Highland Threads

I love to weave cloth, although I don’t actually spend much time weaving. I get paralyzed by what to do next. Should I pick a  pattern or modify one or design my own? So many options!

On this trip to Scotland I found myself doing a few-things-weaving. 

  1. I looked for yarn. It turns out that buying yarns in the heart of the Highlands sheep industry is just about impossible. I found yarn three times in two weeks and only 2 were local/regional products. The first one I saw was a lovely dark grey with flecks of white (only 3 skeins available!), but it wasn’t just what I wanted so I wanted so I waited. The 2nd find a few days later was lovely, lofty, hand-dyed yarn, but in pastels I didn’t think I’d ever use. Being a Floridian there’s not much use for wool, so it did need to be the right thing. Now I wish I’d bought the first, not-quite-right dark wool, it was lovely in its own right and I would have used it.
  2. I studied tartan patterns. Not so much the color combinations or which-was-whose, but the patterns. With the right color order and number of threads you can create some lovely, interesting, simple-to-weave cloth.    With a full time day job, simple-to-weave is important to me. A relatively recent tweed designed for Balmoral with Highlands colors in mind. I only see five distinct colors in the cloth (browns and cream, with blended blues and wee shots of red), but it presents as multiple shades due to the interplay in the tight tweed weave.   
    The Murray of Atholl tartan is more traditional, tartan plaid with a lovely interplay of thread patterning. You can see the thread color order from the fringe and the overall from the cloth. It’s also traditional in that the warp and weft thread orders are the same, so the same pattern emerges whichever way you look at the cloth.  
     A more modern take on tartan plaid is easy to accomplish and creates a whole new realm of color patterning. One series of colors and threading sequences can be set up in the warp and another in the weft. The effect can be very interesting and invites endless color pattern and mood possibilities.  Makes for some interesting fringe too!
  3. I found I was taking patterns of patterns, both color and shape. Boulders with species of barnacles, moss or lichens and maybe some wildflowers.    
     Hillsides of heather, with and without trees.   
     Flowers overflowing rock walls.   
     Rocky crags topped with heather carpets.   
     Fences (the Scots have lots of stone fences with various capping styles).   
     Lochs in the landscape.   

From all of this, I have way more ideas about cloth to create than time. Some are more amenable to tapestry, which I’ve dabbled at – and should try again with some of the landscape patterns. More likely is that I’ll translate some of the tartan patterning into some projects. Perhaps a variant on the balmoral tartan for a jacket, or a more modern plaid patterning for an upcoming towel exchange. Possibly a throw using a hand dyed warp with the warp thread order based on a plaid….


One thought on “Highland Threads

  1. I’m hoping to get back to Scotland before too much longer and I really want to do some of what you’ve done. I’m a weaver, too, and would love to get to Harris, where the Harris Tweeds are still being made in crofts. Your photos are great!

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