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This just might work...

"We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us." Wendell Berry

I should have felt nervous. Josie our shepherdess had shorn the gimmers (ewe lambs in their second year) and left the ten best fleeces for me in the barn. This was the moment when I would discover if all my dreaming and planning had been foolish at best. No-one spins Scottish Blackface fleece into yarn. It's only good for carpets. All the experts I had consulted so far, other yarn producers, commercial spinners, tutors, had met my tentative questions with responses ranging from polite confusion to outright disdain.
I had found a few nuggets of encouragement- a film from the 1970s in a dusty corner of the internet showed Irish shepherds sending most of their fleeces to the tweed and carpet industries but " keeping back the best fleeces to be hand spun into garments for the family." Debbie Zawinski in her knitterly tour of Scotland had knit a surprisingly soft pair of socks from Blackface , but put that apparent aberration down to the prize winning status of the flock. So, I should have felt trepidation. Instead, as I walked into that barn, nestled in the Southern Pentlands on a sunny June afternoon, I felt excitement, joy, ease, freedom. I felt blessed to be on this adventure, regardless of it outcome. I put my hand into the large sack from the British Wool Marketing Board into which the shepherdess had folded the fleeces. Two months from now, Josie would send off the full clip to them and expect to receive just over 30p per fleece.
My first reaction was confusion. I experienced the cognitive dissonance which happens when something appears in a place totally other than where it should be, when reality is not as we expect. This was...soft. Yes, the long staple length I expected, eight or nine inches in places, the beautiful tapering locks , but the sensation in my palm and fingers was of cotton wool softness. Butterflies took flight in my stomach and I smiled a smile which only the old Arab mare who had followed me into the barn could see. Bloody hell, this just might work!

[written June 2017]

Pauline McPherson