One of our big goals in moving to the UK was to take advantage of the opportunity to do a lot of traveling. The first installment of our travel adventures is now in the books, as we went away to the Scottish Highlands for a week.
There are more details on the Expat blog, but for this audience, I want to tell you about the sheep. And the wool. And etc. Upon our arrival on the Isle of Skye, I was overjoyed to see more then one appropriate road sign.
And there, by the side of the road, was this:
A prime example of the [Scottish] Blackface sheep. These things were everywhere - those road signs were not a joke, people - and we had ample opportunity to chase them around on some of our hikes.
As we were out hiking around, I noticed something interesting.
FLEECE! Ok, not really fleece, more like sheddings or hairballs. But my first experience with the raw stuff since I started spinning. I spent more time then my family could quite comprehend picking tufts off the ground and mumbling about "double coated" and "guard hairs" and "shedding versus shearing". We saw a lot of sheep that did actually look like they were shedding their fleece, but subsequent research has not indicated that to be the case. In any event, the fiber that I picked up definitely had two types of fibers: some very coarse guard hairs, and a softer undercoat.
You can seem them a bit better in this picture. Even the undercoat was pretty coarse, and the guard hairs would be unwearable in any form I suspect (and I'm not a stickler for really soft fibers!). But I am more interested in getting my hands on some raw fleece now. Because I have so much free time you know!
I did manage to pick up some yarn in the Highlands. I managed to miss the big yarn store in Fort William, but as we were driving around Skye, I noticed a big sign saying "Handspinner" on the side of the road. We stopped, IM took the girls to throw rocks in the water, and I went in to an absolute Aladdin's cave of yarn, sweaters and handspun.
The website doesn't do the shop justice. Cashmere, alpaca, silk, handspun, millspun, knit up into sweaters and scarves and hats, or just lying around in luscious hanks. I had a bit of a chat with Teo, who claimed to have the largest selection of handspun yarn for sale in the UK. I believe it - it was certainly the largest amount of handspun I've ever seen in one commercial establishment.
I managed to make it out with only "minor" damage to the credit card (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).
On the right, handspun merino/silk 2-ply, 8 wpi, 112 yds/3.1 oz. This is destined for a cowl for someone for Christmas, maybe this one?
In the middle, handspun Jacob - some of the only local wool he had. A mix of colors (also 2-ply), 10-11 wpi, 173 yds/3.2 oz. Nice and wooly, perfect for some lined mittens.
And finally, the crowning glory: a skein of the softest, most luxurious baby alpaca. Laceweight, 2-ply, 518 yds/3.2 oz. I was originally going to dye this, but after petting it for a while this afternoon, I think I'll leave it as is and make a gorgeous little shawl.
Am now kicking myself for not getting some of the handspun silk - a worsted weight single in the most gorgeous dark teal and silver and blue. I guess this means I'll just have to take another trip!