Today was my chance to meet up with an independent weaver. Only catch is, she’s over 40 miles away on the Isle of Scalpay. Fortunately, these days there is a bridge to Scalpay from Harris so it meant I could drive, and that is what I did. I managed to hire a car in Stornoway and made the drive down to Scalpay with my cousin Rachael, who is in 4th year of Illustration at Glasgow School of Art currently doing a dissertation on Harris Tweed and Island Identity. Once there, we met Sheila Roderick, an English woman who has lived on the island for over 40 years now. She runs Scalpay Linen but does also do Harris Tweed.
I found Sheila very interesting and definitely different from any mill employed weaver I’ve met. Most mill employed weavers do it because it pays. They use a double-width Bonas-Griffith for ease and mass production. Sheila prefers to be more experimental in her work, trying different techniques at various stages of the process to get interesting and unique outcomes. She uses a single-width Hatersley loom for creative control. She’s done some pretty high profile jobs as well, creating a lot of clothes for the big screen. Easily her biggest claim to fame is that she provided the linen used by the costume designers for The Hobbit – she’s convinced that her cloth was used to make Gandalf’s robes! She also noticed her tweed being worn as a jacket by KT Tunstall at the recent Heb Celt Festival.
Definitely worth the drive – we even got some great photos of the stunning landscape along the way and made a flying visit to the Harris Tweed: Isle of Harris warehouse depot where they process all the orders.