Back From Scotland, and Ready to Sew!

Last month was our long-awaited trip to Scotland, where we had a fabulous time.  We started out in Edinburgh, and spent time at the castle, on Princes Street, and on the Royal Mile over the course of two days.  There is so much to see that I know we barely scratched the surface.  The best part for me was Edinburgh Castle, with the War Museum, and lots of really cool things to see.  Then our Road Scholar tour headed to the highlands, and the Aigas Field Centre, which we used as a base for exploring the Scottish Highlands.   The Field Centre does environmental education, and we learned lots about the geology, ecology, flora and fauna of the region.  There were field trips daily, to places like Glen Affric, Culloden, Clava Cairns,  and the Black Isle.  We saw birds, red deer, pine martens, and all kinds of other small animals.  One highlight was a trip out into Cromarty Firth to see some bottle-nosed dolphins, which was really fun.  We also went to Skye for 2 days, which was incredibly scenic.  We had gorgeous weather- only 1 1/2 days of rain in 17 days- and not too bad in terms of the temperature.

After two weeks of the Road Scholar trip, we picked up our rental car and headed for the borders.  We went to Hawick and Selkirk, which are centers of the knitting and textile industries, and we also went over to Ayr, to see the Robert Burns birthplace and museum.  The whole thing was a great adventure, but it left me wanting to go back to see more.  We had a really fun time, and I hope that we will have a chance to go again, perhaps to Shetland or the Outer Hebrides.

Here are a couple of my favorite Pictures:Scotland 2015 040Scotland 2015 057Scotland 2015 102 Scotland 2015 146 Scotland 2015 167Scotland 2015 175 Scotland 2015 312 Scotland 2015 316

We toured the Lochcarron mill, went to see the folks at D.C. Dalgliesh, and saw lots and lots of tartan.  I did buy two pieces of fabric in Beauly at a shop called Campbell’s Tweed shop.  It is gorgeous, and I am waiting to  have a few spare moments to make a skirt and a jacket out of it.

In other news, I am working on the 2016 price list.  There will be no major changes, just a few more dollars (sorry!) to pay for increased shipping costs.  I look forward to seeing everyone at the MRM Workshop in February, and other games throughout the year.

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Another Hot Summer

It’s going to be a hot week, according to the weather guys.  I plan to stay indoors and catch up on my sewing.  I have missed a week of sewing- we had our daughter, her husband, and our new granddaughter visiting recently, which is my excuse for not working harder.  I have already been asked when I will make her a kilt!  She needs to be a bit bigger before I do that.

It has been a very busy summer.  Kilt camp went well, and I continue to be very pleased with the kilts that my students produce.  They work very hard, and still manage to have fun.  This year they were outstanding!  I hope that they will make more kilts before returning to camp next year-  that is the only way to become more proficient and confident in what they are doing.

Later this month I will be vending at the Quechee Scottish festival in Vermont.  This is a highlight of my year, and a chance to see many friends.  It’s a lovely location, and a fun games.  In addition to all of my kiltmaking stuff, I will bring the socks and accessories, and Frank will bring his woven items.  We hope to see you there!

 

Check out the new Page on this site!

I have managed to build a new page on this site, which is devoted to kilt accessories and hose.  I have been keeping a small number of accessories for a year or so, and I’ve recently decided to expand the inventory.  Many people come to me for kilts and then say, “What else do I need?”  I have been sending them to various suppliers, but I can get very nice things from some of the folks who supply tartan, so I decided to do it.  This is the result.

Once a customer purchases a kilt, he or she needs more items in order to complete the outfit.  Kilt hose are a must for men, so I carry two lines of hose.  The one from Lochcarron is a very nice quality sock that matches perfectly with Lochcarron tartans, and is very long-wearing.  The other line is from House of Cheviot, and these are especially nice.  The cable fold-over is a really nice look, and they are a beautiful blend of merino, acrylic, nylon, and lycra for a nice feel on the leg and long wear.  I love the range of colors that are available–particularly the purple!  I carry most of the colors that this company makes, and I can always special-order socks if necessary.

I also carry a selection of sporrans.  There are the informal day sporrans, made of black leather.  These are good for everyday wear.  There are also some semi-dress sporrans, with bovine fronts.  In the past, these would have been made from sealskin, but sealskin can no longer be imported, so manufacturers now use cowhide with the hair side out.  The look is similar, and it’s very sturdy.

