As I mentioned back in April, I have been involved in a Community Art Project, which is producing a large wall hanging, to be displayed in the stair-well of the Village Hall. I finished the piece of MacLeod of Raasay tartan which is to provide a backing for the MacLeod of Raasay crest which one of our ladies is stitching. I hope to have a photo of the combined piece here fairly soon.
I had long wanted to weave tartan — hence the need for at least a 4 shaft loom — and when I bought the loom last summer I began to think that it would be a great idea to have an island tartan. The problem was to find a way to suggest that to the community at large and the Community Art Project turned out to be the ideal opportunity.
There are various ways in which the tartan could be used. Making craft items is the obvious one. Many people here have surnames which don't belong to any of the established Scottish clans and therefore they don't have a tartan of their own. Visitors coming to the island may not want to buy anything made in or displaying a Clan tartan, but would perhaps be happy to do so with a tartan specific to the island. It may be possible to have ribbon made in our tartan; it could be printed on greetings cards, post cards and display or gift boxes; it would be possible to have the tartan professionally woven - a kilt length say, or fabric for skirts and waiscoats and so on. It might be incorporated into uniforms for the workplace perhaps (our hotel or the new distillery perhaps?). Surely more ideas will come to mind.
I designed 4 different patterns incorporating colours which the people involved in the Community Art Project had been discussing and using. These were offered for the community to consider and vote on over the last month and at the Art Project workshop on the afternoon of the 19th, some of the Primary children counted the votes.
Pattern 1 was the very clear winner and this weekend I will start to the work of forming the warp and dressing the loom. I have to weave a short piece for the tartan register and then a piece around 3 yards in length and about 15 inches wide to be draped on the Community Art Project wall hanging - not a quick job!! There has already been some interest in garments being made in the new tartan so we may arrange for commercial weaving of a length of the tartan fabric. I can't see me ever weaving a full kilt length!!!