Last weekend Peter and I visited rug-weaver Rachel Scott and bought one of her beautiful rugs. I have admired Rachel’s work from afar for a number of years, so it was a real pleasure to meet her and learn a little more about the process and materials she uses.
Rachel originally trained as a painter at the Royal College of Art in the late 1950’s - early ‘60’s. You can really see a painter’s eye for composition and balance in her work.
Rachel spins all of her yarn herself in her studio - working with undyed fleeces from small sheep farmers throughout the country. Her palette ranges from deep brown ‘Welsh Black’ fleeces through to caramel ‘Manx Logthans’ and ‘Herdwicks’ in all their grey tones.
The range of colours in Rachel’s palette is extraordinary and her knowledge of British sheep breeds is vast.
The spinning wheel she uses (see above) was made by her brother - adapted from a treadle sewing machine to accommodate the weighty yarn she weaves with.
Rachel uses a tapestry technique, working on an upright frame loom. She manipulates the warp by hand - picking up the odd and then the even threads with extraordinary speed and rhythm. Watching her weave you are reminded of a harpist.
Rachel starts weaving at the bottom of the rug, sitting on the floor in front of the loom. As the rug grows up the frame she sits, then stands and finally steps up onto on a chair in order to work at the correct height.
The size of the rugs is determined by the dimensions of the loom - a pleasing set of parameters in which to weave.
There is a real grace to the way she works. These beautiful images of the process here are stills, captured from a wonderful film about Rachel made by London filmmaker William Scothorn.
Looking and learning about Rachel’s work I am reminded of a quote which runs around the edge of the gravestone of arts and crafts furniture designer Gordon Russell. Stumbling across it in Chipping Campden churchyard, I made a note of it at the time, and later found that it was by DH Lawrence.
Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing
for long years.
And for this reason, some things are lovely,
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them
stills from William Scothorn’s film
images from Rachel’s website