Sunday, 16 February 2014

This is not just black................

This is dark as ebony, as deep as jet, dark as coal, but enriched with darkest plum, midnight navy and bottle green and softened with touches of charcoal............

For the benefit of my overseas readers, this is a tongue-in-cheek take on an up-market food supplier's advertising campaign for luxury food, but it does properly describe my latest limited edition Harris Tweed.

Weaving Black Harris Tweed

Last Saturday I arrived on the Isle of Lewis in the early afternoon.  After spending some time with my mother (the main reason for my visit) I chose yarns from my yarn store and prepared a new warp.  I knew that we needed black tweed for making scarves and wraps, but it didn't need to be pure plain black.  Indeed, if I want plain black, I would be better off just going to one of the Harris Tweed mills and buying it.  I like to be more adventurous, so while most of the yarn I selected to make the warp is black, I also picked out some dark charcoal, very dark navy, very dark plum, peat brown and dark bottle green yarn.   When preparing a warp I use 24 cops of yarn.  For this warp I used 16 cops of black, 4 charcoal and one each of the other colours.  From a distance it reads as black,
but it is not a "flat" black.  The other shades give a liveliness that makes it really interesting.  The photograph here shows the colours much brighter than they really are, but it is just the effect of the flash.

On Monday I got the warp beamed and half tied in.  An experienced weaver can get this part done in under an hour. I am still taking 4 hours and I have not yet managed to figure out a way of doing it without putting a strain on my back muscles.  I obviously need to improve my technique!
Tuesday was taken up with other things, including attending an interesting presentation about fashion trends for spring and summer, 2015.   Lots of things to consider there, but it did seem that subtlety was a common theme.  So my new black tweed should fit in nicely.
On Wednesday I did various things with my mother - took her to the hairdresser's salon and then out to lunch and then finished the tying in.
About two years ago I bought some tweed with the intention of making myself a new winter coat, but somehow I always seemed to be busy making things for other people and had not set aside time to do anything for myself.  However, before I left for my Lewis trip I cut out the coat pieces and did some embroidery on the front, back, cuffs, collar and pocket welt pieces.  I took with me everything I needed, including some very posh hot-fused glass buttons made for me by my friend Gail of Half-A-Moon and in the evenings, when it is too cold and dark to head out to the loom shed, I sat at the sewing machine and made my new coat.  When there was handsewing to be done I could do this while sitting talking with my mother. 

Thursday and Friday were free for weaving.  The loom has been working smoothly and I have managed to weave over 30 metres in the two days.  I am weaving in lengths of 1.8 metres then advancing the loom to leave approximately 20cm unwoven between lengths. These will be used to make scarves or wraps which have fringed ends - it saves having to unravel the tweed to make the fringes - a great time saver and allows for longer fringes.

Some lengths have been woven with a black weft (the yarn which goes from side to side), some with charcoal and I have also woven a couple of lengths with a red weft and one with a white weft.  For these colours, the random herringbone weave pattern is very striking. This photograph was taken while weaving with the red, but the white was still visible on the cloth beam, where you are seeing the back of the tweed rather than the face.

At the moment I am heading back to the mainland so the weaving will take a break until I next return to the island towards the end of March when I should be able to weave the remaining 25m and get it off to Carloway Mill for washing and stamping (to certify it as genuine Harris Tweed).

(The internet connection ran out at that point, so I couldn't do any more of this till I got home - to be met off the bus by my husband.  He's not much for cooking, but he had visited the above mentioned store.  We didn't just have beef, we had rich, succulent beef, wrapped in melt-in-the-mouth flaky pastry................. I'm sure you get the picture!).

I left the loom all ready for the next visit.  The little black mark on the warp beam flange is where the warp came to when it was first beamed, so you can see how much I have used and how much I still have to do.  I just need to decide what colours of weft yarn to use, and then start pedalling...... and pedalling.......!!!! 

