartan that was created to commemorate the Pope's visit to Scotland on St Ninian's Day a few weeks ago. When done I will post a picture on my website for Ecclesiastical embroidery. Other examples of Celtic knotwork that I have seen may find their way onto some of my tweed wallhangings. I have certainly seen enough over the last couple of days to provide inspiration for a lot of new work.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

New cutting table

Until today, the vast bulk of our cutting of fabric has been done on the floor. That in itself has not been a problem - I like sitting on the floor, have no problem being on my knees and I like having space to spread myself out.

However - having space to spread out means I do just that, and tidying up is something I hate doing!

Some months ago my son finally (at 32!) moved away from home. As we were up to our eyes with orders for shops I immediately spread out into his room using the floor as a large cutting out area and the bed as a store. Things quickly got out of hand, fabric piled up, rubbish piled up, boxes seemed to appear and the room very quickly became unusable as a spare room. On Friday morning Mary and I set about clearing it all out and re-arranging the furniture so that instead of having one proper spare bedroom and two rooms that could in an emergency get used for people to sleep in, we have made two proper spare rooms, one of which is a family room and the third room is now officially part of the Anna Macneil domain. Rachel & Lauren (my grandaughters) stayed the night last night and got to try out the new room. They enjoyed the extra space to play compared with what they got in the past.

On Friday afternoon I took my husband to B&Q and we got wood to build my new cutting table / tweed storage shelves. I spent Saturday morning cutting, drilling and screwing bits of wood together. Once it was all assembled I headed up into the attic and salvaged a piece of carpet that has been gathering dust there for 30 years and used that to cover the tabletop - much nicer to cut on than a hard surface as we use electric shears.

Now I have space to store all the bales of tweed in such a way that pulling out one does not dislodge half a dozen others. I also had space to put away all the tweed that I brought back from Lewis two weeks ago - not many new colours, but restocking of some of our main range. However, I did get a few lovely subtle herringbone patterned tweeds from Callum Maclean at Butt of Lewis Textiles. He is weaving more for me just now and I hope to have them available at the end of the year. Among other things, I brought back a lot of black & charcoal herringbone tweed for making wraps and some of these have already been made - a collection of wraps headed across the Atlantic to "Things Celtic" in Texas, and another few have gone to California to "Scottish Treasures".

We have also been hard at work making small things - in particular our Christmas decorations. Most evenings I am sitting making Shetland angels - a nice thing to do while sitting watching the telly. It's just a shame there is not much on worth watching, but we are amusing ourselves by watching through a recently acquired boxed set of Jonathon Creek. Celtic and Tartan hearts are also being made in quantity, but we are finding it difficult to keep up with orders. It seems that as fast as we make them, shops are asking for more - a good complaint to have!

Now I have to see if it is any easier to keep the cutting table free of clutter than keeping the floor clear. I think I will have to have clearing the space on a daily basis written into Mary's contract!