patterning the land drawing workshops


With support of An Lanntair, workshops have taken place all over Lewis in the A’ deilbh na Tíre: patterning the land project..  Participants have been drawing and painting all the small things on Lewis moor  and participants have been from age 5 – 85!   The drawings will be combined to create a  new digital pattern for the moor and will celebrate the small often overlooked things in such a vast environment.

Hebridean Celt Festival have been in touch and we are discussing an exciting outcome for the results.  The designs to date have been printed onto canvas at HIghland Print Studio and bunting has been created to hang outside An Lanntair. It is hoped that each community involved can have their own bunting for community celebrations.






many thanks to artist Christine Morrison for photographs.




wallpaper (2)I have been gathering imagery of all the small things from the moor and on my last visit to Lewis I visited Alison Macleod in her studio. She  is a textile designer/artist from The Isle of Lewis whose designs are inspired by her native Hebridean heritage. Many thanks to Alison  for allowing me to photograph her wallpaper scrap collection which has been donated by many local people on the island.

One of the wallpapers has provided inspiration for digital manipulation in Photoshop leading to design ideas for digital print .


wallpaper strip

apron pattern


colour experim

A’ deilbh na Tíre: patterning the land


I have just returned from Highland Print Makers and had a great few days learning about Printmaking and creating a split edition print for the project.  Developing ideas of ‘patterning the land’ and celebrating  the ‘patterned‘ women  that walked the moor, I have been drawing the small plants and flowers on the moor.  These have been created on film and exposed to screen in preparation for printing onto a digital image.

Working with John Mc Naught, I have learned alot about the subtleties of screen printing, colour mixing and layering of inks to create subtle effects.




Beag + Mòr

ladies sexy peat

Patterning the land.

When setting out on my research trip to Lewis I didn’t have a definite plan of what I would do there and hardly looked at  a map or checked a weather forecast. I was interested in allowing the people I met direct my research and ideas.  Through conversation and observation, I  became very interested in the plant life on the moor and the small beautiful flowers  I came across.  This,combined with an interest in the social history,  has helped me develop ideas for the project.

I have been trying to find gaelic proverbs / sayings relating to  small things + big things .

Is moid rud a roinn   A thing is the bigger of being shared

Cha ‘n ‘eil ach moran eadar a bho ‘s a’ mheanbhchuileag   The cow is only a good deal bigger than the midge

Ge beag an t-ugh thig eun as   Though the egg be small, a bird will come out of it.

fabric black houses

I came across a postcard when visiting the black house in Lewis. The postcard is of three women all dressed in patterned pinnies. I then began to notice many different patterns in photos of women in Lewis in the 1940’s an 50s.  Many of the women who walked across the moor would have worn brightly patterned cloth and when looking at archive photos of women at the shielings, I noticed many were smartly dressed .

Shielings were also often papered with left over wallpaper  and curtains were made and brought to the shielings each year. It seems that pattern and colour was a big part of life on the Lewis moor .

The women were fond of brightly coloured garments, and for everyday use, would wear a polka, long sleeved blouse, with a cota, serge skirt, which hung a few inches below the knee. For special occasions, a hand knitted shawl might be worn over a best blouse ………

As early as 1833, cotton shirts and print gowns were beginning to supersede the home-made garments, especially in the town. Gay colours appealed to the Lewis women, and as brightly coloured garments increased in popularity , the early evangelical Island preachers became extremely concerned. The Rev. Alexander Macleod of Uig thought that it showed unduly frivolous minds, which endangered immortal souls as well as spending money unnecessarily

Lewis. A history of the island by Donald Macdonald


  Imagephoto by Anne Campbell


Artist Anne Campbell  has kindly donated a  fleece from her sheep Bàn which I hope to be able to spin and make a piece of work from.

I have been told that sheep have an innate sense of the moor so it seems only right to use materials with association with the bog and its social  history.  Fellow Tir mo Rùin artist Anne Campbell has been gathering a beautiful glossary of gaelic terms associated with the moor. I particularly like this one about sheep returning to the moor.

‘astar, sheep will always return to the area of moor in which they spent their first summer.  This is called their astar or innis.’

I managed to contact Barvas Spinning group  and Rhoda kindly did a mailout to members to see if anyone was up for spinning Bàn’s lovely coat.   Margaret from the  group was up for the challenge so watch this space for further news of Bàn home spun wool.


While on Lewis, (with the help of Mary Smith)  I travelled to Ness to visit Callum MacLean at Butt of Lewis Textiles . It took us a while to find his house and anonymous weaving shed and we had to stop and ask crofters,who were in the process of shearing a sheep, for directions.    He was working in the mill but his wife kindly showed us around his weaving shed . I naively thought I may be able to commission a piece of tweed or collaborate with Callum but he is so busy with mill orders and working both at Carloway mill and at his weaving shed at home that it was not possible. However I did buy a beautiful piece of dark tweed which I hope to embroider for the project.  It is fantastic to hear that weavers on Lewis are busy and that their skills and wonderful tweeds are in demand.