The last item is the garter flashes.  These are made to match a kilt, using some of the small scraps that are left over.  They add a finishing touch that is very smart-looking, and are definitely a step up from the cloth garter flashes.

Customers can place an order by emailing me or calling on the telephone.  I will send a Paypal invoice,and then send the order out.  It’s all in an effort to provide a service to customers, and save them scrambling around to complete their outfits.

In other news, I have been busy all fall, sewing madly to keep up.  Now that I don’t have to go to school every day, my schedule is different, but I don’t seem to get much more done with all the extra time!  My husband is weaving, and we are going to be vending at two holiday craft fairs in the area, selling his scarves and wraps.  This will keep me busy until the first of the year, when the Dance Moms start to call!

 

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!

New Hampshire Highland Games 2014-Kilts, Great Kilts, and Great Big Guys in Kilts

Yesterday was my day at Loon to volunteer at the dance competition.  The New Hampshire Highland Games has been going strong for years, and all of it is due to the efforts of many, many volunteers, who do everything from collecting tickets and parking cars to running the competitions.  It is the site if the New England Highland Dance Championship, which attracts participants from all over the US and Canada.  As a former Dance Mom, I have helped out at many, many of these competitions over the years.  Highland Dance is volunteer-driven, run by parents and teachers FOR dancers.  It’s an amazing thing to see, and requires lots of dedication and attention to detail.  There were probably close to 200 dancers yesterday, from primary to premier, and it all went off without a hitch, almost.  There were issues with a printer, which made scorekeeping a challenge, and the weather was less than ideal, but overall, it was another fabulous day.

I have a few photos–these are special to me because they show some of the variety of the people and sights you might see at the games.  The first is a photo of a guy named Thor, who is evidently in the Game of Thrones as “The Mountain.”  He is holding one of the Lincoln Police officers, who is wearing a kilt that I made for her.  She is 5 feet tall, and he is almost 7. feet tall.  It doesn’t really show off her kilt, but it’s a fun picture.

 

Lincoln Police officer in kilt

 

The second one is of a customer wearing his new Great Kilt, which I made for him.  He evidently made quite a stir yesterday–  I think he looks amazing!  He is armed to the teeth, with a dirk and a small sword.  I am sure that he has a sgain dhu as well.

 

Great kilt 002

 

So, you can see that there’s a lot to see up at Loon!

Kilts For All

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I am frequently asked about what tartans are available for folks who have no identifiable Scottish roots. People want to wear kilts, but their surnames don’t come up as being associated with any clan. There are actually a number of tartans that have been designed for use by all Scottish enthusiasts. These are sometimes called Fashion or Corporate tartans, and they are suitable for everyone. I have recently ordered samples of about 25 different tartans with names like Guardian of Scotland, Isle of Sky, and Scotland Forever.  They very in color, but all are very attractive, and can be made into a kilt for anyone.  The tartan on the left above is Isle of Skye–one of my favorites.   It is supposed to show the colors of Skye–granite, heather, and so on.  The one on the right is Scotland Forever.

 

I will post a Guardian of Scotland photo as soon as I get the kilt to a good place.

Back from Vacation

I just returned from a one-week trip to Grand Manan Island, which is at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. It is gorgeous–I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful it is. It is cool, windy, full of birds, trip to Grand Manan 2014 014and very much off the beaten path.  It took 10 hours total, including the ferry, to get there.  We went to see lighthouses, whales, birds, seals, and all kinds of other things.  One highlight was a trip to Machias Seal Island, which has a colony of Atlantic Puffins nesting on it.  These tiny birds are incredible–they were busy carrying fish to their chicks, and fishing in the water.  Thee was also quite a rare bird present– a Tufted Puffin.  This is a bird that should be in Alaska.  Then we went to North Rock, which is a seal colony.  The whole trip was fabulous!  I should mention that we went with Road Scholar, which runs these trips.  They are excellent, and we will definitely go back.

tuftedpuffin_7079tp20143  This is a photo of the puffin colony– the Tufted Puffin is in the center, and the Atlantic ones surround it.

In Kiltmaking news, we had another fantastic Kilt Camp.  Everyone was quite capable, and we had a great time EXCEPT for the heat.  I have never had such hot weather at Kilt Camp before!  I have several projects lined up for the next few weeks,and then it will be time for Quechee before we know it.

