Thursday, 30 September 2010

Oh what a beautiful morning.....

Well, the sun is shining, the sky is blue (over 50% of it anyway!) and I'm raring to go.  At least I would be if I had calculated the yardage of thick ends for my Hobbit Linen.  As it is, I've got 16 sections sitting on the warping mill and am sitting in the house furiously treadling away on the wheel twisting up enough for the final 18 sections.
Sorry no pictures today - pc in slo-mo mode so don't have time to wait for eternal uploading.
Second sewing class at Tweeds with Style in Drinnishader on Tuesday evening went interestingly.  Turns out my sewing machine was horribly clogged up with bits - understandably since I've never cleaned it.  And my needle was blunt.  Fortunately the problem was sorted out quickly and I now know the bits to unscrew and where to dust inside to keep it bright and shiny.  Also turns out that I can sew in a straight line - bit of a surprise there.  Homework this week is unpicking everything we did at class and sewing it in again.

Another bit of interesting news is that I heard Sallie Jayne Avis - the bridal wear designer and maker from Ness has used the white herringbone linen which I wove for her last year - it is now a lovely bridal coat incorporated with frilly drapy bits and beads.  It looks just gorgeous.  Join Sallies Facebook and see on page 3 of the photos "Scalpay Linen".  It is so amazing to see our cloth being used - it really brings it alive. 

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Traditional Fare - something to do while its raining!

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to make a traditional dish - so please pay attention.
Ingredients you will need:  3lb self-raising flour; 1 1/2 cups (use a small mug) brown sugar; 1 1/2 cups currants; pinch of salt; 3 tablespoons margarine; 1 1/2 tablespoons black treacle; 2 teaspoonsful ground cinammon; 1 teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda; 2 eggs (free range) beaten; milk to mix. 
A square cloth of a firm weave - I use a pillow case that was originally unbleached cotton (gosh, remember those?) opened out flat; a bit of string to tie it up; a large stock pot of boiling water and three hours spare....

Here are the ingredients before we start.  Put everything into a large bowl (or very clean plastic bucket) and rub in the margarine.  Add milk to make a stiff dough - you know you've got it right when it alll sticks together - but beware of overdoing the milk, it should stick to itself, not to you! 

If it looks like the picture above then you've got it about right.

Take your cloth and put it into a bowl.  Cover with boiling water from the electric kettle and then wring it out - be very careful because after all, the water is boiling and scalds are not part of the recipe.
Lay the wet hot cloth out flat and put a handful of flour on it.  Smooth it out and then put the mixture onto the cloth.  Make sure the flour covers the mixture.
Gather the cloth up firmly around the mixture and tie very tightly with a piece of cord.  This is very important since you don't want water swilling in and out of the cloth whilst its cooking.
Lower it carefully into the pot of boiling water and simmer for three hours - turning it over half way through.
Don't forget to open the window while its cooking unless you want to take the wallpaper off the walls!
After three hours, carefully remove it from the water - again taking full cognizance of the fact that it will be very, very, very hot.  Remove the cloth and place it on a plate.  Allow to cool.
Slice and eat - on its own, with butter or jam, or fried with bacon.  If you don't like the rind then give it to the dog.
This dish is known as a Duff, a Dumpling or a Pudding depending on where you are.  It's very filling and lasts for some days before it goes dry. 
This recipe is by courtesy of Mrs Ferguson and I am sharing it with the world as its definitely too good to keep private.

Tomorrow I'm off to Grimsay on Uist for the Michaelmas Open Day event on Saturday.  I shall be taking my camera so hope to have some photos for a future post.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Lots of things to tell you....

Loads has been happening since my last blog.  We had big problems with our dial-up internet access in the house which meant I only had the broadband in the shed and since the shed has been packed out almost every day during opening hours, there just hasn't been the opportunity to update the blog.  However, now we have a dongle for mobile broadband (which isn't actually broadband since we don't get broadband mobile here, instead it works at the same speed as dial-up!), so we are communicado again from the house.  It does get very complicated living here sometimes....