Hand-made, home-made

The growth in demand has ensured there’s also a demand for more weavers. At present, there are about 150 self-employed islanders who weave at their homes. Most are in Lewis. There are a further 125 people working in the three Lewis mills and at the Harris Tweed Authority, set up by law to protect its status.  Most of the weavers supply the mills, while a few are independent, designing their own fabrics, often for the craft market.  Twenty-two young islanders have been put through a training course, and more are being sought.  One of the graduates is Heather MacLeod, 22, from Tarbert on Harris. She is the granddaughter of a weaver, and observes: “There’s a need for younger weavers to take up the trade. “There’s a lot of people going back to doing home industries – candle-making, soap-making. These are companies that are thriving just now and everybody is looking for things that are hand-made and home-made. It’s coming back, and there are plenty opportunities for people.  

Harris tweed weaving a brighter future   BBC news. 



Butt of Lewis Textiles weaves Harris Tweed and designs and produces unique tweeds to bespoke design. All stages of tweed preparation and weaving is made by hand. The bobbins are used to warp the tweed first of all. The warp being handmade to ready a tweed for the loom. After the design of the tweed has been decided on, the warp is put on a beam then the threads (700 threads for the 75cm, 1400 for the 150cm) are knotted one by one by hand. This has to be double checked for perfection of the pattern of the tweed before the weaving of the cloth begins.

Once woven, the tweed has to be finished, washed, scoured, then dried in a special machine and given a blown finished if required. In the case of Harris Tweed the cloth will then be stamped with the world famous Orb mark to certify that it is genuine

micro + macro

I have been finding it difficult to describe our amazing walk and overnight stay on the shieling but when reading Alice Starmores writing on the shieling I was really interested in her descriptions of ‘micro and macro’ on the moor.  This connects well with my interest  in the small things and the  ‘micro’ of the moor.

“We lived on the border between micro and macro – our detailed observations were balanced against the broad sweep of the open moor”

Language, landscape and life on Lewis Moor.  Alice Starmore

I have been told that a local councillor described the moor as ‘a vast are of nothingness’.  I wonder if he has walked the moor and taken time to observe  the ‘micro’ .






Cheo geal ri canach an t-sléibe ‘as white as the bogcotton’

“If our peatlands were about wildlife and wilderness in the twentieth century, the conservation and restoration of peatlands today is as much about us and our climate. Peat is a glutton for carbon, and the more that is sequestered in the sodden peats of our wetlands, the less that is released into the atmosphere to warm the planet (I think of the quantity of carbon in the atmosphere as akin to the tog rating on that duvet: all things being equal, the higher the concentrations or the rating, the warmer we get. The maths is as simple as that)”

A plea for peat; The beauty of the moorland plant cottongrass reminds us why our peat bogs desperately need saving.  Andy Byfield. Guardian . 25 July 2013


Canach  Common cottongrass, Bog Cotton ( Eriophorum angustiflorioum)

When walking on the moor Anne told me of  a pair of gloves made from Bog Cotton which were made by a local lady in the past.  I can’t imagine how it was made with the short wispy fibres but would have loved to see them  to investigate.  On a guided moor walk,  Ruaraidh Maclean  gave  us more facinating information on bog cotton, gaelic language of the moor  and of many other plants and flowers of the bog.

Carmicheal says that a highland girl was not considered fit for marriage ,  an Dèanadh  i lein canaich dha leannan agus paidhir stocainnean dhi fhein ‘ until she made a shirt of the mountain down for her lover and a pair of stockings for herself ( Carmina Gadelica VI)

Garments were made from Bog cotton at the Great exhibition in 1851

Mr Mac Dougall has been attempting to get up new native dyes but new native material for cloths. He exhibited two stuffs which were great curiosities in their way. One cloth was made out of the down of bog cotton and the other cloth made of the fur of the white or alpine hare

The Great Exhibition of 1851

red moss

Coinneach Dhearg, Coinneach Liath, Mointeach Liath Mosses including Sphagnum Moss

Coinneach applies in general to mosses and also spagnum. Gathered and dried in the sun, coinneach is highly absorbent and mildly antiseptic.

“when they are in any fatigue by travel or otherwise, they fail not to bathe their feet in warm water wherein red moss has been boiled and rub them with it on going to bed”

Martin Martin, A description of the Western Islands of Scotland 1703 

IMG_1238Driuchd na Maidne  Round leaved sundew  (drosera rotundifolia)

The plant is sufficiently caustic to erode the skin; some ladies mix the juice with milk so as it make it an innocent and safe application to remover freckles and sunburns ( Mc Neill)