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Symbolism in my Ecclesiastical Stoles

At The Workshop we all work together on some things, but we also have our own areas of specialism.  Mine is in Ecclesiastical embroidery - designing, embroidering and making vestments and paraments for use in churches.

Sometimes people choose to buy a stole with one or other of my regular designs, but more often than not there is at least some degree of customisation.   I am known for my stoles with Celtic designs that also feature tartan.  For some people, simply choosing which tartan they want is enough, but for others it is important to get the symbolism right.
This can be achieved in a variety of ways.   For example the stole might incorporate a cross that has significance to the client, or perhaps has representation of some architectural feature of the church in which they serve.
For many, there is a particular saint that has significance.  In the past when literacy was not common, most saints had symbols that helped people to identify them.  Examples of thi…
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Sewing Machines

We have several sewing machines in our workshop and they are on full view so that people who visit us can see us working on them.   Because of this we often get asked about people's problems with their machine, or asked advice about what sort of machine to buy.

One service that we offer is an introductory one-to-one course "Get to know your sewing machine".  At a mutually convenient, pre-arranged time you can come with your sewing machine and I will go through it with you step by step explaining how it works, the importance of good maintenance, giving advice about stitch choice, tension, bobbin winding and so on.

Recently a young woman came in with her very elderly Singer machine which had sat un-used in a cupboard for about 10 years.  This prompted me to get out some of my older machines and have a good look at them again.    I thought people might enjoy seeing some photographs and reading a bit about them, why we chose them and what we have done with them.

First of all…

Making a warp

I spent today in the loomshed.  Things have been hectic over the last few weeks and I have hardly had a chance to go near the loom.  However yesterday with some assistance from a friend I got a few little repairs done on the loom and so I am ready to get weaving again.
First job (long overdue) was to do a general clean and tidy.  Once that was done I sorted out some yarns and started making a new warp.
This particular warp will be used to weave some dark blue tweed for Paul Taggart.  Paul is an artist that I have been working with over the last year or so.  His current project is writing and illustrating a book called The Elphen Chronicles which will be something of a collector's item.  It will be a very lavish book, for which Paul has painted magnificent large oil paintings along with lots of line and wash vingettes and watercolour paintings.  His partner Eileen is filming every stage of this and the book will be available first as a video book.
My involvement is in making variou…

The nearest we get to mass production....

Everything we make in The Workshop is individually made, no two items identical unless for some reason they have been ordered that way - for example a pair of cushions.
Sometimes, however, we do make a lot of the same thing, it's just that they all turn out different from each other.  For example, over the last couple of days, the embroidery machine has been hard at work embroidering little celtic designs onto small pieces of Harris Tweed that we turn into keyrings.  
We make two types of keyring - a basic small fob that on one side says "Made in the Highlands" and on the other has a Celtic knot - and a small zip purse keyring that has a Celtic knot and a Harris Tweed label.
This week we made 100 of the small keyrings and 60 of the purse keyrings and no two are the same.  There may be a few made with the same tweed, but they will be stitched with different colours of embroidery thread and with different knotwork designs.
When we make things in these quantities we do our …

The Workshop is almost ready......

Well, it has been a long haul but we are very nearly there.
On Friday, 2nd March we open our doors to the public once more so if you are over this way, stop and say hello.  Fortunately Inverness seems to
have escaped the snow that is covering much of the country, so we should be fine for opening our doors.
For some reason, it seems to be a general rule that building and refurbishment work takes twice as long (and costs twice as much) as you plan for.  I think I should have taken out shares in B&Q before I started down this route.
The work seems to have gone in jumps - some big, some little.  Yesterday the particular thing of note was that we got our new signs up.   We hope they will encourage people to stop and come in to see what we do.
Today we are making felt coverings for our display heads that we use to show our range of hats.  In the past we never had space to have more than three heads on display.  Now we have space to show all ten styles, plus the Harris Tweed headbands a…

A very busy week.....

It's been a busy week...... On Monday I dismantled the computers and tidied up the cable spaghetti that connected everything together. It's all in the one box - I just have to hope that I can figure out how to put it all back together. Then I set to work and put the first coat of paint on walls and ceiling of that little part of the studio. On Tuesday morning I went back in and painted the second coat.  Then I went and collected my sister off the bus from Glasgow and together we headed over to the Isle of Lewis for a couple of days. It is now a full year since our mother died and we had various loose ends that needed tying up - plus friends to visit and tweed to buy....  We were blessed with beautiful, calm, sunny weather and managed to fit in a walk across to the other Calanais stone circles - which Susan had never been to before despite over three decades of visiting the island. She spent a happy hour or so taking photographs from every imaginable angle, trying out the n…

How to chill out in the holidays.....

For over a year we have been planning to do a major refurbishment of The Workshop.  We need more space to store our fabrics, more space to display our stock and a better organised area to work in.  Following discussion with our very obliging landlord, it was agreed that the best plan was for him to clear his "junk" out of the attic and let us take over that space.

It took a while, but we finally got the attic cleared in November and then got the whole roof lagged and boarded with lights and sockets installed.  Early in December we had a carpenter come in and build us a bespoke workbench/storage unit.

Things then had to hang fire a bit while we got ready for Christmas, but after a lovely few days with family and friends it was back to work.
At this stage, we have not got heating installed in the attic, and I forgot to take out the spare electric heater from home.   Thursday was a seriously cold day.... -5°C, grey and damp - the kind of cold that gets right through you.   And of …