A NEW strand has been woven into the history of tartan in the Highlands as a campaign to create a new mill gathers pace with backing from around the world.
Tartan design house Prickly Thistle has already opened a "pop-up" mill in Ross-shire using 100-year-old looms as a step towards the eventual redevelopment of an agricultural steading near Culbokie into a full design and production facility named the Black House Mill.
Black Isle designer Claire Campbell’s latest crowdfunding campaign achieved more than double its target in just two weeks.
The new mill, which has its temporary home close to the village of Evanton, has also brought young, recently graduated textile and fashion students together with retired loom engineers to ensure the traditions of the industry are handed down through the generations.
Ms Campbell (39) said: "As part of the mill development, we managed to track down 100-year-old traditional weaving looms that had been languishing for years in a redundant part of a mill in Scotland.
"We were slightly concerned that we might not be able to source the skills to operate and maintain these looms, but were delighted to be introduced to two retired ex-Hunters of Brora loom engineers who have joined us to help bring these machines back to life."
The company has also recruited two recent university textiles graduates via the Scottish government’s ScotGrad scheme, designed to help those who have recently left university enter employment that relevant to their studies.
Lois Moyes (22), who is from near Maryburgh, and Nicole Taylor (23) from Inverness have joined in time to work with the rest of the staff on bringing the looms back into production, weaving tartan cloth for clients from around the world.
For Miss Moyes, it has meant that after studying away from the area, she can start her career close to home.
"I’ve just graduated from Heriot Watt’s campus in Galashiels where I learned the latest in fashion textile and design, but by being able to join Clare and her team, I’m not only able to come home and make best use of my degree, but also apply what I have learned to a very traditional industry while learning the practical side of things from real experts," she said.
The first tartan off the looms will be for the company’s premium Black House Mill Collection which was made available to global backers via the crowdfunding campaign. The weaving team will then be working on Celtic rockers Runrig’s exclusive new tartan products range which was designed in conjunction with the band to help celebrate their Last Dance farewell gigs that take place this summer.