Saturday, 29 December 2012

Hope all our Blog Friends had a happy Christmas!
Here is Tuppy our ram celebrating in the only way he knows how - a mouthful of hay.

And, here is the first picture of my "new" loom from Uist.  Well, bits of it laid out on the floor.  Spent a jolly few hours the other day scraping layers of wool bits off some of the parts.  Sorry the pic is a bit blurry, my hand must have been shaking with the excitement!
Also, I see that Bramble got in on the act.
This is my latest warp - a girly pink Harris Tweed one.  Not my favourite colour, but it will be going for doggy coats so no doubt it will look very cute. 
We're all looking forward to a good 2013 here at Scalpay Linen.  With the new loom starting to take shape, lambing in April, some more teaching on the horizon, a new season to look forward to and of course the endless speculation as to whether Gandalf is really wearing our linen (it certainly looks like it to us), it could be that 12 months just won't be enough to cram in what we have planned!
If anyone is hoping to visit our workshop during the season, we will be open April to September but I will post dates when we know we will not be around. 
I am also hoping to be able to organise spinning classes for anyone who might be thinking of handspinning as a way of supplementing their income.  It will probably be in the Stornoway area and probably in the springtime.  So if you're interested, please let me know.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

     Ever wondered what a cloud in a basket would look like?  Well, here's one!  I managed to catch it as it was going over Scalpay....
Actually, it's carded mohair from Driftwater Weaves gorgeous Angora goat, Ludi.  Almost too nice to spin, but needs must.  Mohair is so nice, but goodness it does get everywhere. If CSI ever had to come to our house to carry out an investigation, the finger of suspicion would undoubtedly point to a goat!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Great News for Crofters, Weavers and Knitters

     Well, part of the reason I have been so mouse-quiet over the past few weeks is that I have been holding my breath because the powers that be (Leader) have been deciding the future funding for the very exciting Uist Woollen Mill project.  I am here today, rather puffed out, to joyfully announce that the funding has been granted and that it's FULL STEAM AHEAD!  As far as I know all the funding is in place, we began with a taster training course for wool-work a couple of weeks ago which was over-subscribed and great fun for us all; the machinery has been sourced and is waiting to be moved, and now the funding for the building is confirmed. 

     So it's celebration time just now and a chance to thank our funding sourcer Dana for all her hard work, tenacity and determination over the past few years, also to Mary for her great input to the project and all the committee past and present who kept the faith and kept pushing forward regardless.  We love you all!
     Haven't got a picture of what the mill will look like yet, but for now here is a picture of a token sheep and lamb -

...because, when all is considered, this is what it's all about.

Now I'm going to lie down in a darkened room for a while with a wet flannel over my eyes because the excitement is getting to me and there is a risk that I might go over the top.  And we don't want that!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Quack Olympic Hopes!

Q.  What could be more exciting than the arrival of the Olympic flame on the Isle of Lewis next month? 
A.  The arrival of the GB Junior Synchronised Swimming Team on Croft 37 this morning!
Aren't they cute?  They are all wearing the same uniform, so that's a good start.
Their trainer, Mrs Duck is keeping a close eye on their freestyle!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

What makes a summer?

According to the old saying - "One Swallow Doesn't Make a Summer".  This little chap zoomed into the loomshed this morning at speed and nearly knocked himself out on the window.  Don't know who was more surprised, me or the swallow.
I do hope there is another one around so we will get summer this year.  This morning was very nice but now it's raining again.

Having never seen a swallow at such close range before I was just amazed at it's beautiful iridescent plumage.  After he had had a bit of a sit down to recover, we said goodbye and he winged it over the hills.  However, later on he was back sitting on the phone wires nearby.  Hope Mrs Swallow isn't going to keep him waiting too long!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Clerkenwell Design Week

Clerkenwell Design Week starts tomorrow!  This year Scottish Textiles with Weber Shandwick are taking a selection of interior textiles all manufactured in Scotland.  Though we won't be there in person, Scalpay Linen will be exhibiting a small range of our cloth - some of it so new that this is the first time it's been allowed out on it's own!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Scalpay Community Shop

Great News!  Buth Scalpaigh, the Scalpay Community Shop will be opening for business at 1 pm today.    The cafe will open on Monday, but for now, here's a preview of the Scalpay Linen curtains which we designed and wove specially for this very special project.

