Profiles: An Expert in Scottish Weaving, a Musical Saw Advocate and More

Learn about a few readers who set examples with their actions. Including an expert in traditional tartans, a school of environmental activists and more.

| May/June 1982

Each month, MOTHER EARTH NEWS celebrates little-known folks from all over.  


Elizabeth Graham: An Expert in Scottish Weaving

Elizabeth Graham's instant reaction to the sight of spinners at work, during her first trip to Scotland's Hebrides Islands, was a determination to learn the graceful craft herself. So, she diligently set to work and practiced teasing raw fleece, carding it, forming it into rolags (thin rolls) for spinning, and plying the spun wool into skeins. Then, when she'd mastered the skill, Graham went on to learn the secrets of dyeing and weaving, as well.


And (perhaps remembering the place where she'd originally been exposed to the art of working with wool) Graham eventually developed a special interest in the precise designs of Scottish tartans. Experience soon taught her to maintain an exact thread count of each color throughout the tartan-making process, in order to produce an authentic pattern.

Then, in 1977, when Graham was 72, she traveled to Comrie, Scotland to demonstrate her craft to summer visitors at the Museum of Scottish Tartans. One of her greatest accomplishments during that sojourn was the recreation of the great-granddaddy of all tartans, the Falkirk, which Graham wove with fleece obtained from local sheep. (The sole surviving piece of original Falkirk fabric — which was found stuffed in a jar of Roman coins dated 250 A.D. — is about the size of a quarter.)

Graham and her late husband chose to spend their retirement years in the hills of northern California because it reminded them of the Scottish countryside they'd both come to love. Now, high above the blue Pacific, Graham helps prove, with her handicraft, that the simple arts are not forgotten. — Jan Mitchell.  

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