A Stitch Through the Land

Dates : n/a (mon - fri)

Location: Elphin near Ullapool

Course Places :   n/a

Price :n/a


Tutor: Jan Kilpatrick



stitchland medium

".. its as if this landscape were suddenly  to become aware  of the existence of its own elements -  possessive rock, possessing  only itself: huge lumbering sea -  that fat-fingered lacemaker who,  by sitting on shells, gives them  their shapes: mountains  reaching half way to somewhere or other: "

                 From "Waiting to Notice", by Norman MacCaig

I live in Assynt, in the north west Highlands of Scotland, an area that has been a profound inspiration to many artists, musicians, poets and even to J R R Tolkein, who saw the strange shapes of mountains such as Suilven and Quinaig and imagined another world called Middle Earth.  The land is largely moor, puddled by peaty lochs and populated by roaming deer.  It sits within the North West Geopark and contains the oldest rocks in Europe.


Yet this is a land that has a human history too.  Since pre-historic days, small groups of hardy people have lived here and worked the land, evidenced by the remains of hut circles, crannogs, sheilings and black houses.  Today‚Äôs crofters are the inheritors of this close connection to the land and make their own contribution to its shape.


This course is an opportunity to find out a bit more about this landscape and to interpret your response through stitch.  We start the week by visiting Knockan Crag, a magnificent viewpoint from which to take photographs and/or sketch, and which also houses a small exhibition that explains the geological history of the area. The rest of the week will be spent at my studio, with us working our way through various textile mark-making processes, including monoprinting with plants, cyanotype, rust printing and eco-printing cloth using indigenous plants from the area. And we will explore the nature and application of both free-motion machine embroidery and hand stitching to this theme of landscape.


Alongside the practical work, we will look at local maps for inspiration and dip into a small bank of information about the archaeology of the area and its local crofting history. At the end of the second day, we will gather around a bonfire, cooking up some natural dyes and exchanging stories garnered from our research that day. By mid-week, you will select from the bank of materials you have created and start to compose and construct your unique textile panel, taking your own line of stitch through this magical land, inspired by the Japanese traditions of boro and sashiko and by a variety of textile artists such as Dorothy Caldwell and Cas Holmes and Debbie Lyddon.


This course is a natural follow-up to The Fabric of the Land, with this week giving the opportunity to develop some of the surfaces created on that previous course.  However, A Stitch Through the land is a complete course in itself so, even if you have no experience of natural dyeing and printing methods, you will still be gently guided through the whole process towards the creation of a stitched art work using some of these methods.


All materials are provided and included in the price, along with refreshments and a cooked vegetarian lunch using, whenever possible, organic produce from my own garden.



Jan's studio is in Elphin, overlooking the magnificent mountains of Suilven, Canisp, Cul Mor and Cul Beag. This remote location means that accommodation is a little more difficult to find, but the experience of visiting this area makes the search well worthwhile. Many course participants opt to stay in Ullapool, which is 20 minutes drive away. It is a most picturesque fishing village, with a good range of accommodation to suit all budgets. There are many restaurants and takeaways and shops, as well as some evening entertainment, should you have any energy left at the end of that day's workshop. And students often group together and car share for their daily trip up the road, past Stac Pollaidh, to the studio. Please look at the Accommodation links page to find out more.

To read about an innovative community partnership approach to preserving and improving this landscape for the benefit of all, have a look at Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes. To find out about the fascinating geology of this area go to North West Highland Geopark.


Maps & directions to Jan's Studio : Open Studio Page 


open studioa


Email : info@jankilpatrick.co.uk    Tel : 01854 666279,   Postal Address : Jan Kilpatrick, Cul Mor, Elphin, By Lairg, Sutherland, IV274HH.

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