At the end of last week I sent off my contributions for the #femedtechquilt project, and I’m not going to lie, it was hard to part with them. As soon as Frances Bell raised the idea for this amazing project I knew that I wanted to make something out of Harris Tweed, a protected, handmade fabric that is only made in the Outer Hebrides where I’m from, and which is woven into the identity of both the islands and the islanders. I decided to try and make a representation of the header image of this blog, not only because Open World is where I share my open practice, but also because that header image is my own picture of one of my favourite places in the whole world, Traigh na Berie beach in Uig, on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis. I’ve visited this beach almost every year of my life since I was a small child, I did my higher geography project on the flora of the beach, my Masters dissertation was on the anthropomorphic landforms of the surrounding area, I worked on archaeological excavations there, and I use another picture of the beach as my twitter header. I’ve also returned there frequently with my own daughter. It’s a place that I have a deep attachment to, which has always inspired me, and still does.
I already had some beautiful left-over tweed from a length I bought to make curtains for our VW camper van, and I bought a bundle of off-cuts when I was home in Stornoway in the summer. It wasn’t difficult to make a rough representation of the beach, as the colours of the tweed naturally echo the colours of the Hebridean landscape. Sewing it was more of a challenge. My mother taught me to sew when I was a kid, but it’s not something I do regularly, other than altering clothes. In order to sew my square, I had to get my mother’s sewing machine, which I inherited when she passed away a few years ago, repaired and reconditioned. Using it seemed fitting, as she was a talented seamstress who used that machine to make beautiful tweed coats and jackets for my sister and I when we were young. I was really pleased with the way the square turned out, it looked much better than I could have hoped. One thing that really surprised me when I was making the square was just how evocative the smell of pressed tweed is. It immediately took me right back to the islands and my childhood. For me, this square represents hope, inspiration, and the unbreakable threads that connect us to the people and places we hold dear.
Open Scotland logo drawn in fabric pen on cotton cut from one of my daughter’s old school shirts, and it represents the hope that one day all publicly funded educational resources in Scotland will be freely and openly available to all. Open Scotland was an initiative that I founded, along with Joe Wilson, Sheila MacNeil, Phil Barker and others, back in 2013 and I’ve poured a lot of time energy and commitment into it, so I wanted to commemorate it in the quilt. I also love the idea that my daughter has made a small contribution to the quilt too.