"Our products, like our Hebridean sheep, are rare and small in number. Sustainably produced, they glean their aesthetic qualities from the Hebridean landscape and culture."
By word of mouth from a special yarn-and-travel-loving friend, I came across this gem of a Scottish yarn. Located on the Isle of Berneray just south of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, there exists a croft "Sunhill" ('Cnoc na Grèine' in Gaelic) with Hebridean sheep strewn across the tiny islands. These sturdy sheep eat and forage the whole day long while they grow their hardy wool that protects them from the harsh weather so often found on the West Coast of Scotland.
Meg Rodger is the woman behind The Birlinn Yarn Co. She is an artist
in her own right and is passionate about the islands' ecology. She cares about the landscape in which she lives and works, and learns from the people who have lived on the islands for generations. She says:
I started The Birlinn Yarn Company in 2015, following a couple of years trialing small batches of yarn. This showed me that there was an opportunity to value the wool produced from our expanding flock of Hebridean sheep, for its purity in source and artisanal qualities. Those now buying our yarn and products appreciate that we are small-scale, care for our sheep and our fragile island ecology. ... Our island environment, culture, community and simple way of life are very important to us as a family. Values that we hope we can share with you through our products.
A long time ago (circa 800 A.D.) the Vikings arrived on the shores of the Hebrides in long boats, bringing with them their northern short-tailed sheep. In time they settled, their long boats, built for speed and long sea voyages, were adapted for inter-island passage, and became the Hebridean galley or Birlinn.
The Hebrideans saw an opportunity in the Birlinn and adopted it as their battle craft, waging war on the Vikings and in 1158 the dynasty of the Lord of the Isles began. The Vikings went home soon after, but they left behind their genes, Birlinn boat design and their sheep.
In time this primitive and hardy Norse sheep evolved, travelled a bit and inter-bred, resulting in the Hebridean sheep that we rear on our croft at Sunhill today.
The Birlinn Yarn company is a spin-off from Sunhill. We are proud of the Norse and Hebridean heritage bred into our sheep. Hence, we twine this creative yarn into everything we do.
Excerpt from birlinnyarn.co.uk
The Croft and Sheep today:
Sunhill 'Cnoc na Grèine' is a family run croft on the Isle of Berneray, in the Outer Hebrides.
We rear pedigree Hebridean sheep and our sustainable whole-sheep-plan ensures the best in animal husbandry and consideration of our beautiful island ecology.
Our sheep lamb on our croft in the spring. We then take them by boat to summer grazing on islands in the Sound of Harris. Around July, we shear the sheep on the islands with the wool sorted and graded once we are back ashore on the croft. In the autumn, the ewes are brought back for tupping, after which they spend most of the winter on the machair common grazing.
Meg kindly sent along a few lovely little brochures that I'll send out with the first few orders while supplies last.
- BREED Hebridean (Peaty Brown) or Hebridean/Cheviot blend (Storm Grey, Speckled Hen)
- BALL/SKEIN LENGTH approx 100g/240y
- YARN THICKNESS DK on 4mm needles
- PACKAGE approx. 100g balls
- HANDLE rustic
- Made in UK