Uist Arts Association Open Summer Exhibition At Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmaddy

My crottle inspired wrap apron and lichen pen drawings - on display at Taigh Chearsabhagh Art Centre, Lochmaddy, North Uist, as part of Uist Arts Association Open Summer Exhibition.

  28th June -  3 August  2019

Photo thanks to Peter Ferguson.

Clotheslines and Conversation - an afternoon of Women's Work in Newfoundland with The Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum in Newfoundland.

A wonderful event, I wish I lived a bit nearer, but thank to museum co-ordinator and folklorist, Katie Crane and our overlapping interests, I hope to hear some of your stories. 

Click here for more information about the event organised by The Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Museum  in Newfoundland and to reserve your spot!


Shirley Morrison - family photos from her family croft at Kinvonvie in Lairg, Sutherland.

A wonderful set of photos of women wearing wrap aprons and pinnies thanks to Shirley Morrison of Lairg, Sutherland.

  I think my great grandfathers sister – it could be 1930 or earlier.

My great granny - Vear Mackay nee  Sutherland Cira 1960.


First of all I would like to thank you for the most interesting talk you gave to the Lairg Local History Society a few weeks ago.  I really enjoyed my evening and looking at all the things you brought with you.

Marlyn Price has kindly scanned a selection of day dresses from a small part of the family collection.  They are all from my family croft knows as Kinvonvie in Lairg.
Please feel free to add these to your day dress blog and unfortunately they have all passed away and I am now the owner of these photo.

Shirley Morrison

My great granny - Vear Mackay nee  Sutherland Cira 1960.

Vear Mackay nee  Sutherland Cira Cira 1940’s

 Mrs Isa Mackay & my brother so 1953
 Isa Mackay and me as a baby so 1957

My great aunt by marriage – Mrs Isa Mackay

The clipping at Kinvonvie, Isa Mackay, James Mackay and my granny brother Hughie Mackay so great uncle Cira 1960

The clipping at Kinvonvie, Isa Mackay & son James Mackay Cira 1960

Taking in the corn or hay as can’t be sure from the photo –  Hughie Mackay, Isa Mackay & James Mackay


Newfoundland - pulley system clotheslines - vintage aprons - ships laundry - 'dusters'

While in Newfoundland,
 I  bought this vintage apron from a second hand shop in St.John's.  
The photo shows The Narrows, the entrance to St.John's harbour.

Click on the photos if you want to look closer!

I started to notice the pulley system clothes lines they used.
Great for those akward spaces on slope and over streams!

This photo has 6 pulleys in it. Difficult to make out, so I've numbered them! 
 Click on the photos if you want to look closer!

A few steps up needed to reach this clothes line at the Battery in St. John's.

Apparently, 'dusters' are a Newfoundland name for housecoats or overalls worn when doing chores.  

I couldn't resist, I had to bring a pulley system clothes line home to Scotland - this is what I purchased in a hardwear store in St. John's - including pegs and line!

Now  trying it out in my field,  and inspired by the clothes lines on slopes, we used a few empty fishboxes for steps and picked a spot (on a slope!)!

And what to hang on my clothes line?? 
First up, the apron from Newfoundland.

Then, inspired by Fogo Island recent, 'community hang up your quilts in public day', I decided on two of the quilts I'd made!

Do email me photos of your clothes lines - wherever you are!

Click here to read why I was invited to Newfoundland 
by Trinity Historical Society.

Nostalgia: Edinburgh’s ‘steamies’ remembered - wrap aprons

Marlyn Price from Lairg forwarded a few links along with her memories of seeing wrap aprons:

".....I remember seeing many women in the 1950s in their wrap around aprons at the Edinburgh steamies. An old pram came in handy for pushing the weekly laundry to and from the steamie....."

Click here to read more on Nostalgia: Edinburgh’s ‘steamies’ remembered.

And click here to read a reveiw of a theater production:  "The Steamie"


Wrap aprons - 1935 in Dornoch, Sutherland.

This lovely photo, sent to me by Leslie Goskirk from Lairg, Sutherland of her aunt 
Jan Leslie (later Mackay), and her uncle William Oliver, was taking in 1935  outside their croft house in Dornoch, Sutherland.


Kev and Sue Greenbank from Lairg share memoies of wrap aprons and pinnies.