Daisys lamb is growing up fast - here he is enjoying a bottle.  Sadly this morning we lost the first lamb we hand-reared, from Braxy.  It was such a cold night with gale force wind, low temperatures and driving rain that I guess it was inevitable that at least one lamb wouldn't make it.

On a more cheerful note - Harris Dog who emigrated to the US has been travelling again.  Here he is at Damariscotta Lake in Maine enjoying the company of another new friend - Marley the Corgi.  We look forward to getting further updates on his adventures from Sandy.

Lots of really interesting folks in the shed over the past couple of weeks - Lorna the corset maker from Edinburgh took some of my white herringbone linen which she said would look fabby and has promised to send me a photo when complete, which I will post on the blog.

Carin from Australia who is heavily into tweeds and tailoring visited for the second time bringing examples of her designs.  Carin has a company called "Taigh an Truish" which, translated from Gaelic means "House of Trousers".  Apparently there was a time in history when the Gaels were prohibited from wearing tartan, kilts etc but they ignored the rule when they were at home.  If they travelled away, they would leave their highland dress at "Taigh an Truish" and change into lowland dress.  Then on the way back they would change again!  Carin is hoping to move to Harris in the future and continue her business from the heart of the tweedlands.  We wish her all the best and look forward to welcoming her.

Jean, Treasurer of the mid-Essex Spinners, Weavers and Dyers Guild, visited armed with two gorgeous grey Shetland fleeces which she swopped for two Hebridean ones.  Jean does a great deal of hand-spinning and also is a great fan of Natural Fibres Ltd in Launceston.  She took some photos and we had a great time chatting about spinning, weaving, fibres, etc etc, and the time went too quickly.  She is hoping that her guild will be able to arrange a crafting tour to the Hebrides which sounds like a great idea.

If you're a vegetarian, best skip over this paragraph...  At the beginning of the month we had a delivery from BruHighlanders - .  They stay at Brue in west Lewis (we got our dog Bramble from Brue and also collect Hebridean fleeces from a croft in the same area) and produce prime highland beef which is really spectacular.  We've already had a joint and some mince from the pack and it is delicious.  I would recommend them to anyone who is in the market for locally produced meat from , beautifully cared-for animals.  Don't know why it's taken us so long to decide to try local beef - we already produce our own lamb/mutton, eggs and chicken.  Together with potatoes from the croft and sitting in front of a peat fire, what more do we need for the perfect life?

Actually, I can answer that - my last Hebridean Harris Tweed was turned back by the stamper at the Harris Tweed Authority.  Haven't asked why yet, but imagine its either a "Friday-afternoon" tweed (ie really badly woven!) or I've got the weights all wrong.  Anyway, its good to know that the HTA are dancing on their toes and keeping up standards.  Interestingly, on the same day I got an order from our customers in London who sell to the entertainment industry for costumes etc. for linen cloth to go to New Zealand for use in the new production of "The Hobbit".  That news bucked us up no end as its been a while since Scalpay Linen was out in public - last outing I think was Glyndebourne a couple of years ago, though I think there was a little something in the TV version of "Merlin".

Here is the left hand side of our new Harris Tweed which is on the loom just now.  Had a really bad time with the accent threads which were just not right at all, so I swapped them for some of the space-dyed Harris wool which featured in an earlier blog and they fit in very well.  Have had some very encouraging compliments about the look of the tweed.  Seems to have the right number of shots per inch and nice straight edges so hope this one will go through the stamper ok.

The new training for weavers in Harris is due to start in January 2011.  We were down at the workshop in Harris where the double width looms are set up and the project seems to be progressing well.  The Hattersley weavers will get training on their own premises - as there is less work for the Hattersley looms from the mills the intention is that these weavers will be setting up their own small businesses around the looms, in much the same way as Scalpay Linen operates.  Adverts inviting applications will be appearing in the local press very soon.