Crossbost Harris Tweed
Growing up we were home-educated for a couple of years, during which time our mother enabled us to try out all kinds of textile crafts including felting, dying, spinning and weaving. After visiting the Isle of Harris for the first time I fell in love with Harris Tweed and dreamed of creating my own cloth. My mother bought me a table top harris loom for my birthday and I experimented with yarns, colours and designs. During another visit to the islands a few years later I was able to participate in a spinning session which increased my interest in creating my own cloth.
I bought myself a spinning wheel and practiced spinning, dying my own yarn, and weaving into colourful fabrics. My dream to weave harris tweed I never seriously considered as the idea of moving to the Islands seemed unobtainable.
Years later, however, I was desperate to move out of the Wirral, where I had been living during university, and was pouring over property prices when I realised, we might just be able to do it. I told my mother and siblings that my husband and I were planning on moving to the Isle of Lewis, but far from dismay they said they were going to come too! This is when the little spark of excitement started that maybe becoming a weaver wasnt so unobtainable...
Two years on and I had purchased a rundown property in Crossbost and my sister had bought an even more delapidated croft house in Ranish. We moved in autumn 2017, to a house with no heating, no insulation, bare concrete floors, broken windows and missing a staircase! My dream of becomming a weaver went on a back burner as with no funds and nowhere to weave that was going to have to wait.
Ten months after moving however I was talking to a local weaver in the shop where I had been selling my clothing and jewellery and I mentioned my desire to become a weaver. Speaking with him ignited that excitement once again and I began to seriously look into making my dream a reality. When the same weaver rang me only a couple of weeks later to say he had found me a loom, I decided to just go for it!
Being blessed with a builder for a husband we decided to build a weaving shed in the garden. Some generous donations of materials, a bank loan and some serious scrimping later I have the most stunning shed a girl could wish for!
In 2018 I passed my test piece, produced my first paid roll for the mill and moved the loom into my new shed, I am now weaving my own unique designs, selling some of the cloth and using the rest to create my clothing, bags, home wear and accessories. In 2019 I taught my sister to weave. After passing her test piece and becoming a registered weaver, she now weaves on my loom to help increase my output as I had a baby girl in April 2020 which has limited my weaving time somewhat!
Western Isles Designs
As a child I was incredibly fortunate to have a mother who, from the moment we were able to, encouraged us to sew, knit, paint, draw and write. On holiday we would keep diaries and sketchbooks, at home we would create barbies latest outfit, knit our own winter woolies and paint the stunning forest in which we lived. My first solo creation was a satin ballgown with pink rose buds for barbie of which I was inordiantly proud. From then on I was always getting out the sewing machine and experimenting. Some of those early works I look back on and cringe!
Aged 19 I worked in a menswear store in Birkenhead, and from there was head hunted to manage an independent mens tailors where I also carried out alterations to garments. This gave me access to a world of fabric and designs, and built my experience in measuring, creating and tailoring garments as well as enabling me to sell bags, waistcoats, jewellery and accessories through the shop.
I made my dream move to the Outer Hebrides in autumn 2017. From my studio in the tiny village of Crossbost on the Isle of Lewis I work on my creations. These are then sold via my studio shop, online and in my outlet space in Stornoway in a shop new for 2020, The Empty House!
Western Isles Jewellery
Growing up in the Forest of Dean and spending holidays in the Outer Hebrides I was inspired by nature from a very early age. I was always collecting leaves, twigs, shells, stones, interesting bones and feathers. Then thinking; now what do I do with this? Making displays, creating ‘interesting’ wearable art and generally cluttering the house in a satifying way. After moving to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in the autumn of 2017 this magpie habit continued with the stunning oportunities provided by the pristine white beaches covered in delicate, colourful and infinitely varied shells. It was my desire to display the incredible detail in each unique find that led to the creation of Western Isles Jewellery.
Western Isles Art
I have always drawn and painted but having had no formal training beyond GCSE Art I always thought no-one would want to purchase my paintings. I did sell a couple of pet portraits at college, but that was the extent of my professional art career! However when I moved up here I had to draw and paint the wildlife and scenery around me and after sharing on Facebook had my first two sales! This gave me the confidence to try out my work at a local craft fair and they sold straight away. Since then my skills have increased and my confidence in my subject matter, something that is hugely satisfying to look back on. I love to capture the surrounding landscapes - especially fleeting moments such as sunrise, sunset, snow, tides etc. and the local wildlife and croft animals. I have my favorites - puffins especially - but also love being challenged by new animals and am very happy to accept commissions for specific scenes or wildlife.
Where am I now?
2020 was an eventful year! Covid and lockdown meant we didn't have tourists until the middle of the summer and then it was a crazy busy season. Autumn and Winter lockdowns meant moving the business almost entirely online and closing the shop which is where we are at currently, although I am hoping for at least a reduced tourist season later in the year. Anyway Covid wasn't even remotely the most important thing that happened to us last year - we had a baby in April 2020, Rosie-May. I am still working, because I am addicted to making things (I was knitting well into labour), Rosie-May sits on my lap while I sew, or plays on the floor or runs around in her walker chasing the animals and generally causing chaos! She is fascinated by everything I make and I don't think it will be long before she is sewing, drawing, knitting and generally creating her own designs!