Hi Joanne,
My wife and I really enjoyed your talk and display last Friday, very interesting and informative..  You asked for photos and I found a couple in our family tree which I have attached.  The one in a group of people is my wifes great grandmother Frances Garton (nee Cooper) we think the photo was taken in 1954 when she was 80

The singleton is my Great Great Grandmother Sarah Ann Day (nee Jessop) the photo probably taken in the 1920's as the skirt she is covering was the one she was wearing at my Granddads wedding in 1921

We also found an example of a  different method of protecting clothing on a Child which might be of interest (looks a bit like crochet work) The child is my wifes Grandmother at age of around 6 in 1910


Kev & Sue Greenbank

Lairg Local History Society

".......Caithness Fibre Artist - Joanne B. Kaar:
Last Friday (29th March 2019), members and guests were introduced to the fascinating work of Caithness textile and fibre artist Joanne Kaar. Her experiments with grasses and paper, inspired by historic and cultural research, are totally intriguing. A current project, researching the traditional house-dress or wrap around apron, was of particular interest to everyone. The personal collection of these domestic garments, donated by Sheila Moir, was on display and many of them were familiar to the audience. Joanne is also interested in hearing about people’s family memories and stories of house dresses.
Joanne is one of the artists in residence at Inverewe Botanical Garden this year and you can find out more details about her work on her website and blog................"
Photo and text  thanks to Marlyn Price of Lairg Local History Society.

2019 Invited artists in residence at Inverewe Botanical Gardens

We started our 2019 artist residency with an exhibition (6th April - 9th May 2019)  in the Sawyer Art Gallery within Inverewe Botanical Gardens, a National Trust for Scotland property.

"......It features examples of all six resident artists’ work, with skills ranging from music, storytelling and poetry to painting, drawing, sculpture and textile art, and will include a live performance. This promises to be an exciting residency....."

The Inverewe Botanical Gardens 2019 invited artists-in-residence are:

I made new artwork for this initial exhibition to connect it to place, with a focus on Inverewe Gardens and surrounding area through wrap aprons worn by local women seen in photos which are in Gairloch Heritage Museum archives,  Lairg Local History Society Archive and lichens which have all been recorded as growing in Inverewe Botanical Gardens - many of which were once used as a dye.  My series of botanical style pen illustrations developed into a fabric print of 'crottle' a term used to describe the lichens onces used as a dye.   I made a traditional style wrap apron with new fabric. I also made a series of crottle spoons - inspired by the tools once used to scrape lichens off the rocks. These new works combine the work activity with the tools used and protective clothing worn when using crottle to dye wool.

We will be resident at Inverewe, staying in Inverewe House,  for blocks of time throughout the year to be inspired, collaborate and experiment.  Our residency will culminate in an exhibition, again in the Sawyer Art Gallery (14th Sept - 31st October).  

Click here for the what's on 2019  programme at Inverewe. 


Wick Heritage Museum, Caithness

I recorded this recently for Wick Voices at 
Wick Heritage Museum, Caithness.  

I talk about my art practice - a selection of residencies & projects including house dresses wrap aprons.

Click here to listen - its now online!



Inverewe Botanical Gardens - BBC Alba, Exhibition and residency news 2019.

I’m excited to have been invited back to Inverewe Botanic Gardens, a National Trust for Scotland Property, as artist-in-residence throughout 2019.

This will be a collaborative residency working with other invited artists with a variety of disciplines.

The residency starts with an exhibition of our previous artwork in April 2019.  

I plan to exhibit my lichen inspired artwork including framed original drawings,and my new 'crottle' wrap-apron.

For More info on the Inverewe Botanical Gardens click here.

The wrap-apron was often worn by women doing chores in and around the home. In the Scottish Highlands and Islands, this included dyeing wool with crottle. 

Crottle  or  crotal  (gaelic) is a Scottish term for lichens that were traditionally used as a dye. These lichens have been recorded in Inverewe Botanical Gardens.

BBC Alba will be following our progress throughout the year, for their programme, An La.

Accessorize with this very Very exclusive linen bag  made in Scotland.  Inspired by the Ochrolechia  tartarea  lichen - image printed with a design from my original drawing. 
Will be available at Inverewe Botanical Gardens in April as part of my exhibtion. 

This bag is lined and measures  H37cm x W44cm x D10cm (not including the handle!)l


Lairg Local History Society - 'Crofts, Crottle and Cakes'!

A hands-on talk - no powerpoints for this - instead,  I'm bringing a selection of my artworks, and will of course, feature
 my current self-directed project on house dresses and wrap aprons!  



1960's Glasgow - one street - house dresses

Great to see my house dress project is getting people talking.
Thanks to Robin Crawford  for this snapshot of a Glasgow street:

"...Held an impromptu survey with my mother and sister the other day.
Housedress wearers in my street growing up 1960s Glasgow:
#62 Mrs Hamilton yes
#60 Mrs Stewart yes
#58 Mrs Crawford no
#56 Mrs McGregor yes
#54 Mrs Taylor no
#52 Mrs Gregg yes
#50 Mrs Boyle yes

All the housedress wearers were just slightly (5-10 years) older than my mother. Mrs Taylor about 30 years older. 
n.b. Teachers in the infant department at primary school would wear housedresses..."

