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Little fabric remnants, a small Highland town, a short jacket, a wide world… and one huge chance to change EVERYTHING about our future.

Hello English language learners and friends of Blue Noun Language Hub in Crieff, Scotland.

We’ve something special for you today.  After seeing a photo Susan Brebner posted recently on Instagram, I invited her to write for our blog about her time in our town Crieff – and the making of this jacket.

The Insta photo shows Susan wearing a smart-looking short jacket she had just finished making in New Zealand –  from fabric scraps she found at Remake while working as a volunteer crafter at Monzie Estate, Crieff, Scotland.

I had to find out more. How and why did a New Zealander rescue these little tartan scraps?

What follows is a celebration of traditional crafting, of upcycling and of appreciating things made by hands of the past. 

Read on for Susan’s story.

Susan wearing her handsewn jacket form upcycled fabric
Susan’s original Instagram post

“I have always been a keen, some might say fanatical, sewer – for me creating things is like breathing, it is good for my mental health and I find I never stop learning.”

 

Susan Brebner, 2021

making a bonnet from a vintage fabric
A baby’s bonnet Susan is currently making from a vintage doily for a dressing table,
photo credit Susan Brebner 
By Susan  Brebner

A Small Highland Town

“I am a creative from New Zealand, a small county at the bottom of the world where we have a reputation for making and fixing anything.

In 2015, my husband and I took a year off to explore the world at a leisurely pace, we travelled and worked seasonally and volunteered in various places.

One of our absolute favourite places was Scotland and in particular the work we did at Monzie Estate which is on the edges of Crieff, David and Alexandra Crichton have made Monzie Estate a viable place to live and earn an income from, they have restored into holiday lets and they provide a relevant and welcoming place for people to visit in Perthshire.

We worked with them twice, bringing our restoration and creative skills. I had the most incredible time making curtains, blankets, lampshades, cushions and in November of 2015, Alex and I ran a ‘Christmas in the Castle’ event teaching a variety of Christmas crafts and cooking.”

hand sewn cushions
Handmade furnishings for Monzie Estate rental properties,
photo credit Susan Brebner 
hand made Christmas trees from book pages
Christmas in the Castle decorations,
photo credit Susan Brebner 

Little Remnants of Fabric

“I have always been a keen, some might say fanatical, sewer – for me creating things is like breathing, it is good for my mental health and I find I never stop learning.

Being in Scotland renewed my love of sewing wooden fabric, I  visited a number of mills and just love the feel of woollen fabric – it sews well, is easy to mould and it just smells so good!

Crieff has this incredible place called Remake. I visited here a  number of times with Alex and bought leftovers and sample pieces of woollen fabric. One of my favourite buys was a number of pieces of black on black tartan.

I brought this home with me to New Zealand (in total I brought home 10kg of fabric from a number of countries!) and had a plan to make a jacket.”

black on black tartan screenshot
Black on black tartan fabric is made with different shades of ‘black’ forming the traditional tartan weave (screenshot).

Very Easy, Very Vogue

“Finding a pattern that would work with the size pieces I had was a challenge, it was important to me that the tartan matched, even if you can’t see it, I can! I tried a number of ideas and finally settled on Vogue 7703, this was a pattern I have used before and I knew it suited my body shape and it fitted the pieces of fabric. 

One thing that has become increasingly important to me is to work towards being more ethical and sustainable in my fabric use. Using these pieces from Remake fitted the bill.

More and more I enjoy the challenge of using what I have, it stretches my creative skills and it makes me think about the waste I create and how I can reduce this.

A significant industry in Scotland is woollen fabric and there are a number of major and artisan companies making fabric and clothes from local wool, it is very special to support these businesses and to have your own slice of the old but still relevant skills involved in creating woollen fabric.”

vogue fabric pattern jacket
Susan’s sewing pattern

The Cultural Difference of Curtains

“Monzie Estate is also working to be as sustainable as possible, they have their own hydroelectric power station, the buildings have been furnished with renovated furniture and much of the soft furnishings have been made from locally sourced fabrics.

Alex and I made re-made curtains from fabric sourced at Remake and other local suppliers.

For me, this was a new skill, while I am very familiar with curtain making the needs of a Scottish house are very different from a New Zealand house.

Our climate is milder and we worry more about the sun fading our fabrics than keeping out the cold.

The windows in my living room where I am sitting now are over 5 metres long, the windows I made curtains for at Monzie are only about 1 – 1.5 metres wide.

The curtains are interlined and to me, it was like making a duvet for the window.

Alex and I had a great time creating what are largely hand-sewn curtains for a number of windows”. 

making curtains
Susan making curtains at Monzie Estate

“More and more I enjoy the challenge of using what I have, it stretches my creative skills and it makes me think about the waste I create and how I can reduce this..”

