Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Back from Orkney and picking up the threads again.

Well, it doesn't seem like nearly a week since my last blog! And what an amazingly good time we had on our Orkney trip. I had never met any of my travelling companions before - Flora from http://www.calanas.co.uk/; Sam from http://www.outerhebridessoapshack.com/; Corinna from http://www.sollasbooks.com/ and Annettefrom http://www.diggorybrown.co.uk/ but by the end of the trip we all felt we had known each other for years!

Our B & B - the Orca Guest House on the main street in Stromness was comfortable and our landlady was a keen bee-keeper - which was an added bonus. The breakfasts were delicious.

Between us, the group shared two little hire cars and I'm afraid that navigation-wise, those in our car had big problems. I always say that one of the reasons I live on a little island is that it is difficult to get lost - and I am glad to say that amongst our group, I am not alone in this.

Orkney is so different to the Outer Hebrides - green and cultivated, gently rolling hills and lots of cattle. Orkney produce seems to cover everything from Ice-cream (delicious) to raspberries (yum) to flour made from Bere which is apparently a very old breed of wheat. There is a winery near to the Italian Chapel on South Ronaldsay (below) where we got to taste delicious country wines (I bought a fabby one made from Westray raspberries).

Everywhere you can see things made of North Ronaldsay sheep wool - the sheep are an old breed which lives on the shoreline of one of the islands and eats seaweed. This gives the meat a good flavour. The sheep come in brown and grey - a bit like Hebridean - but the wool is soft and fluffy and, when made into felt, sheds a bit. I have brought home some rovings as I just couldn't resist it! Will spin it after I've finished with the grey Wensleydale.

We were in Orkney during the annual blues festival so there was plenty musical entertainment in the evenings. Weather was excellent on Saturday but wet and windy on Sunday when we visited Skara Brae - the neolithic village - and got absolutely soaked!

But what a great place - right on the shore and looking remarkably comfy. Love the dresser!
The craft trail on Orkney is excellent - loads of different crafts from these wonderful Orkney Chairs (below) to teddies made out of fair-isle jerseys to elegant jewellery. The Orkney Crafts Association have a shop in Bridge Street, Kirkwall which stocks a good selection of crafts made by various association members and there is a Craft Trail which will take you from one workshop or gallery to the next where you can meet the makers and see how the products are made. It's really fascinating.

I'd really like to go back for a holiday sometime. Looking through the photos I took it seems that I am not only really pathetic at finding my way around, I also lack the ability to take good photos to illustrate my blogs!
However, something rather jolly happened on the way home when one of our party was reading a free magazine called "Highland Life" and found an article which included a mention of Scalpay Linen in connection with Sallie Jayne Avis who makes wedding dresses in the north of Lewis. Always nice to see your name in print isn't it?
So, now its back to work - today I worked on the yellow, brown and turquoise linen. Have also got the warp from the new Belgium linen sorted out and will start doing that tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Last Week

Last week we were visited by Mr & Mrs Gedgrave-Wensleydales from Suffolk. We had a great time talking about fleeces, dyeing, blue-tongue, sheep ticks and all sorts of stuff that sheep-obsessed people discuss when they meet others of a like mind! We are going to work on a project to produce some Wensleydale Linsey-Woolsey using naturally dyed Wensleydale wool. It's very exciting and I can't wait to get started. The weather was mainly good, which was helpful, and we rounded off with a meal at the Harris Inn, Tarbert where the food was, as always, most palatable and the atmosphere conducive to having a good time.

My order of linen yarn arrived from NV Jos Vanneste in Belgium and it's just fabby. Would have put in a piccie but my camera batteries are flat and I forgot to get new ones when I was in Stornoway shopping last week. The colours are great and its glossy and glamorous to touch. I've started winding up cones for the warping creel as our next web in will be a Hebridean Linsey-Woolsey. 12 x 12 herringbone, 19 shots and ends per inch with two colour stripe in the warp - the point of the herringbone to come mid-colour. Weft will be some of the last of my Natural Fibres Spun Hebridean. I'm trying to get it used up before the Carloway mill Harris Hebridean arrives, as its important to keep it totally separate as it will be eligible to be stamped with the Harris Tweed orb mark after weaving, whereas the NF Heb isn't.

Then, as if this wasn't excitement enough for the end of September, tomorrow I'm off to Orkney for a five day trip along with others from the Hebrides, Shetland and Highland region. We are going to be researching the Orkney Craft Trail and why it is so successful, and why its so difficult to get something like that going in other areas. I'm representing the SassyGaels and we are looking to perhaps produce a craft map and add other forms of marketing for our craft fair participants next year.
I have specially purchased a memory card for my camera (shame about the batteries!) so will be clicking away everyday at everything that moves. Having never been to Orkney my O/H has given me a short list of things to specially look out for (sheep!) and it will be an excellent opportunity to get my networking hat on and meet new contacts and hopefully refresh old ones.
Only fly in the ointment is a ferry trip to Westray on Friday which seems to last a very long time. Now, I'm not the worlds best sailor, so if the weather keeps up what its been doing so far this week, I suspect I'll see a lot of the inside of the ladies rest room on board!

Meantime, will probably be maintaining radio silence on the blog till next week.
Over and Out....!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

More Pippin, and a new linen

Just because the blog has been a bit quiet just lately doesn't mean that I haven't been busy....
The new warp is tied in now - 18lea, 3 to a dent, 32 shots and with a 64 repeat pattern. I managed to cock up only one of the sections while warping when I was busy talking to visitors and forgot to turn the reed - however, with a bit of judicious re-arrangement and re-tying in, its good as new! Ah, the skill of the weaver...

Now we have to decide what colour to put in as the weft. The fuzzy photo above doesn't really do it justice as the bottom one, the yellow, looks really wishy-washy in the flesh, as does the fourth, the turquoise, yet they look quite jolly in the picture. The red is the best, but sadly my supplies are limited and its also a very fragile yarn and keeps breaking in the shuttle which means all sorts of trouble in the weaving. I really don't know which one to choose, so any suggestions would be welcome. I'm going to put in a ten shot three colours to see what that looks like.

And so to Pippin - here seen at play with Bramble and Heather. What a very good dog he is -friendly, well-behaved, good with the hens and overall getting a score of 10 out of 10 for dogginess.
Other projects in hand - a new variation on the sea anemone hat, lots of spinning with the Falkland wool, picking out a grey Wensleydale fleece for chunky spinning and now waiting for the long-awaited delivery of my consignment of Belgium linen yarn. Woohoo!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Baby Alpaca Video

For heart-melting cuteness, check out http://alpacasoflewis.blogspot.com for a video of little Rose, the two day old Alpaca galloping around the croft in the most delighttful little coat. Can't wait to get up to see her!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Welcome to the Outer Hebrides for a baby Alpaca.

Please visit http://alpacasoflewis.blogspot.com/ to see the latest pictures of their new arrival. She is so cute I want one of my own.....