Facebook keeps telling us that It’s been a while since we’ve posted about The Hebridean Woolshed. There’s xxxx people waiting to hear from us, apparently. Well, some of those seem to be so anxious to hear from us that they decided to visit the Woolshed in person (here in South Uist, that is) : that would explain why this season has got off to an unprecedented, busy start. We’ve been working day and night (well, okay, into the evenings) trying to keep up!
The problem is that people keep buying what we have on the shelves – and just replacing what we’ve sold takes up so much time, never mind making anything new! We’re brimming with ideas we want to experiment with, develop into new items for sale, and new ways of presenting what we make, but it’s difficult to find the time for continuity of thought and simply time enough to make progress. We really would like to!
One thing that has – at long last! – come to fruition, is some new variations on the theme of Natural Wools – that is, undyed naturally coloured wool from our own Hebridean sheep, and from our neighbours’ Cheviot sheep.
Today, several months after we sent the sorted, graded fleece off to the micro-mill for processing, the postie delivered several boxes of our new Beinn Sgiathan 3-ply Aran wool yarn. We were very excited to unpack the wools; but also a somewhat anxious as to what we would find. It’s the first time we’ve specified a blend of two different wools ; we had to overcome our worry that the result would have neither the character and warmth of the Hebridean, nor the simplicity and light of the Cheviot – but would prove to be bland and boring.
But, as we opened up the first box, we couldn’t help burst out with exclamations of delight. The yarn we’ve created is, if anything, more than the sum of its parts. It’s a yarn that’s rocks tumbling down the scree-strewn north face of Beinn Sgiathan in Eriskay (we’ve named this new yarn after the hill), boulders speckled with lichens ; it’s wind-torn seas, it’s scudding storm clouds, the high walls of our historic kitchen garden.
Another innovation (well, for us) is to have some of the wool from our Hebridean ewes and rams returned to us as Roving – taken from the process that immediately precedes the spinning itself. This means we can now offer hand-spinners and craft felters the chance to buy selected quality wool from our own An Gàrradh Mòr flock of Hebridean sheep – but in a form that is highly convenient and increasingly popular amongst spinners and others.
These changes have led us to revise or reorganize some pages of this website, and we’ve taken the opportunity to re-energize the content with new pictures. The main change is that Hebridean and Cheviot pages have now been combined into a new page Natural Wools.
So, off you go, explore! Your feedback would be very welcome.
First a fortnight of mostly fine weather, blighted by a string of calamitous problems with the new fencing, and then a back injury that left me scarcely able to stand straight, walk properly, or sleep at night. Other tasks, too, have had to be left to the goodwill of the elves. As the pressure guage has swung into the red, the body has responded with painful joints and sore glands, muscle pain, chronic lethargy and fatigue, blurred vision, inability to concentrate, dulled thinking, slow speech, vertigo, headaches, depression … the whole gamut of symptoms that, back in 2015, forced me to ‘retire’ from civil engineering – essentially to give up my profession due to ill health. The symptoms have ebbed and flowed with the seasons and the circumstances, but this recent episode has been the worst I recall since the first onset, two years ago.
Test have furnished neither cause nor diagnosis – just a shelf-full of repeat prescriptions. A working explanation (at least on my part – based on my own research), was that it’s a neurological condition that can be traced back about 12 years to when I was infected with Lyme Disease: back then it was quite new to the UK, and my infection wasn’t diagonosed (let alone treated) until the ‘infection aura’ had spread all the way from ankle to groin. Now, reluctantly, I have to admit that it seems more consistent with ME / CFS – though a formal diagnosis wouldn’t make any difference. Perhaps its best, as the doctor says, just to treat the symptoms.
This weekend the UK is basking in a heat wave, at the fringe of a high pressure system that’s centred over the Iberian peninsula. Our daughter Catherine and her Basque partner Ion, who live in a mediavel village perched high up in the hills of Navarra, are struggling to cope with temperatures around 40degC. In the UK, it’s been in the upper 20s – low 30s, even reaching 34degC. Except, that is, in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland: here the temperature is about 14degC. Well, that’s not so bad, you’re thinking (I know you are!), for the Outer Hebrides. Well, we have known it much warmer than that … but I take your point. Or I would, were it sunny too, here. But it ain’t! Persistent winds, swirling low cloud or sea fog – resulting in humidity at 99%, and very poor light. The grass is growing like Topsy, and there’s nothing we can do but stop indoors with the lights on, the wood-burning stove lit to try and invoke the winter we’re-just-so-grateful-to-be-tucked-up-indoors-where-its-warm-and-dry spirit – and pick up the books and weaving (for me, just to be on the safe side, it’s books about weaving) that we put aside months ago when Spring finally sprung.
That, then, was the context for this morning’s discovery of Rhubarb dead in his sleep.