Chance encounters

14/11/2013 15:12

Yesterday we had to go to Galashiels and on the way back, we stopped in Selkirk. Somebody had told me about the Borders Scrapstore, which is a charity shop. This shop collects, sorts and redistributes surplus materials from industry, which are safe to use creatively for art, craft and play. Entering the store was like walking into Aladdin’s Cave. It was difficult to know where to start. In the end, I walked out with two different tweed fabrics, cotton tartan, lining fabric to go with the bag I am in the process of making and many zippers.

When we left the shop, we noticed a mill shop in the building opposite and had a look in there. I was not quite sure what to find but they were selling beautiful tweed fabrics, which were woven in their mill. We were the only people in the shop (which was above the mill) and we had a very interesting conversation with the mill owner who told us all about tweed, wool, weaving and weavers, etc. 

I must have sounded very naive thinking that with so many sheep in Scotland they would use the wool from these sheep. However, that did not seem to be the case and thinking about it later, it made a lot of sense. The sheep in colder and wetter climates produce a different, coarser fleece than sheep living in a dryer and warmer climate. Their wool is a lot finer. In the old days, the coarser wool of the local sheep was used to produce the woollen cloth but as time went on and people had more money they wanted the finer quality. The wool of local sheep is now mostly used in the carpet industry. Apparently, for Harris Tweed they still use wool from local sheep.

We had a very informative and interesting morning.

Driving home the weather was fantastic and the forests looked particularly glorious in all the colours between gold and green.

I do love the Scottish borders. Having grown up in Holland where the highest mountain is less than 200 m above sea level I still marvel at mountains and hills. I love the Swiss Alps but could not live there. It gets too depressing after a few days and they make me feel too closed in. I have always loved the Jura and still love living there but the hills in the Scottish borders are different. They are more rolling; in a way, they are softer. You do not even have to be too high up and you can see miles of rolling hills. 

When we first came to the borders, I did not know much about Scotland. I was always under the naive impression that Scotland, Wales and England were the same (North Ireland was different because it was on a different island) and used to talk about England when I meant any of the three. Never having lived in the UK and having obtained British citizenship through marriage, I used to call myself English, which is wrong. I now call myself British. I have also learned to be extremely careful to make a distinction between Scottish and English when I am in the borders.

I also did not know that Hawick used to be and still is to a certain point, the capital of the cashmere industry. Companies such as Hawick Cashmere, Hawick Knitwear, Johnstons of ElginLyle & Scott, Peter Scott, Pringle of Scotland, and Scott and Charters, all have had and in many cases still have manufacturing plants in Hawick, producing some of the most luxurious cashmere and merinowool knitwear in the world today. 

In the time we have been here, I indulged myself in buying cashmere wear. It is beautifully soft and warm.

After having bought some tweed fabrics I am planning to make some bags specifically for the next Presents Galore fair in Kelso and market this as locally produced cloth for my bags. Anyway, that is still a long way off. I have to first think of my summer 14 collection. The tweeds will be for my winter 14 collection.