The Journey of a Linen Tie

The Slow Food Movement has been an inspiration to many and knowing that we have superb textile mills in Scotland I was very keen to produce a product with similar credentials. Scroll down and see the faces behind the various stages of production of my new range of linen ties.

Twenty nine miles from Edinburgh lies a bespoke weavers, Peter Greig, which has been weaving from the same site since 1825. 

Stacking the Flax.

Stacking the Flax. Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

Flax which is used in the production of linen used to be grown in Scotland and Ireland but as Angus Nicoll, Managing Director of Peter Greig explains, our climate is not as well suited as the Benelux countries.

“All the retting that used to happen in Scotland and Ireland was Water retted rather than the standard Dew Retting that is now the norm in the Benelux Countries. The problem with the Scottish and Irish climate is that through July and August we cannot rely on clear skies and warm weather. The climate in Holland, Belgium and France is far more reliable and so the flax straw can be turned daily in the fields and the Dew rets (rots) the straw off the outside of the plant as it is damp in the morning then dried during the day. With our inclement weather the rain comes solidly through all of July and August and the whole plant never dries in the field and as a result the whole plant goes black and rots”

So, the flax is now grown and spun into yarn in the drier European countries before being prepared and woven at Peter Greigs.

Linseed Pods. Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

Linseed Pods.
Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

 

Warping the Yarn Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

Warping the Yarn
Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

Weaving in Progress. Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

Weaving in Progress.
Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

Weaving the Flax

Weaving the Flax

Inspecting the Cloth Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

Inspecting the Cloth
Photo kindly supplied by Peter Greig

And meanwhile, I design the patterns for printing onto the linen from my studio in Edinburgh

Dreaming up my next textile design

Dreaming up my next textile design

Then the plain linen is delivered to sisters Solii and Zoe at BeFabBeCreative, a printing bureau in Edinburgh where they print my designs onto the Fife linen.

Solii Brodie at BeFabBeCreative

Solii Brodie at BeFabBeCreative

From here, I take the printed cloth to Nina Falk, Creative Director at Kalopsia Collective, Edinburgh who stitches the cloth into ties. Kalopsia search for industrial equipment that is no longer being used and save the pieces from being scrapped. They refurbish them and the machines are used in their micro manufacturing facility at Ocean Terminal. Zero Waste Scotland are supporting this venture as it is a great example of the merits of a circular economy.

Nina Falk, Creative Director at Kalopsia Collective

Nina Falk, Creative Director at Kalopsia Collective

Once the ties are stitched, I package them with the story behind the inspiration for each design and Edinburgh photographer, Abi Radford, photographs them.

Photographer Abi Radford and model Jo Radford.

Photographer Abi Radford and model Jo Radford.

The passionate Gordon Millar of Scot Street Style launched my collection of  ties during Tartan Week in Brooklyn, New York earlier this year and their Edinburgh launch was at Design Weekend at the The Fruitmarket Gallery in May.

I have been working on the concept of linen ties since January so having worked for the last seven months with the wonderful creative people I have introduced you to in this post, it gives me a huge amount of satisfaction seeing the finished product and importantly selling this locally produced tie to people who are searching for ethically produced textiles from Scotland. The ties have a distinct character and attitude (I like to refer to them as my bad boy ties!) and I’ve been told offer some good chic-geek vibes around the office (!) so mix up your wardrobe and add some Scottish linen or if you are fed up with ‘double denim’ go the full hog and start a movement for ‘triple linen’ 😉

Thank you everyone who have helped make and launch the ties and thank you to all those buying them too.

And there is a new design coming out at the end of this week, it’s a special summer tie called ‘Prufrock’, one to be worn with white flannel trousers to walk along the beach…any guesses where the inspiration for this ones lies?

Thank you, Huldufólk

Finding the right hole for your peg may take a while. Kids are asked to make ‘career choices’ when selecting their subjects at school. Do they really know what they want to be at that age? Great if they do but I think it’s important for people to know that it’s alright to make career changes throughout life.

Letterpress Christmas Cards

Letterpress Christmas Cards

Perhaps I’m just trying to justify my own wandering career path but I bet I’m not the only one who has discovered what they want to be later in life. I think every job you have is important whether you like it or not because you always learn something – it’s like walking through life wearing a sticky cape – some experiences stick  and others just tumble off until finally the cape feels complete and you feel ready and informed to make the right decisions.

I’ve always worked for small family organisations because I like seeing processes from the start to the finish and enjoy floating from menial tasks to important pitches and although my jobs have all been quite varied, one fact remains absolutely constant – there are always visible people in an organisation and a whole team of ‘hidden people’ supporting them. They often go unnoticed to the end user but they are an integral part of every company.

