I expected to be disappointed in the yarn shopping opportunities in Scotland. I know of old not to get excited at signs for woollen mills. Whatever else they sell (usually low grade tartans, half-price cashmere jumpers and assorted ‘Scottish’ tat normally made in China) it is rarely wool. Years ago they would carry jumper kits, for arans and fair isles (often with a pre-knitted fair isle yolk leaving you to knit the boring bit yourself) but they don’t even have those, now. So I knew it was a forlorn quest but while in Callander I had to stick my head in the door of one of the many Traditional Trossachs Tartan Scottish Edinburgh Woollen Mill shoppes and ask. No, said the Woollen Mill lady, we don’t stock wool. I asked if she knew anywhere else that migh sell it, well the chemist has a few balls of acrylic she said.
Oh well, no yarny souvenirs for me, so I wandered back up the high street to meet the family. Eeep what’s that in the window of the teeny little shop? Hand knitted things for sale? A couple of balls of Patons? Looks promising …. the inside was dark after the sunny street and I couldn’t see until my eyes adjusted, so I asked the shop lady if she had any local wool? There’s my handspun she replied, and pointed to her spinning wheel. Oh my gosh I have hit the mother lode.
Went back a couple of days later (leaving family behind this time, no-one moaning muuuu-uuuum to interrupt the yarny joy) and shop lady’s mother was in the shop. They keep their own shetland sheep, shear them themselves, then dye (or not) the fleece with natural dyes and spin it into yarn. And it is beautiful. And they charge an embarrassingly small amount for it, less than many higher end factory made yarns. She showed me the sacks of fleece and the yarn she was spinning ‘dirty’ (straight from the sheep, to be washed after spinning), demonstrated a hand spindle (they sell those too but I resisted) and told me all about their small holding. She didn’t have a large amount of handspun in stock, it has been selling really quickly (not surprisingly, what better holiday souvenir could a knitter want, or a non-knitter take home to a knitter friend) . Of course I had to bring some yarn back for myself and for Shadi and for Chrissie. She only had a small piece of the dark purple logwood ‘first dip’ I loved best. But she is going to dye and spin me some and post it to me.
If you are ever in the Trossachs, go to Kipp Crafts (17a Main Street, Callander, Perthshire, closed Saturdays). You could not ask for a better holiday yarn experience. And afterwards, head a mile up the road to the Lade Inn at Kilmahog for lovely food (son particularly recommends the Double Chocolate Fudge Cake) and beer (they brew their own and also stock a huge range of Scottish bottled beers) and folk music. Staying there all evening sampling the various ales before attempting to cycle home through the forest in the dark is optional.