It’s hard to believe it’s ten years since we first set up our pedal powered loom on Skye. We may not be quite as fresh-faced as we were then, but looking through old photos we’re amazed at how much has happened over the past decade. There have been lots of infrastructure and weaving developments of course, but what’s been most important has been the people we’ve worked with and the connections we’ve made through our weaving. We feel so lucky to be doing what we do, and to be part of a supportive community of neighbours, colleagues, suppliers – and of course customers.
It’s impossible to summarise the past ten years in a blog, but we’ve dug out a few pictures from the archive to give a flavour.
We bought our loom in 2011 on the Isle of Lewis, where it had been used to weave Harris Tweed. At that point we were still living at Ardalanish Farm, on the Isle of Mull, but had already decided to move to Skye. Our colleagues at Isle of Mull Weavers were a fantastic support in getting us going and we wove our first three rolls of fabric in their scenic bothy on a hilltop above the farm.
Besides getting to grips with the loom, the most important thing we did in this first winter was to build our warping wheel. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support, knowledge and ingenuity of our friend and mentor Bob Ryan. Bob and Roger started with the metal wheels off an old tractor grass rake and added a miscellaneous collection of mostly repurposed components. Next to the loom, the warping wheel is the essential piece of equipment for a double-width weaver. We still love working with ours ten years on, not least because it reminds us of Bob.
Arrival in Skye
It was February 2012 when we moved from Mull to Skye, setting up a permanent base in Roger’s family croft house.
Our first task: build a shed, and install a loom.
We soon started weaving and it was very exciting to sell our first products in the craft fairs at Armadale Castle and Glendale Village Hall.
Meanwhile we were making improvements in the technical department. At first we would wind our cones using an adapted electric drill. Acquiring a proper cone winder in our first year was a great leap forward. It came from a mill that closed down in Halifax. It took a bit of brainpower to fit together.
Collaborations and connections
After starting with fairly straightforward checked blankets and scarves, our designs swiftly got more ambitious. We soon got involved in our first collaboration with local creatives, working with jeweller Heather McDermott and photographer Phil Gorton on our Periwinkle Shawls. You can read about the project in an early blog. Another early collaboration was the ‘Hunting for Lost Crafts’ exhibition at Inverness Museum & Art Gallery. We worked with natural dye company Shilasdair to create a tweed inspired by Scotland’s herring fishing tradition, which was then made into a jacket for the exhibition. We wrote a blog about that too.
As a small company we particularly appreciate being part of a wider community with shared enthusiasms. It was lovely to welcome the passionate and knowledgeable editors of Scandinavian weaving magazine VÄV to the workshop in 2015. The visit even resulted in our first front cover feature!
Team and technical upgrades
While staying small scale and artisan we are always trying to improve the technical side of our business. In 2015 we installed a new creel in the warping shed, assisted again by the ever-helpful Bob Ryan.
In 2017 we purchased a second loom, brand new this time. It was a major investment but has enabled us to give our creativity free rein by producing more ambitious weaving structures.
By now our team was expanding, though we choose to remain a very small business. Paul joined us in 2015 and continues to impress with his pedal power prowess and eagle eye for spotting trouble. Angie has contributed her zestful energy and sewing skills since 2017. At different times we’ve also loved working with Alexander, Diana, Christine and Danielle. Our suppliers and business clients are an important part of the mix too. Visits to the loom manufacturers and our finishers Schofields have turned into interesting road trips.
It was 2016 when we took the first steps in our long-held ambition to weave with local wool. Working with local farmers we took part in our first clip (shearing) that summer and received the yarn back later that year. It was an exciting moment when we sent our very first Skye Wool Tweed off to the finishers. We are so proud that Skye Wool now makes up a significant part of our product range.
We have always been fascinated by Skye’s weaving heritage so in 2018 we were thrilled to take part in an exhibition about the island’s ‘lost’ weaving heritage. As part of the programme at Minginish Village Hall, Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh (Inverclyde Waulking Group) gave a demonstration of waulking (part of the finishing process) using some of our local tweed, accompanied by traditional Gaelic song. We later welcomed them to Glendale to see the finished cloth. You can read more about the ‘Lamb to Loom’ exhibition in our blog.
Continuing the exhibition theme, in 2019 we were pleased to take part in the ‘Textile Art from Skye’ exhibition in Portree. We enjoyed collaborating with others who are passionate about weaving and share our sense of connection to the landscape. You can read interviews with all those who took part in our blog.
Ten years on …
Who would have guessed that just a year later we were all in lockdown, Skye had closed to visitors and we were sewing scrubs for our local NHS. The past few years have been challenging for everyone and we are grateful to everyone who has helped see us through tough times.
Fast forward to 2022 and we are still warping, winding, pedalling, sewing and much more beside, with lots of new creative ideas in the pipeline. Looking forward to the next ten years!
Watch our 10 Years video on YouTube