Waternish and a Yarn Pilgrimage

At the very north-western end of the Isle of Skye, on the Waternish peninsula, there’s a yarn shop. I have been known to travel a long way for yarn and this is one of the furthest flung pilgrimage sites. It wa sa beautiful day for a road trip, and we set off in sunshine which stayed with us all day.

We drove from Armadale to Portree, a journey becoming so familiar it was starting to feel like a commute. We’d promised Alex some LEGO from the toyshop/newsagents/post office (they are all rolled into one) when we’d been in Skye Batiks a couple of days before, but the shop was closed. Not today though because it wasn’t Sunday, and also the weather wasn’t vile…apparently this does affect if the traders open or not, according to the lady running the whisky shop.

Once we’d done that, and been in the chemist for something for my disgusting cold, it was suddenly lunchtime. We went in one of the best little cafe/bistros I’ve ever eaten in – Cafe Arriba – which has really good decor – its bright, with buddhas, big plants, lots of lights – great food and views, and really good tea (I am served so much awful tea these days, very disconcerting). 

After a little post lunch digestive walk, we drove on, up the peninsula – actually we did a weird little loop due to my appalling sense of direction, but eventually we were heading north. The scenery is amazing, and the weather also. The road runs pretty high up on the side of the shoreline, so on the left there is always Loch Dunvegan and the sea – so blue and sparkly on the day we were there.  The little uninhabited islands of Isay, Mingay a Clett looked quite magical out in the middle of the blueness – yet again I felt I quite fancied an island life!

Eventually we reached the  Shilasdair Shop. I’d wanted to come here for years – some yarn shops are worth the pilgrimage – and this one didn’t disappoint. The lady running the shop that day was really helpful and obviously had experience with young boys. She noticed the eye roll and chair slump of boredom, and had him helping her wind a skein off onto a ball winder within five minutes of us arriving. I really must teach him to knit…

The shop is housed in an old stone building, it’s stuffed full of yarn, needles, patterns and knit up samples of garments. The colours are amazing; jewel like reds and yellows, heathery and blackberry purples, and more greens and blues than you can shale a lambs tail at. These colours are all from natural dyes, some of the wool is locally sourced Hebridean wool. The dyeing is all done on a dyehouse close to the shore and there’s a small exhibition at the back of the shop which explains how the dying process works. I failed completely to take a picture which would do the inside of the shop justice, but here’s one of the outside, can you imagine working here every day? It would be amazing! (and I do love a blue door):


I may have spent *cough* some amount of money on beautiful yarn. Several skeins in a colour near number 13, and several more in colour 5. The colour wheel below is what you order your yarn off if buying online, there are no pictures of skeins. I quite like that, you’ll get the shade you want but it can’t be repeated easily if at all. As every knitter knows, always buy enough for your project (or a bit more, leaving you with handy hat and glove amounts of leftovers). But that’s how dying goes – shades will never be exactly the same, every single time, even in huge factory produced yarn.  Maybe it’s more so with smaller dyers using natural colours?

Shilasdair Yarns Colour Wheel (photo http://www.theskyeshilasdairshop.co.uk/yarns.html)

Tempted as I am to simply keep these skeins as pets, all safe and warm in the yarn cabinet (yes, it is a thing) I really must knit them up into something lovely so I can wear it in the southern winter and remember the excellent trip made to acquire the raw materials. Maybe another shawl. Maybe I’ll team them up with some Rowan or Jamieson & Smith yarn I already have and make a larger garment. I’ve had my books out and been pondering, but I think I’ll end up designing my own thing, inspired by the amazing landscapes and colours I’ve seen on this trip.

How many of you plan your holidays round the acquisition of craft materials, or plants, or whatever your thing is…? It would be interesting to hear your travellers tales!



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