 

 

A New Phase

Well, I’ve done it.  I finished my last year at school, and will now make kilts full-time.  I have worked for the Keene School District for 17 years, and although it has been a wonderful job for the most part, there are bits that I will not miss at all.  Normally, by this time of year, I am ready for my summer vacation, and definitely ready to talk to adults!  That is just as true this year.  I have had a number of difficult students this year, and there are things happening with my school that may lead to its eventual closure, so at the moment I am glad to be done with school.  Now it’s on to the next phase.

I expect to be quite busy in the next little bit.  I have a number of orders to finish, and then we may take time to visit our daughters.  Then the Quechee games come around, then Loon, then on into fall.  I plan to do a couple of extra games next year, vending more often, and traveling farther from home.

Frank has been busy weaving, and he has also begun to make some Jacobite-style sporrans.  He began experimenting with some leather, and came up with a really neat little  design that goes well with his great kilt.  As I have said before: Who knew that he was so talented?

Kilt Camp begins on Sunday, and I expect to see a number of friends there, as well as new students.  It will be a busy week of sewing, talking, and tons of fun!  I will try to post from Camp, with pictures of what’s going on

June Reflections

I have been teaching children to read for seventeen years.  This is a difficult but very rewarding job.  This June will be my last at Jonathan Daniels School, where I work, because I am going to retire from teaching, and make kilts full time.  It has always been a bit of a balancing act.  I work from 7:30-3:30, then go and make one lap of Keene, usually hitting the Post Office, the bank, and the fabric store.  Then I go home have dinner, and then start sewing. I work until 8:30 or so, or until I’m too tired to do good work.  The first pleat that doesn’t look right is my signal to quit for the night.

 My job at school is the type of thing that stays there–I do not have to correct papers or anything at home.  If I was a classroom teacher, I would not be able to do what I do with kilts.  The kids are great, but every June I have the same feeling– it’s time to talk to adults.  That is one thing that’s so great about Kilt Camp.  I work all day, but it doesn’t feel like it, because the students are so much easier to handle.  There’s hardly any crying, and I don’t have to remind anyone to be quiet in the hallways.  No lunch duty is a plus, too.

What will I do with all of my new free time?  I have several things in mind.  First, I am going to work on a few of my long-standing projects such as a quilt, a few knitting projects, and some sewing.  Then I’m going to spend some more time in my garden.  There are also travel plans, and I need to spend some time with Katie and her sheep.  It will be a busy time!

Quality Control

I do many alterations to kilts made by other people.  Although the quality of the garments varies, I got one a few weeks ago that was noteworthy for all of the wrong reasons.  Here’s a photo:

There are a number of issues with this kilt.  The most obvious is the puckering at the lower part of the pleating, and the showthough of some of the stitching.  Incorrect steeking and application of interfacing is what causes this.  The other issue is the small “steps” between pleats, which cause it to “go uphill”.  This matching is THE most visible thing a kiltmaker does.  It HAS TO be perfect.  The red stripes aren’t centered perfectly either.  The top band is poorly handled, and puckers badly.

This kilt will never sit straight on the wearer, and never look right to my eyes at least.  Most customers would never know that there was a problem.  I can’t fix everything about a kilt like this without taking it completely apart.  My job here was to move the buckles and straps so that the kilt would fit after the owner lost a significant amount of weight, so that’s what I did.

I see work like this many times during the year.  It’s not what I would send out with my name on it, but it’s out there.

Here’s my most recent order, for a Lincoln, NH police officer.  It is New Hampshire tartan, pleated to the stripe.  With this type of pleating, accuracy is key.  This is a work in progress, not pressed at all, but I think that you can see how picky I have to be about matching.

This kilt will have 29 pleats, and the white and red stripes need to go absolutely straight across.  It’s a real challenge, but I’ll persist until it’s perfect.

Love Those Red Sox!

I’m a pretty happy camper this week, because the Red Sox won it all!!  They are World Series champs for the third time since they broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004.  I have lost a bit of sleep during the past two weeks, because the games didn’t start until after 8 PM,  and baseball games take forever.  I did, however, get quite a bit of sewing done, and I should be caught up in plenty of time for the holidays.

Take a look at my Price List–I have updated for 2014.  I will use the old prices until the end of December, so if you are thinking of ordering, you might want to contact me now and save $15-25.  I will be at the Marguerite Reid Memorial Workshop in February, which is when I measure many of my growing dancers.  If you are planning on attending, come by and say Hi!

More later–I need to get going on Thanksgiving planning, because we are expecting quite a crowd for the holiday.