 

Susan Brebner, 2021

The Wider World

“Working in a new country, working when snow is falling, working in the countryside made me creative in a new way, I wasn’t able to pop down to the local haberdashery store and I really enjoyed the experience and continue to use these skills and habits. 

 

We have returned to Crieff twice since 2015, Covid 19 makes travelling to the other side of the world a challenge but returning to Scotland, and Crieff in particular is still on our must-do list, this part of the world holds so many happy memories for us”.

 

Film clip (GIF) of a winter’s day on the farmland on/around Monzie Estate.
Image credit Ruth/Blue Noun
COP26 logo

The Huge Chance

I’m particularly delighted to be sharing this story with you today, as world leaders are currently in Glasgow for the first day of the two-week-long COP26 Summit.

I think all Scots are thinking about both our nation and our world a little differently today.

We see elected representatives on state business and activists, environmentalists and scientists joining our nation’s people to speak to them. Hope is in our hearts, but so also is the fear of failure.

By sharing Susan’s story during the beginning of the COP26 conference, I want to highlight the power of reducing, repairing, reusing, upcycling, making and crafting.

I want to celebrate our nation’s traditional crafts and way of life, which was more harmonious with nature’s cycles and ecosystems compared to the disengaged and often brutal systems our society practices today (or pays others to practice on their behalf).

I wish to promote Remake as a model for communities across the world (our followers will know that this comes up quite often on our blogs and I always say that!).

I want to celebrate the makers: the people keeping traditional skills and practices alive – and the ecological business which support their crafts with quality, ethical materials while economic markets still clamour for the cheap, throw away good that are making our planet so sick.

Just look at how our local Menzie Estates has made a very successful business by collaborating with crafters who furnish their rental properties with their upcycling skills: exchanging time and skills for residential holidays. Wow and well done!

 

What has all this got to do with a language school?

We call our language school a ‘hub’ because it’s a melting pot of ideas and practices and genuine cultural exchanges.

Join us for a holiday and we can introduce you to a lot of really interesting, creative people and coach your language skills to enable you to get the most out of such exchanges. Can’t join us in person? This blog is for you, to give you the technical language of making and suggest ways of practising it.

Business models such as these offer solutions to global problems. Intelligent, curious travellers with skills to share can positively impact the places they visit.

With us, it’s all about real cultural exchanges and good communication!

 

Live language learning!

 

swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school
swift in flight Logie Kirk by Blue Noun English language school

At Blue Noun we love chatting about all things art and celebrate having excellent, talented people all around us to do it with. We facilitate real cultural and creative exchanges happening, whether it’s in our language learning space – the Blue Noun Hub – or out and about visiting studios and workshops.

We also love showing off the beauty of Perthshire and the food and craft produce that is making it world-famous. Our whisky tastings are legendary!

Our business is also intended to be of benefit to the artist/maker economy of Perthshire. We bring our international creative guests into studios for a genuine exchange of cultures and art-making. Yes it’s an English lesson, but it is so much more!  (Plus we pay all our artists and guest speakers for their time)

Come and join us for an English language learning holiday and grab a taste of Perthshire! 

 

Follow the latest news from COP26 here.

Find out about Monzie Estate here.

“Remake is a community reuse charity run by volunteers and staff based in Crieff. Our purpose is to promote the reuse of materials for the benefit of our community. Remake is a local solution to a global problem”.

From the Remake website.

Learn more about the Strathearn Wool Studio here.

 

Lastly, a huge thank you to Susan for taking the time to write for our English learners. We really appreciate it.

Follow her on Instagram here.

red text further reading

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this story of a jacket.

We cover a broad range of topics in our language school blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture. There’s something for everyone.

Interested in the sound of a wintery Scotland? Find out about our local area with this snow-themed blog:

Learn English in Perthshire | Ways of Seeing | Snow & Menhir

 

red text further reading

Strathearn Wool Studio is a local working farm that demonstrates to visitors the craft of sheep rearing, sheep herding and wool making.

Our Meet the Makers tours take you to meet producers, artists and craftspeople working locally, practising your English in real-world and interesting contexts!

Coloured yarn form Strathearn fleece co

Trip Advisor description of a visit to Strathearn Wool Studio

Coloured yarn form Strathearn fleece co

Coloured Yarns from our local Strathearn Wool Studio (screenshot from Insta) 

 Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is:

 

“What does a wool studio look like?”

 

The Strathearn Wool Studio is an example of a local company making fabric and clothes from local wool.

What do you think you would see there? (There’s a Trip Advisor review to help inspire you).

Draw a sketch or map if you like,  and label it with vocabulary words.

English language hint:

When you give descriptions, remember it’s a place where, a machine which, a person who

Write as much as you like, and if you would like us to check &  correct your English, write CP  (correct please) at the end.

“What does a wool studio look like?”