Before the turn-off to Ardalanish, this is the view on the road south through Mull.
When my friend, Claire, asked me to knit her a shawl for her wedding (or did I offer? I can’t remember, doesn’t matter) I thought it would be important to use a yarn with some meaning behind it. She did too, so I took the interweb to find something. Claire and I became friends at school in the Highlands. As we both now live in the deep south (read: the Central Belt) I thought it fitting to use a yarn from the Highlands, an extra reminder of a part of her life and an area important to her.
In my head, I had ideas of locality, provenance and sustainability. I live close to multiple yarn shops, attended a fantastic yarn event focused on British yarns, consulted the excellent KnitBritish site, asked on Ravelry… But in the end I still couldn’t find anything that fitted my particular needs: yarn from the Highlands (and/or Islands), made in the area from local sheep. There were plenty of ‘almost’ options (namely Buachaille, Ripples Crafts , Alice Starmore and Shilasdair) but none of the combined right weight, texture, colour or origin for the task. In the end, it was a yarn from a place well-known to me that won out: Ardalanish, Mull. Their aran weight blue-faced leicester yarn had already been discontinued by the time I tried to order it (having originally spotted a few stray balls of it in a Glasgow yarn shop) but after a frantic online and in-person search I was able to source a solitary remaining cone from a local yarn shop. It is a beautiful yarn, and I was delighted with the finished result of the shawl. So was Claire, which ultimately was more important than anything. Plus, it helped keep her warm which is handy for a winter wedding.
(P.s The photos here are of Claire’s shawl, in progress and finished, but before blocking. The photographers caught some snaps of her wearing her shawl on the big day, which you can see here.)
(P.p.s It was early 2016 that I started searching for the yarn, before a plethora of businesses opened producing precisely what I was after. Brill! More on them next post.)
A number of years ago I worked in a well-known Edinburgh bookshop. I worked a few evenings a week, alongside studying full-time. I really loved the job – being surrounded by books, getting a hefty discount on books, speaking excitedly about books with colleagues and customers. It was, on the whole, pretty good. I made a lot of friends when I was there, but one friendship in particular grew through a shared love of cold places, knitting, youtube videos of animals doing stupid things and, of course, books.
Rebecca and I remain close friends today, despite now living on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Last year Rebecca touted the idea of doing a project between the two of us, and I, being a fan of everything Rebeccca does, of course said yes. The result is Looking East, Looking West – a weekly diptych of photos from the two of us. It’s nice to be able to share photos in this kind of context, and it’s good to have a project to focus on week-to-week. It’s not easy remembering to take photos, and particularly ones good enough to put up (did I mention Rebecca is really, really good?) but it’s good fun. So the photos I put up here might well be leftovers from those I send to Rebecca, but hopefully over the course of the year they’ll improve and develop (excuse the pun).
Thank you, Rebecca, for encouraging me to do something different, something that feels quite bold.
Midsummer is just a few days away. The temperature is hovering around 9 degrees – occasionally hitting double figures if we’re lucky. I feel sorry for the birds and animals I see around the place – they don’t seem to understand what’s going on. The apple tree in the garden has managed but a few pitiful blossoms; the seeds I’ve sown are lost.
I’m finding it difficult to find cheer amongst the grey clouds, but then I receive an incredible handmade gift from a wonderful friend who is many miles away across the Atlantic. The colours are those of a wintery sea, and looking out my window, while I don’t see the sea, the colours are definately right.
Thank you, Rebecca.