Uist Wool at Edinburgh Yarn Fest!!!

once again, Edinburgh Yarn Fest is fast approaching (gulp!) and i’m in my last stages of packing and organising before we head off for the big event next week. in total, i’m bringing nearly 2500 skeins of yarn – but out of everything that i’ll have with me this year, i’m most excited about one yarn in particular.

i’ve been spending time in North Uist for quite a few years now – it’s one of my favourite places not just in Scotland, but probably in the world. it’s wild, open, bleak, & beautiful – i’d love to have been able to live there full-time, but i’m not sure that i’m tough enough to stay somewhere so remote (i know my limitations!). it’s an amazing place to visit, and has always felt like home to me. as a knitter, it’s been frustrating to see so many crofters raising sheep with fantastic fleeces, that are then completely undervalued by the Wool Board (to the extent that many crofters treat the fleeces as “waste products”, even burning or burying them). so when i first heard about the Uist Wool project, i was very excited!! initially started as a training program, as well as to create a use for local wool and give crofters a better price for their fleece, it’s now grown into an amazing business that employs both full & part- time staff and produces some absolutely stunning yarns. Uist Wool sources the majority of their fleece from the Hebrides as well as from other areas of Scotland, and process, blend, & spin the wool on-site in their Grimsay mill into some beautiful products.

the natural-coloured yarns that Uist Wool produces are just gorgeous; however, as a dyer by trade, i always want to add a bit of colour here & there if i can!! so after a few months of persuasive tactics, Uist Wool agreed to spin a 4ply base yarn that i could use for dyeing. my usual base yarns are an unbleached off-white, which is easy to overdye and create just about any colour you can imagine; the yarn i received from Uist Wool is an interesting blend of cheviot, zwartbles, and hebridean, which combines to make a mid-to-light gray/brown with a few darker slubs scattered throughout. i wanted to retain some of the depth of the base yarn, and add a layer of colour on top, so i created five new colourways inspired by Uist itself to dye exclusively on the Uist Wool.

when we travel to Uist, we head up through Scotland to Uig at the top of Skye, and get the ferry from there to Lochmaddy in North Uist. for me, the “Uist” feeling properly begins with the ferry trip across that dividing sea – known as The Minch, or An Cuan Canach, “the sea of the Hebrides”. deep, cold, and often stormy, “an cuan canach” is a deep blue-green-gray.

there are always a few favourite places we need to visit while we’re staying there – one of these is Poball Fhinn, or “Finn’s People”, a stone circle above Loch Langass in North Uist. since we’re always travelling with Finn (our now-elderly dog), this is a favourite spot for obvious reasons! every time we’ve been there, i’ve been struck by the heather-laden hills and the weathered stones, so “poball fhinn” is a semi-variegated dark purple with touches of green & gray.

another favourite spot is Clachan Sands, an absolutely breathtaking white sand beach with clear, almost-tropical turquoise seas. if it weren’t for the wind, you could be fooled into thinking you were in the Bahamas. “clachan sands” is a soft blue-turquoise with just a hint of gray sand.

the last two colourways are inspired by natural features of North Uist – firstly, the machair. the machair is one of the rarest habitats in Europe, and only occurs on exposed western coasts of Scotland & Ireland; the most extensive areas of machair are found on the Hebrides. sand which is largely made up of calcium-rich crushed shells is washed ashore, and creates the base for an incredibly fertile and diverse habitat where you can find up to forty different species of Hebridean plants & flowers within one square metre of machair; this in turn supports an also rich & diverse population of insects & birds. it’s very difficult to photograph, much like the colourway it inspired – layered shades of soft heathery purple & pink as well as greens, grays, & yellows.

and finally, my personal favourite – inspired by the golden/mustard/grellow lichen that covers most rocks on the shores of the Hebrides, “crotal buidhe” is a vivid gold/mustard with touches of burnt orange and a hint of green & gray. crotal is the Gaelic word for “lichen”, while buidhe can mean both “golden” & “lucky” – which is exactly how i feel at being able to work with this yarn!

the first (& possibly only, for a while anyways!) chance to get your hands on this yarn will be at EYF next week; i have a very limited amount (only 200 skeins in total!!) and although i’ve been promised more from Uist Wool, i’m not sure yet when that will be, as they’re a small-scale production mill and it will need to fit in to their already very busy schedule. as Uist Wool’s ethos is to provide a good price to the crofters and a living wage to their staff, this is reflected in the price of their wool, and makes it the most expensive of my base yarns, so it will be retailing at £17 per 50 gram/190 yard skein. if there’s any left over after EYF (which is looking increasingly unlikely) i will definitely be adding it to the web shop, but hopefully i’ll see you next week and you can get some in person….

One Response to Uist Wool at Edinburgh Yarn Fest!!!

  1. blithespirit 09/03/2018 at 3:28 pm #

    So, so excited about this – you have done a fabulous job creating these colourways. I visited North Uist (and Uist Wool) just last September and also fell in love with the area and the wool so this is the perfect collaboration. Can’t wait to see these colours in person!

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