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  • Writer's pictureSarah Campbell

Back to Buff

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

Despite relying on it quite a lot, I find modern technology quite unsettling if dwelt upon for too long. I mean, what web of magic makes your voice come through my telephone? How on earth do blobs of welded metal on a motherboard facilitate a video call from Oban to Oslo? "Waves my dear" I hear you sigh "Frequencies and electrical impulses". Well as far as I am concerned life on the croft is far too short and full of more satisfying distraction than to dwell on the things I cannot see or feel. Happy to leave the circuit boards to these compelled to understand them while I pursue the loves of a Luddite. One of my favourites are all the steps involved in turning wool from a sheep into a garment. We have a flock of more or less 80 Shetland sheep.

They come in a fine fuddle of colours from black through to white and every buffy, browney, fudgey shade in between. Their fleece quality varies from coarse and felted to fine and soft enough for a baby shawl that can be pulled through a wedding ring. Their personalities are as varied as their colours but generally gentle,curious, warm and forgiving. Apart from Fester, he is bolshy, brash and insanely greedy for both food and attention. When I am lost for inspiration I sit among them scratching behind their ears, singing songs on occasion and just being among their quiet club in the wildflower, grass and rocky outcrops. In June/July they follow a bucket into the shed where Arthur sets to work clipping off their thick winter coats.

He sweats, the sheep generally comply and I sort fleeces in to those only good enough for insulation or garden mulch, thick and felted enough for rugs or fine and open enough for spinning.

Spinning is tactile zen. Whether it's the whir of the wheel, the gentle rhythmic knock of the treadle or the mesmerising teasing of fine yarns, it serves as a "still" among the relentless catalogue of tasks and personalities that fill each day.

I favour spinning raw: no washing, carding...nothing! You can only do this if the sheep has been rued (fleece plucked off rather than clipped). The natural oils in the wool make it easy to tease as it glides into a yarn and one which is flecked with the variety of natural hues in the fleece. If the fleece has been clipped I flick card off any undercut and use this to make felt pebbles for an ever expanding rug and can then spin the pre winter growth.

At the moment I am making a jumper for Yorick. It takes approximately six bobbins of yarn and each bobbin a good 8 hour spin so, plainly, it makes no commercial sense unless some city worn millionaire is prepared to pay about £1500 for the time it takes to create one. Do get in touch. However, the true value is in raw beauty (hopefully), and the joy of making something special for someone I love.

After spinning and plying the yarn it is then dyed using a collection accrued over years of dyeing accents for various Mogwaii products.

....and then to the knit. A sensible pastime which lures me at insensible moments, such as when I am supposed to be working or even during 11/11 assembly in school, for which I was suspended! At the moment I am devising a Scandi/Fair isle affair which will hopefully turn out nice enough to justify posting the pattern for others to try. Watch this space.

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