Monday, 17 January 2011

Another New Face on the Croft

Just before tupping time last year, our four-horned ram went to live on a croft at Ammunsuidhe in North Harris and the Hebridean ram who was living there came to us.  The picture below is of our ram in the trailer ready for his journey.
We hear that he has settled down well.  The exchange ram is a fine fellow with two horns - very dark brown and a little more reserved in character than Mr 4 Horn.  But he was working with the Cheviot ram we got from the auction mart and we are now looking forward to lambing at the end of March to see the results!

On Saturday we went up to Bernera to drop off a load of mohair and Friesland hand-spun which I've been working on over Christmas and New Year.  We also collected another new ram who was in need of a good home.  This one is called "Tuppie", and is a Shetland ram of two years, though he's a good size.  He had a difficult early life, but is now a real handsome fellow with a good helping of attitude and a lovely kind nature.  His fleece is gorgeous, you can just bury your hands in it and its crimpy and white and fine and soft - and I could go on, but I won't!

Here he is (above) getting ready to leave Bernera, and here he is again (below), settling into the apportionment at Croft 37 on Scalpay.

He has a couple of ewes with him for company and comes running down the hill to the fence when we appear with an armful of hay.  I've wanted a Shetland ram for ages as I think the crosses will be interesting.  If he's got a black gene lurking in his DNA then we will be even more pleased!

This week we have got more spinning on the agenda, a trip to Stornoway to pick up the new issue of "Events Monthly" (out on Wednesday so don't forget to pick up your free copy!) and then a quick nip round Harris delivering them on Friday.

The sun is out just now but its been very wet and the shed is quite damp.  We need a few days of easterly winds to dry off the croft and air out the loomshed, and also get an early start on the falaisgean (heather burning).

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Scalpay Linen Dog does Winter Sports

A perfect picture from across the Atlantic to update us on the progress of the Scalpay Linen Hebridean Tweed dog who moved to the states last year.
He has been lucky enough to go skiing at Cranmore Mt in Conway, New Hampshire which is one of the oldest ski resorts in the US.  He's obviously having a good time - many thanks to Sandy for keeping us abreast of his adventures.

All is quiet at Scalpay Linen just now - lots of spinning of mohair, the gift of a Shetland ram from Sallie the tapestry weaver in Great Bernera, another gift of some wonderful Zwartbles fleeces from our new neighbour here at Outend, Scalpay.  Sewing classes at Tweeds with Style, Drinnishader, Isle of Harris re-started after the Christmas break last evening.  The festivities continued with much indulgence in Fionas "Smooth Sensations" excellent truffles and, it must be said, no sewing was done at this class!  But we will be back to work again next Tuesday.
The weather has turned wet and mild which is a change from all the snow and ice, but I believe the Isle of Lewis are still in an arctic armlock.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

New Harris Tweed on the shelf...

Just before Shawbost Mill closed for Christmas holidays, we collected our new Harris Tweed that they had finished for us.  Now this tweed has been on the go for months - it took ages to warp, ages to weave, it sat around for ages whilst I was in Japan, then I left it in the mill for ages.  So when it came back, I'd almost forgotten what it looked like!

There are three basic wefts in the tweed, together with accent ends.  The above picture shows the plain Hebridean weft (the one with the orb mark on it), which is much softer than the others and has a quite strange shot effect when you move the cloth about.  To the right is the scarlet and pink - two shots of each which gives a lovely warm rich look when combined with the shading of the warp.  And at the bottom cloth has pink and blue - again two shots of each.   


 Above is a close up showing the first accent threads I used in the warp.  On the warping mill it looked great but when I started weaving I thought they looked too bold.  When the tweed came back finished we liked them with the red and pink weft (top) but still felt they were too heavy for the pink and blue(bottom).  However, they do have a certain charm and tone down quite a lot when viewed from a distance.

So then we put in some space dyed accent ends - they featured in the blog a while ago when I was using some Landscape dyes.  These turned out very subtle on the red and pink (above) but I like the effect very much.

On the pink and blue they worked really well.  Sorry for the pathetic photo which doesn't show the colours up at all well.  If you nip back to then you can see some of the space dyed yarns that went into this tweed.

On the whole, we are really pleased with the effect of the space dyed element in the cloth and hope to develop this more in the future.

Now for something completely different.....

Up here in the Western Isles, we are very much aware of our position balanced on the edge of Europe, surrounded by sea - the Minch to the east and the North Atlantic to the west.  Every year people get into difficulties due to our maritime situation, and we are very reliant on the Coastguard service to help.  As someone who comes from a fishing family, it is reassuring to know that there is someone there to help in the event of an emergency, and the Coastguards help numerous small craft users and holidaymakers each year too.
Now we find that, due to government budget cuts, we may lose our Coastguard Station at Stornoway.  I quote from an appeal which is being circulated to gather support to retain the station:

"We are asking for the support of our community to ensure that those who live, work or play on or around the seas and also our diverse, beautiful but often hostile coastline, continue to be served by a Coastguard Station which has vital local knowledge of our unique environment and society.
If you would like to help us please e-mail: or go to to find out how."

Whilst we all know that budgetary cuts are inevitable, it seems not quite right to cut a service which in 2009 co-ordinated the rescue of 684 people across the district which stretches from the west coast of scotland northwards and into mid-Atlantic.