Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney
All in a spin… in Flotta
18 January 2012

Around a dozen people from Flotta are keeping local traditions alive by learning the skills involved in spinning, knitting and dying their own textiles.

The group is enjoying a free course with experienced tutor Elizabeth Lovick, who lives in Flotta.

The classes, held at Flotta community school on Saturdays, are organised by Orkney Islands Council’s Community Learning and Development team and funded through the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme.

“The course is a resounding success,” said Isobel Smith, one of those taking part. “It is great to get the opportunity to learn and develop some skills and techniques which otherwise could be lost to up and coming generations.” 

Run on Saturdays, the course is covering knitting, dying and spinning.

Some people have dyed yarn and used it to knit socks, others have dyed fibre and spun it into yarn for hats and mittens.

One session involved comparing fleece from different sheep breeds, some from the island itself, and seeing how the different fibres behaved when spun.

Organiser Kerry Spence, from the Community Learning and Development team, said: “It is great to see such a range of people coming together for these classes -from young teenagers right through to pensioners.

“They are not only learning some practical and traditional Orkney skills, but are also revelling in this opportunity to come together to socialise and have some great fun together. “

The class is run during weekend to give younger Flotta residents, who stay away in the Papdale Halls of Residence during the week, the chance to participate in the course.

Tutor Elizabeth Lovick is thrilled at how well the classes are going.

”My spinning wheels are all out being used through the week, while others on the course are knitting not only socks but adapting patterns to make gloves, hats  and more.

“It is particularly good to see people spinning on Flotta, where local resident Granville Swanney is still making spinning wheels to traditional Orkney designs.”

Julian Branscombe, manager of the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme, added: “It’s great that this project is proving to be such a resounding success.

“It can be easy to focus on Scapa Flow’s wealth of wildlife and military history, but in fostering traditional skills, this course shows why cultural history is just as important a part of the Landscape Partnership Scheme.”

The traditional craft skills project is supported by the Scottish Government and the European Community’s Orkney LEADER 2007-2013 Programme, as well as by Orkney Islands Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

* The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme is spending around £2.1 million over three years on 48 projects promoting and supporting the heritage – wildlife, landscape, cultural heritage, history and archaeology – in and around Scapa Flow and the South Isles of Orkney. The scheme has received £1.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with further support from Orkney Islands Council, the European Union, Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, the RSPB, trusts and private donations.