Spinning session with Mary Smith

Maggie Smith and Mary Smith held spinning sessions at Blar Buidhe and Dun Eisdean Care Centres today.

Memories flowed of carding and setting up weaving machinery and how the carding process was boring but machinery was available to do it.

We spoke about natural dyes, onion skins and flowers, different uses for urine(!) and that the spinning wheel was made in the 1980s in Carloway. Each area has a particular kind of drop spindle but the ones Mary brought were mostly used for plying the wool.

It was wonderful to work with Mary Smith after hearing about her work a few times…..and Maggie brought beautiful Gaelic flavour and a traditional weaving song to the sessions….but the cat totally stole the show!

 

Hand Memory – by Jon Macleod

Hand memory pdf

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images: Net mending session at Blar Buidhe, Carding wool at Harris house, Knitting pattern, Anne Campbell (Garenin) Milking – using fuigheagan (waste wool from tweed weaving) to tie the tail out of the way …., Setting nets off Gallan Head, Ciosan.

Hand Memory

Building on earlier sessions with people living with dementia that explored traditional skills and the role of ‘hand memory’ we have created further sessions for eliciting memories as well as creating opportunities for haptic stimulation, that may link to life knowledge of work tools, craft skills and techniques such as creel and basket making, knitting, carding and spinning wool, net mending fishing and tweed weaving. To explore this in greater depth we have collaborated on a joint funding proposal with Dr.Stephanie Bunn, Senior lecturer in Anthropology (specializing in Material Culture) at St. Andrews University. This new project looks at ‘eliciting oral histories and ‘hand-memories’ as a means of co-designing supportive, inclusive and locally distinct communities for people living with dementia as well as providing research that will feed into developing new innovative design tools.

Another objective is to exchange knowledge of basketry practice in memory work with An Lanntair’s experience of placing oral traditions at the centre of our approach to local history-making and recording. We will draw on local familiarity with basketry to elicit both oral and embodied memories from community elders, who are often the only members of communities now to retain such skills. An Lanntair’s experience with orality and dementia will in turn enhance the work with other communities in the project, along with providing oral material which will enrich the collection at Lewis’s Museum nan Eilean. 

Dr.Bunn’s previous project ‘Woven Communities’ looked at basketry, memory, and embodied thinking and grew out of an initiative and collaboration between a group of Scottish basketmakers, the Scottish Basketmakers Circle whose aim was to collect together and document all the diverse research conducted about Scottish vernacular basketry, learning skills from regional practitioners, researching in their local communities, surveying basket-related plant ecology and visiting museum collections and archives;

“There is a wealth of information which comes forth when people see you making baskets – often they are eager to correct you just to start with and let you know you are doing something wrong. Then many memories come flooding back.”- Liz Balfour, (Woven Communities Project Partner).

One focus of the new project will look at re-discovering local skills and knowledge by hosting practical reminiscence events and hand memory exercises. We will follow a basket making process all the way through, from gathering weaving materials, processing them and then weaving a specific vessel such as a ‘Ciosan’. This was ‘a coiled basket made from sea-bent (marram grass), or sometimes straw. The coils are stitched together using twine made from rush, marram, even split willow or bramble, or bought twine’. Its function was to hold oat or barley meal.

Christmas Baking at Dun Eisdean

I took some Christmassy ingredients and recipes to Dun Eisdean today.
We produced some mini Christmas Puddings, mini Christmas cakes, mince pies and some chocolate chip cookies. We iced the cakes with a thick icing and a cherry. You can find the recipes on our recipes page.

We went for the mini versions of puddings and cakes to save on cooking time but we definitely packed in the flavour with ingredients such as orange zest, ginger wine, brandy, prunes, raisins and grated apple.

We talked about Christmas cooking smells, memories, recipes and what we remember our Mothers and Grandmothers cooking for us.

I laid the Christmas lights out along the table and we enjoyed Christmassy music on the radio as we worked. The hardest part was softening the butter…and waiting for the oven to cook it all!

Sensory Christmas

In local care homes, I’ve been focussing on the sensory side of Christmas, the smells, flavours, colours, textures and tastes plus of course the lights.

We’ve been making very highly fragrant decorations and foods. Cloves in Oranges, Stem Ginger Cake with orange icing, Mince Pies, Christmas Pudding and a gingerbread house.

I’ve been using the opportunity for exercise with rolling out a stiff dough, handling foods, stirring cake batter and pudding batter etc.

The texture of dough has been a nice memory for people unable to completely create a mince pie and the eating of it all has been a big hit, especially warm and fragrant from the oven.

 

Absent Friends Festival Workshop with Dawn Susan

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Dawn Susan ran a very absorbing workshop at Shawbost Old School today, demonstrating how to weave a willow decoration for an absent friend, which is very befitting of Remembrance Day tomorrow. We chatted about absent friends and one lady I took along met up with many past friends and neighbours, which made the session even more worthwhile for her. Her fingers worked neatly, creating very intricate and neat patterns into her fish. The entire group was immensely welcoming and very glad to see people living with dementia out of their care settings and participating in community workshops based on a common heritage and cultural interest, rather than the event being about dementia. We were even invited to Bragar Old School for coffee another day. One gentleman I took along was able to exercise both hands, without giving it as much thought as a physio session and this was very successful.

Cabraich was the organisation holding the event, hosted by Maggie Smith. And now I’m going to embarrass her by saying how very honoured I am to be working with her on this team as well. Please also check out Woven Communities, a fantastic project which Dawn Susan has worked so very hard on and has great resources and a very informative website.

Paula

Volunteers and Intergenerational Work

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On Friday, Bellann from the Volunteer Service brought two young people working towards their Saltire Award and building their CVs into a local care home to enjoy masterclasses in making duff and splitting herring. Three residents gladly shared their skills and experience and the volunteers assisted with making and offering tea and cake to the residents.

The volunteers are going to support our project with Auditorium Sessions and Events at An Lanntair to see another side of care and community working.