Sounds of Scotland captured in patterns



The sound of waves crashing on a beach in Pittenweem, branches shaking in Newtonmore in the Highlands and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves in Drumnadrochit have all been turned into patterns by Scotland-based designers as part of a year-long project. 

Aural Textiles, funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and led by Heriot-Watt University’s School of Textiles and Design, is taking the sounds of nature onto fabric, the loom and knitting needles.  

Six practitioners from across Scotland originally worked on the project, capturing sounds from across Scotland onto textiles. 

The project came out of an initial collaboration between Dr George Jaramillo from Heriot-Watt’s School of Textiles and Design and Dr Lynne Hocking-Mennie, an Aberdeen-based hand weaver and former academic scientist. 

Dr George Jaramillo said: “Participants have captured soundscapes, whether it’s bird calls and waves or the sound of machinery and aeroplanes overhead, in an attempt to better understand their local environment. 

“This is data-driven design. Sounds are captured on smartphones and transformed into spectrograms. We can digitally manipulate it to reduce background noise and simplify the bioacoustic patterns so it can be read by others. 

“A single spectrogram can lead to a huge variety of samples within and across textile disciplines, whether knitting, weaving or screen printing.”

The project produced a pattern book which is free to access online and has now entered a second phase with non-textile practitioners. 

Dr Lynne Hocking-Mennie said: “We recruited five new creatives to collaborate with the original textile practitioners - two ceramicists, a furniture maker, a jewellery designer and a kiltmaker.

“The practitioners are now working together to create objects inspired by sounds that combine their different making skills. This is ongoing, and it has been fascinating to see and hear how the practitioners tackle knowledge-sharing during the co-creation of new work.  

“One of the biggest insights has been a clear desire among the craft practitioners to have more space and time in their practice for innovation and experimentation. This project has given practitioners the opportunity to do just that, and to create hybrid ways of making within Scottish contemporary design that span disciplines and geography.”  

The Aural Textiles project has evolved to become part of a larger project called Distributed Capabilities which is preparing for a final exhibition and engagement in spring 2021.

Visit for more information and the pattern book. 


Sarah McDaid