I work for myself now and that constant layer of hidden people are more important than ever. You may look at my products all finished and ready to buy but other people have helped me reach that finishing line. I always create all of the design work and decide what I want to make but there is of course a process. Take the mugs for instance. I don’t have a kiln to fire the design onto the china, or the skills to do so. That is done by a skilled craftsman, Graham, in the very heart of Britain’s potteries, Stoke- on -Trent. My textile designs are printed here in Edinburgh by the immensely helpful sisters Solii and Zöe from the print bureau BeFabBeCreative. I have had a beautiful tailored blouse made from my ‘Fennel Tangle’ print by seamstress and poet, Claire from Make Me a Frock and no, I don’t have the skills to make bespoke ties – I can design fabric that I want to see as a tie but without Nina and Adam from Kalopsia Collective who constantly encourage and mentor me as well as sew my ties beautifully, I would not have ties in the shops. And in case you wondered, no, I don’t have a Letterpress machine in my studio, but Euginia a superbly helpful and talented Siberian living in Edinburgh does and she presses my cards for me. I’ve talked about Hosanna Yau before, my friend from Hong Kong who is most certainly the best logo designer I have ever come across and she gifted me the ‘niki’ logo. Her mantra is ‘using the least to represent the most’ – perfect.

Linen ties, Made in Edinburgh.

Linen ties, Made in Edinburgh.

 

Letterpress Card Made in Edinburgh.

Letterpress Card Made in Edinburgh.

 

'Tjornin' Mug named after the lake in Reykjavik.

‘Tjornin’ Mug named after the lake in Reykjavik.

 

 

 

Twigs Linen Union Tea towel - fresh new shoots

Twigs Linen Union Tea towel – fresh new shoots

'Toffee Apples' ' printed onto Fife Linen in Edinburgh

‘Toffee Apples’ printed onto Fife Linen in Edinburgh

So, I now have a range of products that are stocked by very supportive independent shops, The Turpentine in London, Persora in Worcester, Concrete Wardrobe and Red Door Gallery in Edinburgh, Kerachers in St.Andrews, Wooly Blue in Newcastle and Teasel and Tweed in Aberdeen and several more which I will tell you about early in 2015.

But back to my title and the Huldufólk. I find my home country of Scotland massively inspiring from the busy colourful urban ports to the utter wilderness of the Western Isles but I have to mention the huge influence Iceland has had on me over the years. I have been several times at varying times of the year and the land, its people and its culture touches me every time and so I hope a little part of Iceland somehow appears in my designs. As this post is about all the people who help me and allow me to work in an area that I very definitely want to stay in, (Surface Design), I think I can borrow the word ‘huldufólk’ from Icelandic folklore – the word for the elves that stay hidden but have such enormous powers and should always be respected.

Thank you Huldufólk, you know who you are.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Thank you!

 

Fennel, a Blouse and a Bag

Have you ever been obsessed with a plant?

I am intrigued with how a plant can become so profoundly influential and evocative. Early memories of brushing past great fronds of wild fennel on the white sand dunes of Northern Brittany have well and truly got into my system.

fennel, Brittany

A few years ago I tried to turn a small corner of Scotland (my garden) into a taste of Brittany by planting fennel and artichoke seeds.  I can now report that both plants thrive in conditions here in Edinburgh and this summer I returned from holiday to find a fennel jungle staring back at me. At this point I was reading a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers , and I was not surprised to discover the Victorians associated fennel with strength and vigour – highly appropriate as my supremely healthy fennel plants had colonised every little crevice they could find, including cracks in the tarmac drive! 

Of course I did the many obvious things with the crop, like eating the bulb, the fronds and the seeds (fresh and dried) and I had huge vases of the decorative stalks in the house which dropped hundreds of beautiful tiny balls of pollen which I gathered to use in a colour study (still thinking of Wolfgang Laib exhibition I saw a few years ago in Washington D.C. ) When I mentioned the pollen to a chef friend from Timberyard he told me the pollen is a great ingredient to add to bread to give it a honeyed aniseed flavour, a good texture and lovely colour. This was news to me but I have since spotted the pollen, often called, The Spice of Angels,  for sale on various specialist spice sites and I have thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with it in my own kitchen. If you are after more ideas, pump in ‘fennel’ to Kellie’s  Food To Glow blog and you will learn about the anti cancer flavonoids present in fennel and find a multitude of great recipes too.

But now for the other influence the plant has had on me – some new work.

Fennel Tangle, silk

This is my most recent design called Fennel Tangle. I had it printed onto 100% Habotai silk by Solli and Zoe at their brilliant Edinburgh print bureau. Although it’s normally homewares that I am involved in, I decided this print had to be worn. Over at Make Me a Frock, you will find Claire, an incredibly talented seamstress (and also a real perfectionist and poet) who has razor sharp observational skills and I knew she would interpret the fabric into a beautiful garment…and by golly she has. Below are images of the blouse she created for me. I am blown away by the design and microscopic stitches on the extremely fine silk. The blouse has that rare power that very occasionally clothes can give – it’s my new ‘cloak’ of strength and vigour, thank you Claire.

front of blouse

back of blouse

I’ve also added several cotton canvas bags to my shop, one of the designs, surprise surprise features a fennel head.

fennel bag

DSC_0006

What is your favourite plant? Do you have early memories of a particular plant? Have any plants played a role in your work?