Silverbirch Workshop Archives

Silverbirch Spinning and Weaving Workshop - the beginnings

The first hanks of handspun, natural-dyed wool sold on Arran. The economic path of the future was determined, however rocky it might turn out to be.
The four-shaft rug loom from Sweden (built in 1888; purchased from a Stockholm attic for 100 kronor in 1973 (£10 at that time). The production of rugs, and cloth began The first wall-hangings on an Arran theme were woven.
WINTER 1976 – 77 – 78
Local workshops held at the Nature Centre, Brodick and The Gallery, Whiting Bay. Jimmy Innes (Col. James) goes into full production of St. Kilda, Foula and Argyll type wheels.
In the photo of the spinning wheels is a small obituary to Col. Innes when he died in 1983. He was a very good friend.
Handspinners’ Co-operative formed to produce yarns commercially.
First off-island spinning workshop held at Third Eye Gallery, Glasgow during an exhibition of ikat weaving from Indonesia. One afternoon workshop, 500 visitors, many demonstrations of technique.
First industrial practice held in conjunction with Kidderminster College Carpet Design course. Third year students came to learn small studio methods. Followed by similar liaisons with Birmingham Polytechnic and Camberwell College of Art and Crafts, London.

JUNE 1979
BBC Video recording of spinning group at High Corrie. Used as visual background for the annual Golden Fiddle Awards programme with musicians playing to the rhythm of the treadles.

1978 – 83
Children’s Summer Workshops in Weaving and Spindle Spinning

Weekend workshops in London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Dumfries, Aberdeen and Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, Cheshire. “Spider Woman” workshops held at Faith Gillespie’s studio on the Thames at Wapping.

First edition of Knitting Patterns for Handspun Wool published, hand-lettered by Stephen Gill.

Article on Indigo dyeing published in Trade Craft magazine from the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, London. Led to two projects, testing Lesothan mohair for natural dyeing properties, so that the craft could be reintroduced as part of a spinning project there using recycled bicycle wheels.
Market research for the administration of Tristan da Kunha, testing the market in Britain for sweaters from a spinning project there. Both these projects heightened our own awareness of the significance of our project here.

500 ounces of handspun yarn produced by spinners group in six weeks, setting the pace and showing it could be done.

Lynn Gray Ross Taught Spinning at Mendocino Art Centre, California. Lectured at Guilds in Sacramento and the Bay Area in Berkeley.
“Knitting with Handspun” published by Ross-Gill Publishers.
JUNE 1985
New workshop built offering light, warmth and space for the future.
For the next ten years students came from all over the world to Whiting Bay to learn techniques of traditional spinning, weaving and natural dyeing.
In the meantime, several community projects based on teaching and practising the textile crafts.
Find out more:
arran knitting and weaving company
on Facebook
Pearls & Oysters – Lynn’s Blog on
19 Reversible Linen Damask

Damask Linen - 1973

Spinning and Weaving Workshop started as a dream when I was living in Sweden. I learned to weave at Handarbetetsvänner (Friends of Handicraft) a beautiful old building in Stockholm located in Djurgården just across from the open-air folk museum at Skansen, where I took courses in wool and flax spinning and dyeing with plants.

Why Silverbirch? Travelling around Sweden by train I loved whirling past white groves of silverbirch trees in any weather. They represent Sweden in my soul.

I knew I wanted to return to Scotland when I’d finished my studies at Stockholm University. My daughter was growing up in the marvelous daycare system there and at the age of 2 she was bilingual. One of her first words was “blowy”, flower and “blomma” combined. We all knew what she meant.

I’d had a longing to return ‘home’ to Scotland since my parents emigrated to California when I was twelve. The timing was perfect. I’d fulfilled my goal of getting an academic degree, doubly satisfying because I had become bilingual as well.

Now, though, I realised that my daughter and I were speaking Swedish together at the end of the day. This didn’t seem right and I realised that I wanted to raise her in an English speaking environment.

Scan 2

Graduation Day - Fil.Kand Lynn Ross & daughter

April of 1975 when I was writing my thesis on the brain development of bilingual children, we had a chance to holiday on Arran during one of those weeks when the weather was stunning and the scenery was captivatingly beautiful and we were in Scotland.

The seed was planted. “I’d like to live here”. Over the course of the year I packed up my life in Sweden, worked out how we could live on Arran for three months , knowing that I had a job offer in Hastings to fall back on. I never went to Hastings.

The first couple of weeks that I was on the island, I sold a suitcase of natural dyed wool that I planned to use for weaving. I was offered a space to weave in the Gallery in Whiting Bay right next to the primary school. Providence or what.

I later managed to build a Scandinavian- style studio in Whiting Bay. When it came to finding a name for it, “Silverbirch” was a natural. It would have been a bit awkward to use the Swedish ‘bjørk’, but I knew what I meant.

Silverbirch the First Ten Years