Tarbert

To answer a couple questions from Chris about yesterday’s post (thanks, Chris!), the sheep I was photographing is a Scottish Blackface, pretty common here. Chris also asked about the lack of trees. I had to go to my host’s library for that one. In “The Outer Hebrides: A Landscape Fashioned by Geology”, I found out that much of the Outer Hebrides was once covered by forests but that was about 8000 years ago. Then, the actions of Mesolithic Man (I take that to be cutting down the trees), changing climate to cooler and wetter, and the increase of peat resulted in few trees by about 3000 years ago. At some point I will tell you more about peat but don’t want to get too wordy here. This was an interesting little book!

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Here are a few trees I found but they are few and far between!

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So, remember those gorgeous blue skies yesterday? Here is the view from my window this morning. I heard the winds come up last night and then the rains began. Yes, those are actually small whitecaps on the loch!

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My host kindly dropped me off in the village this morning (after a wonderful breakfast which included homemade yogurt and the best porridge I have ever had!) as I had a few things to accomplish before taking time for some shopping. A stop at the tourist agency got me the information that the ferry I am taking tomorrow had actually been changed to a different time due to changing tides. Who knew you had to take tides into account!? Having re-worked tomorrow’s schedule, i stopped at a tea room/coffee shop for a brief snack.

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Then, a stop at a little market to get a few supplies. I am getting to my next destination even later than expected tomorrow AND the island’s shop will not be open on Sunday so am taking a few things with me (I will be at a self-catering cottage). I have been told there may be some fresh eggs there for me, though! I will need my strength as I will be helping to take care of some Hebridean Sheep bottle babies!

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Now, off to a big reason for my visit – the Harris Tweed shops.

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This shop has the bolts – and bolts – and bolts (and some pre-cut yardage) of Harris Tweed – all woven in the Outer Hebrides (more on that in a minute).

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Some of this is being shipped home to me. I can’t show you it as the shop is shipping it for me. However, one piece I bought was to try and match some yarn I got in Stornoway at that yarn shop. They showed me you can buy bobbin ends – what is left over when they are weaving the Harris Tweeds. These are singles which people then can ply as they want and then knit with. This looks like a LOT of leftover to me but they can’t re-use as the colors will be different. The colors are a lot better in person but they are green and a multi color with green accents.

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The other shop has merchandise made from the tweed material.

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Here is a brief explanation of Harris Tweed. The industry has had a long history of ups and downs, almost disappearing not that long ago. But recently it has become very popular internationally and production is up. The rules are that all of the wool used must come from Scotland and ALL of the weaving must occur in home on the Outer Hebrides. Wow.

The wool is scoured (washed) at the island mills and then dyed and blended BEFORE being carded and spun. The yarn is then wound onto large beams for the warp which goes to the weavers, along with the yarn for weft and pattern instruction cards. There are also a few independent weavers on the islands who use their own patterns. The raw (unwashed) bolts of woven fabric are returned to the mill for processing and inspection. If all is well, the wool receives the authentication stamp and the customer (me today!) gets woven labels with the famous orb on them.

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After getting back to Coel na Mara, i wanted to get a few more sheep photos. This window was not going to work for this.

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And this one doesn’t work as I can’t tell if the white blobs are sheep or rocks!

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So there was nothing for it but to head out into the strongly blowing rain (I should get extra credit for this!) to look for sheep. I found a ewe and was ready to get a nice rainy photo when I startled her and she moved quickly away – which made her lambs, previously not in sight – run to mom for a quick snack…

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…and then head off with mom.

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Of course, if I had waited a few hours, here is the view from my window. The rain has stopped but the winds are still gusting. Let’s hope they die down for the ferry crossing tomorrow!

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Published in: on May 15, 2015 at 7:27 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Do you go back to Oban by ferry tomorrow? If the sea is not to rough you should look out for seals. There are many in this area. If you are lucky you might see minke whales, too.

  2. Hi, Jackie – great trip so far! Did they talk at all about the natural dyes they use at Harris Tweed? I think at one point they used all natural dyes from plants and lichen on the Hebrides but I’m guessing they don’t do much, if any, of that any more.

    • There used to be a woman here – The Soay Studio – but that was several years ago and I think she may no longer be with us. However, at my next stop on Eriskay, I will be meeting with the owner of the Hebridean Wool Shed and she does a lot of natural dying, much with plants she raises herself, so stay tuned!

      • Oh, exciting! Looking forward to hearing more about it and seeing pictures. I’m messing with the pH on a lichen dye pot right now – beautiful magenta yarn!

  3. Thank you for taking us on some of your journey. I live in Tasmania but my Great Grandfather was a McKay from the Isle of Lewis. He was transported to Tasmania then Van Diemans land at 16 as a convict for stealing 2 sheep. He came on the last convict ship and lived to be 93 and continued life as a shepherd. I carry on the family tradition breeding sheep and natural dyeing.
    Cheers Jen

  4. Another delightful chapter! Love your insightful bits of history and geology. Onward & upward. Thanks.

    • Thanks for coming along. It has been a fantastic trip so far – and more to come!


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