Monthly Archives: May 2012

Traditional Crafts Map of the British Isles

For a while now I have been thinking that it would be great if I could add a Traditional Crafts Map to this blog.  Somewhere I could pin all crafts from all the different places that I visit.  I have also been thinking it would be great to find a way for other people to interact with the site more.

Whilst I am having a great time on my virtual journey, it’s going to me a very long time to meander my way around the British Isles, hunting down all the different regional traditional crafts.  If other people could add their own local crafts to a map as well it would be fantastic and I am sure that some obscure regional crafts will be uncovered.

Now such a map is way beyond me in computer terms, so it’s lucky that I have found some clever people who have done it already.  Historypin is a place where people can pin images, video and audio on a map.  Anyone can upload images and so a huge historical database is being created.

I have created a Potter Wright and Webb channel with a traditional crafts map of the British Isles where I shall be pinning all the regional crafts.  If you have images of regional crafts, please go ahead and get pinning too.  Go to Historypin and create a channel and then pin away.  Images from different channels can be gathered together into a collection.  So let me know and I will add them to the Potter Wright and Webb Regional Crafts Collection.  Any images of craft objects associated with a particular region welcome.

Please visit – A Traditional Crafts Map of the British Isles.

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Lots of Lovely Dorset Buttons

Finally finished my second tutorial on Dorset Buttons.  Had lots of images of all the samples I made and so I thought I would share them with you all.

Got a bit carried away and kept making more!

One great big Shirt Waister (yes, I know it’s off centre)

Open Weave around a Curtain Ring, a Christmas tree decoration perhaps

I like these ones – On a nice cardigan or maybe a brooch.

I think I have got the Dorset button bug now.  I may even branch out and do some colourful ones.  I found a really nice booklet which gives intricate details of how to make many of the traditional dorset buttons including the High Tops and Singletons.

I am planning on integrating some big ones into some of my embroidery pieces next.  Have a look here.

 ‘How to Make Dorset Buttons Booklet’ by Marion Howitt is available from

www.dorsetbuttons.co.uk

Posted in Dorset, Textiles | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Make a Dorset Button

How to make a Crosswheel Dorset Button

Let’s get one thing straight from the start.   Dorset buttons are not hard.  A bit fiddly perhaps but not hard, so don’t you go giving up before you have even started.  Plus, I have written these instructions assuming that you know nothing, so each and every stage is covered. Those people who know a little bit more than nothing can ignore what is written in italics, these bits are for complete beginners.

NB I am left handed so if you are right you may find it easier to work in the opposite direction to me.

 

You will need

A curtain ring

Fine (2 ply or crewel) wool

crochet cotton or 2 ply wool (size 10 works for me)

Short large eyed blunt needle

Short large eyed sharp needle (this is for casting off if you need to)

 

Casting or covering the ring

1. Thread your needle with about 2.5 metres of your chosen wool or cotton.  You need it this long to cover the whole of the ring and create the spokes of the wheel without having to cast on again

2. Loop thread around ring a couple of times to hold it steady whilst you start off and then blanket stitch* all around the ring.

 

4.  Keep stitches fairly tight and evenly pushed together to cover the ring.  Use the loose end to help hold ring steady.

5.   When you have almost gone around the ring you need to tie in the loose end.  Lie it flat along the ring and blanket stitch over top of it.  Finish blanket stitching and slip needle through the first stitch to finish off.  Then pull the loose end tight and trim (Don’t cut main thread, you haven’t finished yet)

 

Slicking or pushing ridge of the stitch to the inside

Twist the stitches so the ridge is facing inwards.  You can do it gradually and a thumb nail is the perfect implement for this job.

Laying or making the spokes

1.    Have the thread to the front of the ring at 12.00, bring it down to the bottom and bring it back up the back in exactly the middle.  Try and make the blanket stitches part slightly so that your spokes lie flat next to them.

 

2.   Turn the ring ever so slightly and continue to wind over and over to create the spokes.  Aim for eight or twelve spokes for the first button and definitely only eight if you are using wool.  Don’t worry if the spokes look off centre at this stage.

See how the spokes of the wheel are not centred until you have secured them with holding stitch

3.   When you have got back to your first spoke end by taking needle through stitches in the centre from front to back.  Gently nudge the spokes with the needle, so they all cross over each other at the centre.

 

4.    Then bring the needle back up through the stitches and wiggle threads again to ensure the spokes are definitely centred and then do another stitch to secure spokes and to make sure they stay centred.  Make theses two stitches a neat cross as they will show.

Rounding or filling in the gaps

You should still have enough thread left to carry on without casting on or you may wish to change colour at this stage.

1.   Starting in the centre, use back stitch* to loop around each spoke in turn.  Use the needle to nudge each stitch towards the middle.

2.   When you have gone around the wheel once, take a good look at the spokes and make sure they are centred, if they are slightly off then push to the middle with your needle.  This is the last chance to wiggle them and its really easy to forget to do this bit.

2.   After a couple of circuits you will start to see the ridges forming around the spokes.  Fill in the whole wheel or stop whenever it tickles your fancy.

3.   If you need to change thread during this stage. Cast on or off by running thread up or down one of the spokes.

Top tip – there is no need to pull all the thread to the front of the button and then pull it all back to the back.  Bring the needle to the front pull a little thread through, take your stitch back down and then pull all the thread through at once.

4.  Keep pushing the stitches towards the centre of the button to keep everything tight and tidy.

 

And there you go!  Once you have made a basic button it is time to start experimenting.  See my next post for some buttons that I have been making.

 

*Blanket stitch

a. Start with your thread coming through ring from the back to the front at the top.

b.  Pass needle through centre of ring from behind.

c.  You will have created a loop.  Pass needle through this loop

d.  Pull all your thread through loop and pull stitch tight.

e. Repeat stages b-d over and over again!

