Friday, 19 February 2010

What have I been doing?

So, it's over a week since my last blog. Does this mean I've been off to the winter Olympics, or sitting around drinking coffee and chatting? No, actually, it doesn't. I've been a busy bee working on a secret project which I will not be revealing until later.....

Meantime, the postie arrived today with a special box all the way from the USA -the Sheep Shed Studio who just happen to be my favourite trans-Atlantic shopping spot! I decided to give a try to the Wildefoote Sock Yarn - and its gorgeous. See below. The economics was - 124 GBP for 54 balls (this includes postage) which should make 36 pairs of socks. Plus £31.54 to H M Revenue & Customs (£8 parcelforce handling fee and £23.54 VAT). This works out at £4.32 per pair for materials. Look out on the blog for news as to how I get on with it on the CSM.

Also today I had a visit from Eileen Bell who is editing "Heb Magazine" for Intermedia Services Ltd. this year. Scalpay Linen is taking a quarter page ad this year, in colour so Eileen came over to take some photos and get some info for a little write-up. The magazine is always well worth buying and looks like it is going to be extra good this year.
I set up a selection of my stock for the photos and took a piccie myself before I put it all back on the shelves again!

On Tuesday, we went to Shawbost Mill - Harris Tweed Hebrides - and picked up the Linsey-
Woolsey I dropped off last time we were there. It's the blue and white vertical herringbone stripes with a weft of grey and brown Hebridean wool.
This one is a real beauty - very tweedy looking but lovely and soft too. Below is what it looks like on the roll. We dropped in another while we were there - this one is red and white - same pattern. Now I've almost run out of grey Hebridean wool, so the "Stripes" collection of Hebridean Linsey Woolsey will stand at three for now. It's been great weaving them.

Bramble was rounding up the guinea fowl today and one of them landed on the handrail of the path which leads down to the loomshed . It was very near and I happened to have the camera handy so couldn't resist taking a piccie. Aren't they just the weirdest looking birds?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Smoke gets in your eyes......

At last my favourite time of the crofting year has arrived. As soon as the year has turned and we get a few days of a drying south-easterly wind, it is time to start muir-burning - also called "falaisgean" in Gaelic.
Left to itself, the ling heather would grow very tall - up to four feet - and underneath its canopy the soil would be starved of light and nutrients so nothing would grow. The cover would also hide holes in the peat soil which would be dangerous to both stock and people walking on the moors. In nature, every so often lightning would spark off a fire that would burn the heather to the ground, re-vitalising the earth and opening it up to the light again. The heather wouldn't die, it would start to sprout again close to the ground but grass would also grow, thus providing good grazing for the animals.
On the common grazings we mimic nature by burning roughly 1/10th of the land every year to give it a new lease of life. The burning season ends in mid-April when the ground-nesting birds start laying, so there is no danger to wildlife.

Of course, we do have to take care that the wind direction and speed will not cause a hazard, also that the fire won't travel too far.
Having said that, going to the falaisg is a very exciting occupation and the smell of burning heather is, to me, as good as any Chanel No 5.
This afternoon I was out with the matches and opened the season with a good blaze. The picture above shows the scene looking out across Loch na Craoibhe and with the Isle of Skye clearly visible on the horizon.
When we got home we saw a plume of smoke rising from nearby Harris, so we weren't the only ones keen to take advantage of the good dry conditions.
Sometimes, when the wind is in the right direction we can smell the smoke coming from the Isle of Skye.
Now for the health and safety bit...... muir-burning should only be undertaken by people who know what they are doing and are operating within a grazings committee envirnonment or similar. Unscheduled fires lit on the moors can be very dangerous to wildlife, stock and people.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Socks ready to go.....

Here they are - my first batch of socks from the CSM. Had a grand time cranking them and also enjoyed grafting up the toes. Must be like riding a bicycle, once you've learned to make a sock on a sock machine, you never forget....

These are the toes, to show how professional they look! The pair second from the left are Joans' hand-dyed wool ( and they are very effective.

And here they are all stacked up in a crisp little column waiting to be worn. None of these are for sale - am still having a bit of a problem with dropping cylinder stitches on the ribbing, but once that's sorted, I shall have some on sale.

Still snowy here, but not so bad that we can't get out and about.
Breaking news.......... Pippins new little brothers have been named "Mist" and "Mirk". Lovely names for cute little pups!