The door curtain is above, and the window curtains are below.  We are very pleased with the results.  Thanks to Karen for colour selection, to Ann for her sewing skills, David for the photography and to Harris Tweed Hebrides, Shawbost, for finishing the cloth for us in super-quick time.

The shop is going to be a great asset to the community  and I, for one, will be using it regularly!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Nought to three in two days!

Once upon a time we were enjoying peace and quiet and then within the space of  two days, our life is turned upside down with the arrival of three lambs, none of whom has a mother who wants to care for it.  The photo is fairly representative of what it's like at feeding time.  The weather has been really wet again so we've been bringing them into the house for bottles to save us all getting soaked outside.  Even with Bramble and my other half on duty, it is still pandemonium (or should that be lambdemonium!).

The first lamb's mother had no milk at all and ran away after he was born; the second was a difficult birth to a gimmer who had never had a lamb before so she wasn't interested, and the third was abandoned at birth on the croft and we are not quite sure who her mother is.  Apparently, the record for lambs on the bottle at the same time is five - and we are only half way through lambing......

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lambs and Linen

Now, here's something you don 't see everyday..... twin lambs, one of which is black and one white.
They are about three days old.  We think the black one may be the son of our deceased black ram whilst the white one has a definite Shetlandy look about him.  On the other hand, Tuppy the Shetland ram does have black genes - although he is white he has had black lambs in the past - so maybe they are both his.  Anyway, they are very cute and seem to be thriving despite the rotten snowy cold weather we had yesterday.
Today is a bit warmer and the sun is out,

In other news, the new curtains for Buth Scalpaigh are now in production......

and are very attractive - well done to the shop interior designers who picked the colours and well done to me for working out the design and making the pattern chain up correctly!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Eeek!  Two posts in two days - must sit down and fan myself with a damp tea towel (linen of course!)
A couple of summers ago I got some gorgeous shetland fleeces to spin in exchange for some Hebridean fleeces- now I have heard from Jean Cairns who runs to say that her website is now up and running and she is open for business.

 The great thing about Jean is that she sources all her fleeces locally from the Wildlife Trust or nature reserves and local smallholders and they are all top quality fibre.  She has the yarn spun by our old friends Natural Fibres Ltd in Launceston, Cornwall and, of course they always do a fabulous job so please take a look at Jean's website and I guarantee that you'll want to start knitting and/or weaving!  She has some beautiful natural shades of 4 ply that would look stunning in fair-isle or intarsia, so this is a good opportunity to support our good old British breeds of sheep.

The photos are all taken from and are Shetland fibre, except for the bottom right which is Suffolk Romney.  It's great to see new folks on the scene doing their bit for wool, so Good Luck Jean!

Talking about yarn production, there has been some good progress on the Uist Woollen Mill Project which has now been granted funding for the Wool Interpretation Centre and the first round of training courses.  There are one or two more hoops to jump through before the complete funding package is done and dusted, but I will blog developments as and when they happen.  It's all really exciting.

This coming week is going to be a busy one - teaching warping to one of our trainees tomorrow, then a lot of cleaning of the shed in preparation of opening up for visitors on the 17th.  And, I have finally got the Buth Scalpaigh warp tied in and started - just need to do a pattern chain.  It is going to be very, very wonderful, even though I say it myself.  Just hope my warping will have been up to the job as it all turned into a bit of a fiasco towards the end - I was turning the little reed behind the heck over after each section to increase the pattern repeat to 48 ends but didn't keep an eagle eye on the section spacing as I was going on.   Time will tell.........

Saturday, 31 March 2012

First New Face of the Season

A lovely surprise on this gorgeous, warm, sunny day.  Daisy, our half-cheviot ewe produced the first new lamb of the season late this morning.  Daisy came to us as a ewe hogg having been abandoned by her mother and taken in by a friend from Bunnavonneader in North Harris.  She came to us when they moved and has lived happily with us ever since.  This will be her third lamb - a little girl who is very fit and well and has a good loud voice!

Am in the final stages of arranging for a drop-spindle beginners spinning course on 3rd July in Tarbert as part of the Harris Arts Festival.  So, if you are in the area and fancy a couple of hours of relaxed learning, let me know.