In April we will start making up the tweed into scarves and wraps, perhaps the odd Hebridean Hood with any small pieces being used for little wallhangings.  Watch this space........!

I wore my new coat to church this morning and when we got home, Len photographed me wearing it. If you want a posh coat, let me know.  I won't make you one exactly the same as this, but I am happy to work out designs and let you choose tweed - visit the website for more details.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

February - hard work, but a lot of variety

Rachel testing out a new buttoned wrap
January was something of a mad rush trying to get things ready for exhibiting at a trade show in Glasgow, followed by sending out the urgent orders taken at the show.  Our new buttoned wraps were Canongate Jerseys & Crafts on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and Tartan Plus on Buchanan Street in Glasgow.   If you can't get to the studio or to either of these shops you can of course buy from our website -
very well received and some have already gone off to two of the shops we supply -

Anna Macneil has just been featured in an e-news publication called SLOGAN - an email campaign that goes out all over the world for those with an interest in Scotland and all things Scottish.  Have a look here - and Have a look to see the offer from Anna Macneil.
why not register to receive future editions by email.  It is full of special offers from featured organisations. 

This week I finally got the new Anna Macneil catalogue finished and my husband has put it onto the website - have a look here.   It is a big catalogue, so takes a wee while to load - please be patient!

Yesterday Mary and I did a bit of playing - we needed some pieces of felt for wallhangings.  So we had a nice hour or so guddling about with bubblewrap and soapy water as we massaged the wool fibres to make the felt.  If you fancy having a go yourself, why not come and do a class with me - see website for details.

Lauren wearing one of our Hebridean Hoods
My granddaughter Lauren was 15 a couple of weeks ago.  She is very keen to be a hairdresser, so I gave her some hairdressing scissors for her birthday.  This looks as though it is going to be a very worthwhile investment as she cut my hair yesterday - and a really good job she made of it!  She had instruction and supervision from Carly and Cat at Gorgeous - a hair and beauty salon in Inverness. 
new haircut!
The lovely girls at Gorgeous help us out with hair and make-up when we are doing photo sessions.  The latest of these was the one we did last month at Clava.  If we get some nice snowy weather we may do another session to get some nice winter pictures for hats and scarves, but otherwise it is likely to be the summer before we do another such session.

Back at the studio this morning I got yesterday's felt pieces onto the embroidery machine and made some oystercatcher wallhangings that will shortly be posted off to the Blue Pig Gallery at Carloway on the Isle of Lewis.  I have a few more small pieces to make to complete the order.  Beauly Gallery just a few miles away.
I also embroidered and made up some long narrow wallhangings for

Mary spent much of today cutting out tweed for making our cosy Hebridean Hoods and gorgeous wraps.  We are trying to get ahead and build up our stocks for the very busy summer season which will be on us before we know it.

This evening I was in the neighbouring village of Kiltarlity giving a talk to the WRI about my exploits over the last two years weaving Harris Tweed.  My presentation seemed to go down very well and I had lots of questions along with compliments for my tweeds which I had taken along to let them see.  I am looking forward to getting back to weaving.  Because of the trade show last month I din't manage to visit the Isle of Lewis in January, but I am planning to go there on Saturday for a week.  I just hope that the threatened gales don't reach The Minch until after my ferry crossing.

It seems almost every day the news bulletins are reporting on some weather related story - floods, gales or snow, but here in Inverness we seem to have escaped it all.  We have had a bit of rain and wind but nothing to write home about, certainly nothing like the south of England has been getting.  But the Isle of Lewis ferry has experienced a lot of cancellations due to bad weather.  We are all looking forward to when the new ferry comes into service - due this summer - and hoping that it is a more stable ship.  All being well, I will get to Lewis on Saturday and have a full week at the loom.

So....... the hard work continues, but it looks like the variety will continue - we have orders for shops for hats, scarves, bags, wallhangings, cushions, wraps, purses, keyrings.  All we need now is to figure out how to fit 12 hours of work into an 8 hour day!