The Selkie Story
If you’ve heard or read Scottish folk tales you’ll notice they’re often dark and dramatic! I love the stories around a mysterious creature called the Selkie. The Selkies or ‘Seal Folk’ are capable of shape shifting from a seal to human form by shedding their seal skin. The stories generally involve a human falling in love with the Selkie and in order to keep them from returning to the sea they hide the seal skin. The Selkie inevitably discovers the hiding place and once they have their skin, are powerless to resist the call of the sea.
Here’s a couple of great places to read more about the Selkie story.
I especially like this story due to its likely connection to real life. Gaelic historian John MacAulay has an interesting theory. For thousands of years Eskimo type kayakers in seal-skin canoes would travel down to Scotland from remote Norway. From the shore, locals seeing these seal-skin canoes (often waterlogged after many hours of travel – therefore sitting low in the water), would see something akin to half seal, half human. Imagine the shock when those creatures came to shore, taking off their seal skins and becoming entirely human!
I wanted the Story Plaids to embody the seal skin. The plaid colours to reflect the hues of a seal skin but the pattern within the plaid design to bring a magical feel to the overall shawl. The embellishments are a combination of felted ‘seaweed’ and hand stitched water swirls, a reminder of the call of the sea.
The Selkie design begins with a traditional criss-cross pattern. Within each box created by the crossing of the colours is a variety of twill patterns. Using multiple twill patterns like this is called a ‘Twill Gamp’. All four of the shawls have a different combination of twill patterns, making each piece original for its pattern as well as its embellishment. Take a look at the photos below: you’ll spot diamond, straight and m shape twills inside the squares.
I work with a range of textile artistry skills to bring the sense of the story into the finished piece. The stitching is kept simple so that it works on both sides of the shawl. The thread I chose to embellish this set with was hand dyed in an ombre effect. The stitches swirl around the hand woven pattern to illustrate the tidal swirls of the sea. Three of the pieces have hand felted seaweed and the final piece only has the tidal swirls of stitching. No two pieces are the same.
If you’d like to see more of how these pieces are created you can follow my progress on Instagram and sign up to the VIP mailing list below to hear first when they’re available to purchase.