Ele and I just got back from the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, where we have spent 4 days demonstrating Crofting Crafts in the rural skills marquee in the countryside arena at the Show. We worked alongside the Galgael Trust. This will be our third year demonstrating at the show. It was great fun but a lot of work setting up the marquee which was over 20 metres long. We decided to set the whole marquee up as a croft house. I spent weeks rummaging though our barn finding all our old implements, tools and craft bits for the exhibition. We did pretty well, as Alex and I have always collected, used and stored old things! We had alot of cast iron ware, old tin buckets, mangles, two butter churns, kettles, old tools, a very old singer sewing machine, jars, bottles, demi johns and much more…Galgael also made 20 drop spindles ready for the show.
We split the marquee into three sections, starting with the kitchen where we set up shelves and tables. We made dough for the bannocks by mixing oatmeal and spelt flour. The children who visited the exhibition also made butter, by shaking cream in a jar. We used the butter milk in the bannocks. We cooked the bannocks over a wood and peat fire outside on the griddle and served them with homemade butter and hedgerow jam. The children and adults were involved in making the dough and butter and enjoyed eating the fruits of their labour!
We moved along the marquee and had a little natural dyeing exhibit, as many households would have foraged wild plants and dyed their own fleece ready for spinning then knitting, weaving or felting.
We made a central fire place in the marquee, hanging old pictures of crofting men, woman and children, dyeing, spinning and working. We also hung information on all the crafts and activities which were going on including the Waulking songs. Ele and I worked with groups of children and adults and sang some of the old waulking songs, which would have been sung when woman were felting the cloth into tweed. It was great fun and I think everyone who had a go at thumping the tweed, really enjoyed the process. The songs came form the Highlands and Islands and were sung in Gaelic. Most of the songs are about daily life and others are just words which have no meaning but just sound lovely rolling off the tongue sung together. There is something wonderful about singing in a group. Ele sings some of the waulking songs on our week long craft courses.
We also spent time making candles from sedge grass. Children pealed the grasses and we dried the central part dipping it in fat, ready for lighting. This was a common way of giving light in a black house.
The Galgael Trust demonstrated hand-spinning with a spinning wheel as well as with drop spindles.
We all had great fun and met so many interesting people, with so many stories to tell about the lives of their ancestors and memories from their childhood.
If you want to find out more about crofting crafts join one of our weekend or week-long craft courses or holidays.