 

 

 *Back Stitch Weave

a.  Bring needle up through the button on the left of top spoke.

b.  Go down through the button to the right of that spoke.

NB -the button is slightly wonky in this photo.  

c.  Pull tight.

d. Working anticlockwise, bring needle back up through to the left of the next spoke (i.e 11 o’clock)

e. Go down through the button to the right of that spoke.  You can hardly see the first few stitches but it becomes clearer as you go on.

f. Repeat over and over.  Remember; up on the left, down on the right. Working anticlockwise around the button.

 

Is this tutorial clear?  Is there a glaring error?  Please let me know and give me a pat on the back if it’s useful!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dorset, Heritage Crafts, How to Make, Textiles, Traditional Crafts, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Orkney Chair

For those who don’t know,  the Orkney Islands are a series of about seventy islands which are just off the north east coast of Scotland, only sixteen of them are inhabited and it is to here I am journeying today in my virtual jaunt around British Isles.

Relief map of Scotland

The islands lie in the path of the Gulf Stream and so enjoy a climate milder than would be expected so far north. Being a very flat series of islands they are a tad windy, to say the least, and for this reason the islands are almost totally treeless.  Life in the Orkney Islands has always been mainly based around traditional crofting system of farming, which is a system of subsistence farming common in Scotland.

The Orkney Chair has evolved over time as a response to its locality and it is a really good example of how regional craft objects represent the culture, geography and social and economic history of an area.  Like many other regional crafts it is impossible to pinpoint when Orkney chairs were first made, but it is possible to chart how they evolved from simple stools to the full blown chair associated with the islands today.

Early Orkney Chair

Way back when, Orkney chairs were no more than stools and made almost entirely of straw, only the feet of the chair were wooden.  Now, this was because wood was in scarce supply on an island where there were no indigenous trees and it was sensible to make your furniture from material freely available locally and there was plenty of left over straw from the Black Oats, grown to feed the livestock.   This straw was used to make all manner of household items, not only on the Orkney Islands but in many rural areas across the country.  Referred to as lip work the straw was coiled into baskets (known as cubbies and lubbies on the Orkney Islands), twisted in rope known (simmens), formed into mats and used to create beds.

Orkney Chair Makers

As time went by people began to use driftwood, often from ship wrecks, to form the base of the chair, yet it was still no more than a stool covered in straw.  It will never be known who first had the bright idea of adding a low woven straw back, but someone, at some stage, got fed up of crouching on his stool and updated the design to include a back about two feet tall.  The chair was still kept low so people were able to sit close to the ground and avoid the smoke from the open fires burning in the centre of the room.

Cosy old chair

Later still people began to add hoods to the chairs to keep out the draughts and sometimes added a drawer under the seat.  Apparently this was for the man of the house to keep his ‘things’.  (This makes me wonder if the man in my house has Orkney roots as we currently have four ‘man drawers’ full of ‘man things’).

So the Orkney Chair evolved into chair fit for purpose, it is the perfect shape to keep the heat in and the draughts out and used throughout the centuries to provide a comfy seat.  They were made very upright though as nobody just sat they would be sewing, spinning, whittling or doing something.

Of course nothing ever stays the same and in the 1890s there was a bit of  a shake up in the Orkney chair world.  Up until this point the traditional Orkney chair had been made for use by the maker’s own family or to be sold within a small local market, but in the late 1880′s things started to change.

Countess of Rosebery

Firstly, in the later half of the the 1800′s the Arts and Crafts movement had gained in popularity both in England and Scotland and there was an increase in interest in hand made crafts as opposed to factory goods.  In 1889 The Scottish Home Industries Association was founded by the Countess of Rosebery.  Its aim was to promote and ensure a fair payment of, household crafts in Scotland.   It was probable she was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, which was well established in Scotland.  The Association took the traditional crafts of Scotland and sold them to the great and the good ‘down south’.

Concurrently, or maybe as a result of this, a Mr David Kirkness, a joiner of Kirkwall, began to produce four standardised versions of the traditional Orkney chair.  By doing standard versions he was able to increase his output.  The straw backs were all stitched by outworkers, often fishermen and farmers who stitched in the evenings, or whenever they could.  It is estimated he made about 400 chairs per year, far more than other makers.

Orkney Chair with 'man drawer' by Orkney Furniture.co.uk

This new publicity and increased output meant Orkney Chairs became a must have item for the upper classes, Liberty’s of London stocked them, Queen Victoria had one and apparently even the Queen Mother was very keen to and had some too.  This definitely helped the long time survival of a vernacular design classic and Orkney Chairs are still very much in production today.

One very important feature, which has remained unchanged throughout, is the way in which the Orkney chair is constructed. Locally grown straw is used to make the backs which still have to be stitched by hand.  The chair frames, originally made from driftwood, are now more often made from the best quality wood available and beautifully finished by hand.  It is interesting that the chairs are still evolving.  Benches are now made as well as rocking Orkney chairs and fan backed chairs, all of which reflect a modern phenomena we are able to enjoy in this country – just sitting and relaxing!

Cosy Corner Bench by Orkney Furniture.co.uk

 

Buy an Orkney Chair from one of these lovely people;

www.orkneyfurniture.co.uk

www.scapacrafts.co.uk

www.orkneyhandcraftedfurniture.co.uk

www.orkney-chair.co.uk

 

Find out more about Orkney here; 

www.orkneyjar.com

Relax in Orkney here;

www.orkneyretreat.co.uk

Posted in Basketry, Heritage Crafts, Orkney Islands, Traditional Crafts, Wood | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments