Making mice and rugs started out as just a hobby that I enjoyed doing in my spare time.
Knitting or crocheting rugs whilst sitting at a craft market stall and chatting to would-be customers (who often like to watch me as I work with giant size needles and/or crochet hook) is a great way to spend a day. However, sewing mice requires a lot more concentration so I do that at home.
It takes around 3 hours to complete an average sized rug, about 2 hours to make a tweed mouse from scratch and a couple of days to make a tweed lady complete with knitting, shawl and basket. It began with making rugs, then mice - I just gave them to friends and family - it didn't cross my mind that anyone would actually want to buy my products! Then one of my children suggested I make tweed dolls with a traditional Hebridean theme.
It really began in 2014. The friendly welcome and enormous encouragement from Mike & Di Reed who organise The Craft Market gave me the confidence I needed to branch out locally with my tweed products. Then I was approached by Beth and Fiona, owners of Cranachan & Crowdie, a shop on the Edinburgh Royal Mile specialising in all sorts of lovely Scottish products and gifts, who asked if they could sell my mice.
My grandson Leo designed and maintained my first crafts website, constantly updating and improving it, in addition to adding new products as they came along and making many helpful suggestions as to how to improve the photo quality of products. He also designed my first business cards, and he dealt with the social media aspect of the business and my Etsy shop. It is really thanks to Leo's enthusiasm and flair for website design that my online craft business got off the ground.
Mice have always been my ‘thing’ since I was in my teens – real ones, ornaments, mice of all sorts - they just fascinate me. Surrounded by so many varieties of tweed designs here on the Isle of Lewis, the combination of tweed and mice just happened. I had a rough idea of the sort of tweed mouse I wanted to make - something plain which would show up its beautiful pattern. Through a series of seeming coincidences a few years ago, I ended up speaking to a lovely lady called Carol who had recently opened a shop in Penarth, Cardiff (Sew Lovely) where she was giving sewing lessons (including to my daughter-in-law). She kindly showed me a fabric mouse one of her students had made, and then drew a paper pattern. It was exactly what I'd been looking for! Thus the mice were born!
The mice are about 5 inches tall with secure tiny black buttons for eyes and woollen whiskers. The tweed mice have a variety of woollen tails and are stuffed with weavers' waste cut into small bits. They come in a range of colours and varieties of tweed patterns, and each mouse has a name. We also offer a "mouse personalisation" service - choose a mouse and I'll put whatever name you like on it (as long as it's not too long).
Not content with just owning a single mouse, several customers have become ardent tweed mouse fans - some owning as many as 12 or more! People also seem to appreciate receiving a tweed mouse for their birthday. As a regular customer has remarked: "I think everyone should have a tweed mouse!" I quite agree!
As for the rugs – weavers were throwing away their wool ‘waste’ – the edge or selvage of the fabric that gets cut off in the weaving process – and as I enjoy crocheting and knitting it seemed a good idea to upcycle it and crochet / knit it into rugs of all shapes and sizes. Many local weavers have been happy to give me their waste. Some rugs are fluffier than others and are really nice to wrap up in, to drape over the sofa, or to lie on in front of the fire; others are more suitable as floor rugs – bathmats, doormats, bedroom mats, car seat mats – whatever you like really! We have found that our woollen rugs are also much appreciated by dogs, cats and indoor pet rabbits.
The mats are a more recent addition. They are all made by Gary on a peg loom he made specially. He uses the same weavers' waste that I knit/crochet my rugs with. The mats are really chunky with colourful stripes and tasselled ends, and their popularity is growing.