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Lifelong Yarns Blog

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Lifelong Blog

Looking backwards to move forwards...

It is 1976 and a young mother, her small child carried papoose-like on her back, is walking from her home in the village of West Linton in the Scottish Borders up into the foothills of the Pentlands She is looking for what Shetlanders call 'henty leggits' - loose wool, cast by sheep in summer and caught on fences, dykes, gorse bushes and the like. The path winds gently upwards and she enters the fields and tracks of Baddinsgill farm. There she finds fleece aplenty, cast by the flock of Scottish Blackface sheep which have run there since the previous century. This woman is a spinner and knows how best to use such natural bounty - long, outer guard hairs are spun into strong, resilient hard-wearing threads for rugs.The soft downy underlayer creates warm garments to clothe the child on her back. The dry stane dykes bordering the farmland offer further creative treasure and she scrapes 'crotal' - yellow lichen - from the ancient stones. This will be used to colour her yarns, warm tones of yellow, ochre, brown and golds.

The picture accompanying this blogpost is of one of those very skeins she created. Last week, this lady showed me it and told me its story when she discovered Lifelong Yarns. Since she created it, our society appears to have experienced a generation-long bout of amnesia. A forgetting of this natural bounty. A turning towards the synthetic, the plastic - towards fabrics and garments made we-know-not-where and we-know-not-how.  Gloriously, a new generation of handknitters, spinners and dyers is rediscovering the skills required to clothe ourselves in a way which speaks of the land from which we come, rather than risking its very destruction.

40 years on , this little skein still shines. And it sits alongside the new skeins of Scottish Blackface yarns we have created here at Lifelong Yarns, a reminder that looking backwards can inform the path we follow ahead....

Pauline McPhersonComment