Shilasdair

Last evening I collapsed into bed before 8:00. Now it's 4:30 in the morning and I've been WIDE AWAKE for hours. I'll probably crash again mid-afternoon today. Jet lag can really be a bitch sometimes.

You may have gleaned from my most recent (and brief) post that in Scotland, sheep are everywhere. Particularly on the Isle of Skye, we noticed them roaming the hills and fields, grazing by the side of the road. We saw sheep along our hiking trails and tufts of wool caught in the heather on the hillsides and stuck in fences. It must be paradise to be a sheep on the Waternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye. The view! The grass! The freedom!

Despite the enormous number of sheep in Scotland (just under 7 million, according to this website), and despite the apparently thriving wool and textile industry, I came across surprisingly few yarn shops. Now, this was a family trip for us to hike and explore a new country. Shopping really wasn't a part of it at all. But after a quick online search, I came up with one yarn shop that I insisted we visit: the Skye Shilasdair Shop Dyehouse and Exhibition.

That's a long name for a little place, but it was charming and exquisite. To get there, we drove five or so miles on a single lane road, then down a long gravel driveway before arriving at this little stone hut by the sea.


When we walked inside, we saw this:

Hand knit products for sale.

And this:


Piles of beautifully hand-dyed yarn using natural dyes, many of them from plants and sources native to the island (yellows and oranges in particular). In fact, the name "Shilasdair" is Gaelic for the yellow iris flower, one of the plants used in her dye house. The yarn in the picture above isn't Scottish fiber; it's a luxury blend of alpaca, cashmere and angora. It feels divine and comes in a few different weights. She also had hand-dyed sock yarn, worsted weight merino and lace weight silk/merino. I spent a long time looking at the colors and petting the wonderful fibers and trying to decide what to buy. Decision fatigue.

Meanwhile, the "Exhibition" is really just a small room in the back of the shop with a few things on display and a video playing on loop about the sources and process of natural dyeing.







There was also a small garden outside with plants used in the dyes, but it didn't look like the owner has been keeping it up recently. The owner of the shop was away on vacation, so all of my questions were answered tentatively by the assistant working there that day.


I'm not sure what this little blue dugout is for. Storage, possibly. The dyeing all happens in that metal shed you can see in the background.


In the end, I decided I was most interested in wool from the region, not hand-dyed yarn. She had lots of Shetland soft spun aran yarn in about eight different natural colors, all of which were very tempting. In the end, I settled on a few skeins of wool from the basket below:




This is naturally colored wool from Hebridean sheep. In fact, the assistant working in the shop told me the very sheep this wool comes from graze just three miles down the road and we had passed them on our way there. It's not the softest yarn, but it feels warm and sturdy and perfect for a cardigan. I don't know what exactly I want to make with it yet, but I have a couple things in mind. I'll have to swatch and see how the fabric feels. I really want to make something with cables, but it's such a dark color I'm not sure how well they will show up.

Anya really wanted some souvenir yarn, which I find so endearing. She can knit and is eager to build on her skills, which at this point are still just at the basic level. We looked at lots and lots of yarn in different colors, and in the end she picked out two of the lace weight skeins, one in bright red and one in bright yellow. They were small and relatively inexpensive, but I hesitated because she is definitely not ready to knit when them yet. Lace weight yarn is not easy to work with, plus what is a 7yo girl going to do with lace? I offered to buy the same color yarn in a different weight, but that's not what she wanted. I even offered to make something for her out of it, but she just looked at me and said, "Mommmm what's the point of that? I want to knit with it." I suspect this yarn will sit in her own little stash for a long while until she has the skill to use it and figures out what she wants, and that's fine with me. I have little doubt she'll eventually get around to it. In fact, on the long flight to Chicago, when I asked Anya what she most looked forward to about getting home, she said, "Knitting."


Comments

Alina said…
What a wonderful post! A magical place... The display of hand knits and yarn is breathtaking! How is it possible to choose?!!! The yarn you got is so gorgeous. Looks so springy and squishy!
Julie Crawford said…
oh my gosh, how amazing, and I've always wanted to go to Scotland!! You are living my dream. Such beautiful photos, and that yarn shop! whoa. Love that she chose laceweight yarn, and while I totally understand that it's difficult to imagine what she might make, I went over to Ravelry and searched laceweight knitting patterns that were categorized as 'piece of cake' difficulty level, and 10 pages of gems turned up:
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/search#photo=yes&weight=lace&view=captioned_thumbs&craft=knitting&sort=best&difficulties=1

not sure what her yardage is, but if you plugged that in there too, she could maybe pick out a pattern that might work for her new yarn and current skill level?

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