The Cloth

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Cloth

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The origins of the cloth are far in the past. It was first made by the inhabitants of the isles from the wool from their own sheep and made into garments to protect them from the cold and damp. All the processes were done by hand and all members of the household would have their own part to play.

The wool would first have to be washed and then dyed, using natural materials such as the crotal, scraped off the rocks on the shore. Various plant materials were also used and the dyes were set using urine, which was collected and stored for this purpose!

Dyed wool was then carded by hand, using two flat combs. The spinning was done on a wooden spinning wheel and the yarn was then warped in preparation for weaving. The weaving was done on a wooden loom that was used for many years until the arrival of the Hattersley domestic handloom in the 1920s. 

The woven cloth was then washed and it was during this process that the famous "waulking" of the cloth took place. Several people, almost always women, would work the wet cloth back and forward across a table, usually accompanied by Gaelic song. In fact a whole genre of Gaelic music grew up around this activity. After drying, the cloth was ready for use or sale.

Production on a commercial scale inevitably led to a more mechanised process but the skills and values associated with the great cloth – or clo mor in Gaelic – have been retained and the craftsmanship involved is of the highest quality.

Production on a commercial scale inevitably led to a more mechanised process but the skills and values associated with the great cloth – or clo mor in Gaelic – have been retained and the craftsmanship involved is of the highest quality.