On Thursday 5th November 140 P6 pupils from the Charleston Academy ASG enjoyed a day learning about the traditions and skills used to produce clothes from wool.
Pupils from Beauly, Dochgarroch, Kinmylies, Kirkhill, Muirtown, Teanassie and Tomnacross primary schools were split into groups named after Scottish breeds of sheep: Scottish Blackface, Soay, Shetland, Hebridean and North Ronaldsay. They all learnt some specifics about each breed and then how a fleece is shorn and how the wool is sorted, washed, carded and spun.
They had hands on experience of all the activities involved in weaving cloth from a fleece. With the help of representatives from the Highland Guild of Weavers and Spinners they carded and spun some washed fleece, then they had a chance to begin weaving some yarns on looms Crofting Connections provide to the schools. These went back to each school at the end of the day so the pupils could continue to weave.
Often storytelling and singing would have accompanied the tasks of spinning and weaving. Bob Pegg, a traditional storyteller, told the children some stories with a crofting theme such as the fiddlers who went into the fairy hill of Tomnahurich in Inverness.
In addition, the children learnt how to finish tweed cloth to make the fibres knit more closely to make it more weather proof. This was done by soaking it and thumping it rhythmically by hand. To help with the rhythm crofters sang ‘waulking’ songs mostly in Gaelic. Children got the chance to learn some Gaelic words and song extracts with Christina Stewart while recreating the activity of preparing the cloth.
We were also lucky to have an education officer from the Sew Ewe project at the Glasgow Clyde Textiles unit with us to create some of the pupils’ own designs on calico fleeces placed over wooden sheep. Activities included finger knitting with yarn they measured out themselves and stitching a design or word onto a piece of material sown onto the fleece.
All the activities on the day gave the children experience of a sustainable way of living traditional to the Highlands and Islands. They also learnt about the skills needed for a career in textiles, helping meet the aims of Developing Scotland’s Young workforce.