Saturday, 10 May 2014

New Website for my Ecclesiastical Embroidery

It has been years in the planning, but it is now finally here.  Ecclesiastical Embroidery by Ruth Black

My husband Len is a priest, but in his spare time he designs and manages websites.  On the basis of "there's no point in keeping a dog and barking yourself", website design is something I get my husband to do for me.  However, his paying customers always seem to get priority.

Mind you.... I paid in kind!  This was a cope I made for Len a year past Christmas - the deal being, I
would make him a cope in time for Christmas and he would do my website during the Christmas holidays.  I got the cope made, but Len didn't quite get around to keeping his side of the bargain!

However, the new website has been worth the wait.  It has lots more on it than before - more pictures, more information.  It also provides the facility to order a stole online and to enquire about commissioning a vestment using an online form.  I hope this will make it easier for people to use.

In addition to the website, I have built up a public web album of stoles I have made over the years.  This will get added to as and when I have time - I'm a bit like my husband in that respect, sometimes I just don't quite get round to things that don't have a deadline.

I managed one deadline recently - this chasuble made it to Australia in time for Easter.  It was made to match a stole I had made for the same client the year before and is inspired by the Evangelists page of the Book of Kells.

Just now I am working on another chasuble that has to be ready for an ordination at Canterbury in June, and earlier today I completed the design for a red cope that has to be made in the next two weeks so that it can get to Australia in time for Pentecost.

All this ecclesiastical work gets fitted in around the work of my main business - Anna Macneil where, along with my daughter I make hats and scarves, wraps and capes, bags and purses, wallhangings and cushions plus various nick-nacks.

Added to that, I visit the Isle of Lewis for a few days every month, partly to look after my mother (founder of Anna Macneil) and partly to indulge in one of my other interests - weaving.  I have an old Hattersley loom set up in my mother's garage and when I am on the island I weave Harris Tweed.  I have just come back from a recent visit having woven about 30 metres of tweed.  There is still another 20 metres of warp on the beam and that will get woven on my next visit.  The warp is a mix of pale greys with cream and beige and I am using a variety of different coloured wefts so that I will end up with some 10 or 12 different tweeds on the roll.  They will get made up into scarves and wraps once they come back from the mill, washed and stamped.

Last year I was given a fleece by my mother's next door neighbour.  This visit, I finally got round to taking my spinning wheel across and I have started spinning the wool. 
My intention is that I will spin enough to be able to weave a couple of metres with it - and then instead of sending that length to the mill for washing, I will do that myself the old fashioned way - waulking the tweed.  I managed to spin enough this visit to weave about 20cm, so don't hold your breath!

For a cloth to be called Harris Tweed it has to meet certain criteria - it must be 100% pure new wool, hand woven at the weaver's home in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and the entire process of manufacture from preparation of the wool through to finishing of the cloth must be carried
out on the Outer Hebrides.  Only then can it be stamped with the world reknowned "Orb".

In two weeks time I will be teaching a workshop at the Highland Wool Festival in Dingwall.  The theme of the workshop is Celtic knotwork embroidery and I will be helping people to create simple hand-embroidered knotwork designs.  Places are limited, so book your space as soon as you can.

Back to today - at the studio I had the embroidery machine going all day stitching the embroidery for the green chasuble.  It is Macdonald tartan that I have embroidered onto silk dupion.  This will be used as orphreys and edged with bias strips of tartan.  Now all I have to do is make it up.

Post Script - Friday, 23rd May 2014

It' been a really busy week of highs and lows!

High point: Saturday - finished the chasuble.  Got is all finished and pressed in time to have my
husband model it for me after church on Sunday.
Low point: Tuesday morning 9.15am, sat down at the sewing machine to start sewing up a red cope (all the embroidery had been done the week before - it just needed putting together). I stitched a 3 inch seam and the sewing machine went BANG! and a lot of blue smoke with a strong smell of electrical burning issued from the back of the sewing machine.   Fortunately when I phoned my sewing machine dealer (David Drummond in Edinburgh) he was able to find a replacement L-board.  £170 pounds worth, but I had it the next morning at 8.45 and by 9am the machine was running sweetly.
High point: Wednesday evening - finished the red cope - bit of a marathon, I was up till midnight hand-sewing the hem, but it was good to get it finished.
High point: Thursday morning - Janis from Morven Gallery on the Isle of Lewis phoned - she had sold another big wallhanging - so could I please make her another one!
Low point: Thursday afternoon - half way through stitching said big wallhanging, the machine stopped - check Y motor error message.  The frame wouldn't budge.  After phonecalls to my wonderful engineer and taking the covers off the machine I ascertained that the reason it wasn't working was that the strip on which the bearings run had come completely loose resulting in the tiny ballbearings being scattered all over the inside of the machine.  With the aid of a magnet I managed to extract them and after about two hours had managed to fit all but four of the balls back into their housing.  Dave assured me that the missing four would not be a problem, at least in the short term, so I got everything back together, put the covers on, managed to line up the frame to where it had stopped and the machine ran smoothly and quietly from then on.
High point:  Got the red cope photographed - had to borrow a friend for this as my husband is too short for a standard length cope!  This morning it is off to Australia and with a bit of luck should arrive in time for the celebration of Pentecost!

I have a stall at the Highland Wool Festival tomorrow and then on Sunday I am off to Lewis for a few days to do some weaving.  I am hopeful that it will be a less stressful week than the one I have just had!