It's been a horrid winter and we have lost quite a few old friends on the croft.  Both of our remaining Hebridean rams died in the bad weather and we are hoping that one of the Hebridean ewes will have a male lamb who can fill the gap.
We have our fingers crossed though that it will be a good spring.
Our loomshed will be open from  17th April this year - Monday, Wednesday and Friday as per last year, but if you are planning a visit and are travelling a distance please contact me in advance to confirm that I will be there.  Loom training is continuing and may sometimes encroach on opening days.  I'm hoping to put opening times for the next week on the blog.
So between now and then, I have to clean the loomshed of all the winter detritus - persuade the spiders that they need new webs and try to find a place for all the bits and pieces that have built up over the months we have been closed.  Still working on the curtains for Buth Scalpaigh cafe and finishing up some Wensleydale spinning!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Exclusive Preview

Introducing the "Buth Scalpaigh" cafe curtains at the earliest stage of their production!  Scalpay Linen have decided to design and weave an exclusive cloth in celebration of the opening of the new community shop and cafe at the beginning of April.  This cloth will be gifted by us and made into curtains for the cafe.
We ordered the linen yarn specially from Jos Vanneste in Belgium and some of it had to be plied so as to get a more textured finish.
This is the start of the warp. Each section, of which there will be 28, is a mirror image of the previous one so, though we are only warping with 24 ends, the pattern will be 48 ends wide.
We hope to be updating the blog on progress of the cloth.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


     Is there anybody out there who has a female Angora Goat surplus to requirements?  A friend has just lost hers and her billy goat is lonely and sad as a result.  If anyone can help, please let me know and I'll pass your details on. 

Friday, 20 January 2012

     At last, I have got my Haldane spinning wheel back on its hooves and it's working again.  Yes, the drive band is a bit of cotton band and the shade isn't really in keeping with the rest of it, but I stuck the legs on with wood glue, put a bent tack in the crank on the shaft and it seems to be going really well now.
     The reason behind all this refurbishment is that I've finally come to the conclusion that it's not possible to get a really tight twist on the jumbo bobbin of the Ashford - the ratios are all wrong!  So to get my handspun suitable for warps I need to get back to the Haldane. 
      I bought this wheel new in 1981 from a store in Highbury, North London and it has treadled miles for me.  When my daughter was small I worked as a commercial handspinner from home and though in recent years it has been rather left on the shelf (so to speak) mainly because of the falling legs syndrome, I'm so glad I never got rid of it.  Some years ago I bought new bobbins that had bearings as the original wooden ones were badly worn, and the flier is starting to get very grooved where the yarn rubs over it.  Wish they were still making these wheels - it's the best one I've ever had.

On the table of the wheel are a couple of bobbins of Zwartbles I've spun up to put in my cache towards the Handspun Harris Tweed. From two trips through the drum carder it will spin up to around an 8 cut Gala which should weave a good hefty tweed unlike anything else that's on the market just now.
     A new accessory in the loomshed (below) is this dinky little silicone brush which cost me £1.80 from Lewis Crofters Ltd in Stornoway.  Think its meant for brushing stuff over food, but is's great for cleaning keyboards, and also the hard to get at corners of the loom.  It picks up the odd dog or cat hair from the upholstery, and is so useful that I think I might need to buy another!

     Just so you know I've been doing some work recently, here is a tub of Wensleydale fleece in soak.  One hour in hand-hot water with 100ml of Hebridean Soap (Lemon and Eucalyptus) then a spin in a horizontal spin drier, another soak for 30 mins with a bit less soap this time, another spin, and finally a rinse for 10 mins in hand-hot water with 100mls of white vinegar to get the soap out.

     And the result is a gorgeous tub of white and goldern, fluffy locks which I can't wait to get started on when its nice and dry.  This fleece is destined for Teos Handspuns in Broadford, Isle of Skye.
     And finally, here's Tilly taking a rest from hunting.  We haven't seen many mice round since Tilly arrived, but Scalpay seems to be developing a rat problem!  Is this because now the North American Mink have almost been eradicated from the area, it's left a vacant niche for the rats to move in?  We caught one in our byre a couple of weeks ago, and there have been quite a few reported sightings and catchings elsewhere.  Nature never leaves a vacuum!  Keep going Tilly, we need you!