Completing the circle

After a bit of recovery time, I was ready for the last leg of the journey – and to find the Harris Tweed weavers of Scotland. A train journey to Inverness and then on by car to Ullerpool, then ferry to the Stornoway …

Lewis and Harris are one island and both make Harris Tweed. The wool is processed in one of three mills and the back beam of the Hattersley looms wound ready for the weavers.

I found the weavers – but to my great excitement I also found looms – made in Keighley!

Harris Tweed must be made in the Hebrides and should be made from Cheviot wool. The results are beautiful and extremely expensive with a meter of cloth retailing at around £70! The main market for this nowadays is Japan … but it all started with Lady Dunmore’s attempts to empower the local people during the hardships of potato famine.

I got very excited about the Hattersley loom and contacted the Storrnoway Gazette to see if they know of any looms that would like to come ‘home’ to Bradford!

Maybe this is the end of a Churchillian adventure (this guy taking me over the loch to visit theScorraig Weavers was the grandson of Randolph Churchill’s Private Secretary) but there is a lot to bring home to Bradford and I sense that things might just be beginning …

Thanks for following the blog …. if you want to hear what happens next then go to

Meanwhile, let me know if you find a pot of gold!

returning home

For those of you that wondered what happened at the end of my trip …

well, I returned to Bradford and to one night’s sleep before finding that my two sons at home in Bradford had been robbed at knife point by some burglars …

so it was a traumatic return to base …

now I have to work out what all this means for me returning to the harsh environment of Bradford …

but then, that’s what the Churchill Fellowship is about, how to enable international travel to enhance the life of Britain ….

watch this space!

Stupidly pleased!

Yes, I am stupidly pleased with myself …. my finished batiks returned today and I have successfully translated this picture of a woman in india waiting for the Panchachuli bus















… to this!!!



(ok I had a bit of help with the dye!!)

Goodness and murky…

There was me going all religious and pondering on the 23rd Psalm as I meandered past the preparations for the mass cremation

and sauntered into the paddy field. I contemplated walking through the shadow of the valley of death and beside still waters ..

which was the moment that I realised there was a snake swimming along beside me ….

if it had bitten me, I would have been very cross with God, but as we just stared each other out from across the drain I suppose my cup was sort of running over … and, as an update for those of you making Garden of Eden references, I would like you to note that I neither accepted an apple from the snake or encouraged anyone else to do so !

Just when you thought it was safe to come out …

Ok, just one more  weaving lesson, honestly!

The Songket technique of weaving is peculiar to Indonesia and involves a back strap loom. Unlike the backstrap looms I saw in Nepal, these weavers have a solid beam (no comments please!). The Songkat process has several stages, which is why these women are working together cooperatively. Notice that the granny has a key role, especially when it comes to sales!

The warp is wound and tied onto the loom. The Songkat technique requires a ‘floating weft’ which basically means that it is possible to put patterns into the material using separate threads. The first stage is to set the pattern onto the warp, by copying an original design and inserting sticks. This is a job for your sister, because it has migraine tendencies.

The stick design is set next to the back ‘beam’ of the loom and duplicated with a series of blue plastic strips.

Right, now to the weaving!

The back strap loom is a device that incorporates the woman’s body as an integral part of the loom. If she leans forward the warp goes slack, back and it has tension. To weave a plain colour, then the sticks with ‘heddles’ are lifted in turn and a very fat piece of bamboo inserted to open the gate. The shuttle is also made of bamboo with a thread wound around a cylinder of card.

In order to insert the design, the plain weave is temporarily halted and the first design stick or plastic strip is lifted, this raises the necessary warp threads for the pre set pattern. This is usually another colour, but for ceremonial wear may be gold or silver.

The weft is beaten towards the reed, and the weaver, using a flat and heavy piece of wood. Making the traditional ‘Kat kat’ noise that can be heard coming from may  households in Sidemon village.

The women work at the weaving for an hour or so, then do their regular chores and cooking. They strictly don’t weave for an hour after eating or after sundown. These intricate pieces will take up to a year to complete…. spot the granny!

Now to things more simple …

Now to things more simple, namely me!

I have been off to the villages to learn about batik, and when I say ‘learn about’ I actually mean ‘make’

Shaken out of my comfort zone of three days, with a working shower and mosquito net and everything, I am now propelled back to the bucket bathroom … and to the world of work, how your hearts bleed.

Batik is not a traditional Balinese process, it comes initially from Java. But in this instance it is seen as a way of bringing work to a village and a few tourists as well, where there’s a possibility there is always a visionary, and in this case the village leader, Tjok Agung Pernayun of Batik Bali.

Batik, as you all know, is a process of putting wax onto cloth so that the covered areas resist the dye. At Batik Bali the wax is applied either by stamping or by paintbrush/

In the scenes that follow you will see an inventive, but as yet undiscovered, Bali apprentice working with these tools … first choose your stamp .. then see if you can get these pictures into the right order – it has defeated me!

hanging out to dry!

..then get a nice chap to peg it up ..

then neaten it up with your paintbrush – with a happy face, like you love painting on the lines ..

then stamp!

and dip it into a 16ft vat of indigo ….