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  1. Hi folks, time for another blog post.

    The shop continues to build up a dedicated contingent of absolutely wonderful customers, and we frequently have new visitors telling us they just had to visit having been told about us. We can’t begin to tell you how good that feels!

    Work progresses nicely on the new yarn. It has now all been spun and is due at the dyers this week. Teri has been putting in a great many extra hours with all the phone calls and negotiations, my work comes a bit later when we actually get our hands on the stuff. You’ll see what I mean in due course…

    In the meantime, it is of course holiday season, and even budding yarn shop owners need a break. It was my turn first, and so I headed off to the west coast of Scotland with the rest of the family.

    We spent a week in Wemyss Bay, taking the ferries out to visit Bute and Arran, walking in the woods nearby and visiting Glasgow for the museums.

    Although I found inspiring landscapes and even the odd field of sheep, I struggled to find a yarn shop, and we all know that to have a Good Holiday, one must find some souvenir yarn, plus I manged to finish my holiday sock knitting in record time and hadn’t brought any spare yarn with me. I know of, and have visited, The Yarn Cake in Glasgow, sadly we didn’t have time that day to visit again (if you are in the area it’s well worth a trip, find out more here - http://www.theyarncake.co.uk/). We did visit The Tenement House (http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Tenement-House/), The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/kelvingrove/Pages/default.aspx), and The Hunterian Museum in Glasgow University (http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/). I found a huge amount of interesting objects and have duly noted them for future use in some project or other.

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    L-R: Detail of fireplace in The Tenement House; box bed in the sitting room of the Tenement House (does this scream Yarn Storage to you, or is it just me?); detail of a painting in Kelvingrove Art Gallery; more tiles from the Tenement House; a small rill leaving an impossibly coloured bed and one of the ceilings in the Kelvingrove.

     

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    L-R Sheep spotted on a ramble near our campsite, breed anyone? Just one shot of some the most wonderful views I saw.

    Through diligent research, and a dose of determination I did find “Edith’s “ (2 Gilmour St, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, G83 0DB) in Alexandria, as we were en route to Loch Lomond so I was able to replace my sock yarn. I had a lovely chat with the lady herself and she told me about another little yarn shop in Drymen, not far from where we were, and very happily on the way to the next campsite.

    This shop turned out to be Craic n Yarns, run by Pat Strong (http://www.craicnyarn.com/). I had a very lovely time talking to Pat. It turns out she set up in business about the same time we did, and has a very similar set of guiding principles, she even stocks almost all the same yarns as us! We exchanged a lot of thought and ideas, gave each other advice and shared our experiences. I found myself some souvenir yarn, hand dyed locally by the owner of the sheep whose fleece makes up the yarn itself ( http://strathearnfleeceandfibre.co.uk/).

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    Happy Holiday Souvenir Yarn :)

     

    I also found a whole load of yarn from New Lanark Mills, and I exhausted my pocket money on a selection of colours. Pat has quite a long-standing relationship with New Lanark, and was able to tell me a lot about the place and about their yarn, and also gave me a shade card as I was very interested in the tweedy colours. I had known something about New Lanark, having looked it up while Teri and I had discussed where we might get our own yarn spun, and we have it marked down as a place that really needs a KnitClub visit some time (for purely educational purposes of course!), now I knew more, and that meant it got added as a final excursion on our way home.

     

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    A view of New Lanark Mills from the steep path down.

     

    I didn’t have time to visit the mill properly, that would take all day, but I saw enough to decide I have to go back and have a proper look. I did pop into the gift shop, found more colours of yarn to supplement my haul from Craic n Yarn, and after a chat with the shop manager got the contact details for the visitor centre manager who oversees the wholesale side of the yarn, so watch this space!

     

  2. No one can accuse us of clogging the internet with frequent blog posts! We have had a very busy time and I shall tell you all about it.

    We hatched a plan to have our own yarn but not just any common and garden yarn, a local yarn. Our local sheep breed is of course the Shropshire, a large lowland sheep which was removed from the rare breed list about 3 years ago when the number of breeding ewes topped 3,000 and they became classified as a traditional breed. They are a pretty sheep with comical ears set at 90 degrees to their heads.

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    My sheep look forward to shearing like a cat looks forward to having a bath! We managed to get our shearer to come just as the weather turned horrible. The girls had the joy of sheltering in the shed but the boys had to make do with a tarpaulin which they were most heartily grateful for. If you think that sheep don’t mind the rain, come and watch my lot sprinting for the shed as the first drops fall! We give the sheep manicures at the end of shearing so it really is the full beauty treatment which they don’t appreciate at all. When they are loosed back to the field you can see the bewilderment as they feel light and cool, and when they don’t recognise each other and pick fights. As Shropshires are large sheep my shearer usually asks to be paid by the acre, I’m just thankful he doesn’t ask for danger money as some of them are very wriggly and don’t care where their feet connect when they kick.

     

    Although I keep Shropshires my flock can’t provide enough fleece to be used commercially so we contacted other breeders and collected enough fleeces to send to be spun. After they were collected they all needed to be skirted and picked so that we only sent fleece and not lots of vegetable matter. Sheep have enough intelligence to be truly difficult. I’m sure they shelter in prickly bushes on purpose and wander back and forth through burrs until they have collected all of them. The picking started as a pleasant job on a sunny day but soon became tedious as we reached 120 fleeces. Hats off to those who do this for a job, it is smelly back-breaking work. Thankfully Becca and I have no shortage of humour and a Class 1 sense of the ridiculous. We still love sheep!

    Along the way we fell over some scrumptious coloured Wensleydale cross Bluefaced Leicester fleeces from a local shepherdess. They were begging to join our Shropshire to make a natural coloured option.

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    We drove up to the Halifax Spinning Company on a particularly wet day but with a huge sense of relief and achievement. It had been quite difficult to acquire the fleece we needed and it had taken far longer than we expected to pick and skirt it all. The clock is ticking because we want to bring this yarn with us to Yarndale.

     

    When we arrived at the Halifax Spinning Company we were treated to a tour of the mill and had the fun of fondling lots of samples that Paul has spun. His depth and breadth of knowledge is incredible and if we had had any doubts in giving him our precious fleece, he truly dispelled them.

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    The processes involved in turning dirty smelly fleeces into lovely useable yarn makes you realise why British wool is expensive. The fleeces are picked and teased so they can be washed and dried before carding. The carding machine is absolutely huge and turns the fleece into bouncy clouds of fluff.

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    Next the carding is drawn out into a roving which in turn is drawn out into a slubbing.

    20160613_115344Paul setting slubbings

    From there the slubbing can be spun into singles, which are then plied then skeined. The finished yarn is then washed to set the twist.

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    A huge “thank you” to Paul for the tour and being so very helpful. It is his knowledge and experience which makes the processes above work to give a good yarn as every breed’s fleece is different.

     

    We have yet to decide on colours for our yarn so there is more fun to come!