More on the fleecey-yarny side of things from Uist Wool. We spent a part of each day working with fleece. First day we graded, sorted and cleaned fleece from ten different breeds, following the guides of length and softness determined by the mill (more photos in my earlier post). Second day we experimented with the dry fleece, carding and spinning both by machine and by hand. Sheila of Scalpay Linen tutored us for this hand-spinning section. I liked her approach to spinning and choosing fleece: everything goes; there are no wrong choices. This suited me fine as I spun by spindle for the first time in a long time (Icelandic & Cheviot) creating something which could almost be called yarn.
We later moved down to the mill itself where the mechanised yarn-making process happens. I was impressed by how much human effort still needs to go into creating yarn. Despite commercial machinery speeding up the process, the Trainee Mill Engineers still have to know the exact ins and outs of the machinery and the fleece itself in order to create a balances, consistant yarn. Oiling the fleece involves a particularly hands-on process.
Thank you to Dana, Sheila, Maddie & Neil who so carefully demonstrated and tutored over the two days. Thank you Mairead, Hazel, Catherine, Chris for good company. I have a new-found respect for yarn producers of any scale seeing the skill and effort which goes into every metre. Seeing some of the yarn prototypes already produced was really exciting and I was delighted to be able to take home some of the exotic fleece we were experimenting with ourselves. Uist Wool are working an admirable mix of innovation and local heritage – I can’t wait to see what comes onto the market next year.