Fabulous info - all may become an artists book.....................ideas forming, keep your memories coming!


" This photo sums up my memories of gran..." Linda Travis shares a few precious memories - and wrap aprons.

My aunty Linda Travis (nee Davis) posted me a wonderful collection of photos 
".....salvaged from an old leather suitcase my dad left..."

".... First photo is my grandmother - granma Davis (Margaret Elliot born in Newcastle in 1885), my fathers mother with her 4th child, Thelma, my aunt. I never saw Thelma in an apron, she had been Miss Preston and went in for celebrity  contests. She looked after my gran and grandad even after she married, she didn't leave home.....

...Grandma was rarely seen not wearing her wrap-over....

.....Second photo is of grandma and her 2nd child, my Uncle Bill who went to live and work in Chicago, sent here by 'Goss Printing Works', to set up a printing and machinery business. Came back in the 70's.  3rd photo is Felix (cat) and Themla. Gran was big on cats...."

"...... a full-length photo of gran in her wrap-over apron, usually accompanied with cardigan and complete with full fit slippers. This photo sums up my memories of gran. Every Sunday the family would gather at grans for a full roast dinner. She would make the gravin in a large roasting tin and a spoon that she rotated in circles (getting rid of  Bisto lunps I guess), which caused short gyrations of the apron - as you can see, she's a big lass...."

"...... Gran on the patio with my other grandad (grandad  France) who was joining us for Whitsunday lunch 1956. In the foreground is Thelma with Tony my cousin..."

".... I can't be absolutely sure who these people are,very likely grans side of the family in Newcastle. Bothe wearing workdresses....."

"... My grandad, head engineer at Preston 'Dick Kerr' traction engines mainly, was often sent to far off countries to set up sales of trains , assess and provide training needs in Buenos Aries / Portugal etc.  I'm guessing these people may be Latin American?  Pictured with grandad in his workshop overall. However  that is certainly another wrapover on the woman. Note the hip pocket - same style as my grans...."

Crottle once used as a dye for the famed Gairloch hose.

My crottle (lichen) inspired wrap apron, original drawings and
 photographs from Gairloch Museum and Lairg Historical Society Archive are to be exhibited at Inverewe Botanical Gardens  from 6th April to 9th May.

Crottle once used as a dye for the famed Gairloch hose.
This is what I found out:

In 1863,  Dowager Lady Mackenzie purchased the land at Inverewe - Her son, Osgood Mackenzie started the gardens, and was continued by his daugther Mairi, until it was given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1952.

During the famine years (1840's), Dowager Lady Mackenzie applied for funds from the Destitution Board to enable the women of Gairloch area  to learn the skills of spining, dyeing, knitting and weaving. It was reported that over 100 women were involved and their products were prized.

Joanne B Kaar - crottle (lichens once used as a dye) inspired design on a traditional wrap style apron .
Combining work clothing with the activitiy.

The Gairloch hose
An extract from  "Gairloch In North-West Ross-Shire,  Its Records, Traditions, Inhabitants, and Natural History With A Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree And a Map and  Illustrations
Author: John H. Dixon  1886.
Chapter VI Language and dress.

"....Gairloch is justly celebrated for its hose, which are knitted in immense variety of pattern and colour, some being in imitation of old forms of tartan. In the old days the hose worn with the Highland costume were cut from the same web as the tartan of which other parts of the dress were made, but now all hose are knitted. The "diced" patterns are relics of the old tartans.
The Dowager Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch writes as follows regarding the Gairloch hose:—"At my first visit to Gairloch, in 1837, I employed a lady from Skye who was staying at Kerrysdale to instruct twelve young women in knitting nice stockings with dice and other fancy patterns. When I came to act as trustee, and to live constantly at Flowerdale, I started the manufacture of the Gairloch stockings in earnest, having spinners, dyers, and knitters, all taught and superintended during the ten years I resided there; on my leaving and going abroad, Sir Kenneth gave the concern into the hands of the head gamekeeper, Mr George Ross. Now, dozens of pairs are brought by the women to the hotels and steamers, and large quantities go to Inverness, Edinburgh, and London; £100 worth has been sold in one shop....."

And what did they use to dye their yarn?

Below is an extract from "The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands" by Frank Adam First published in 1908.

click text below to enlarge.

Theres a few photographs of women in the Gairloch area wearing floral house dresses /wrap aprons. These photos are in the collection of Gairloch Heritage Museum . Click here to see one of the photographs.