Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017

What an absolutely wonderful weekend!  I cannot begin to explain how much fun it was at Edinburgh Yarn Festival this year.   I can hardly believe it is all over.  I spent most of winter dyeing yarn for the event, and despite taking nearly 1/4 more stock than I took with me last year I was still fretting after day one that there would be enough for day two!

Last Thursday saw us set off south with the trailer absolutely choc full of boxes / yarn / poles / hanging shelves and everything else needed to make the stand look appealing.   We had a trouble free trip south, just stopping at House of Bruar for the usual bite to eat for lunch and to give Peggy the opportunity to stretch her legs in the special “dog” section of the grounds, which as dog owners we always appreciate.

Arriving at a venue to set up can always feel somewhat daunting.  Even when you know the venue and have done the show a few times the first hour after you’ve unpacked the car feels somewhat overwhelming.  In front of you is a very blank canvas which needs much work doing to it to get it looking attractive.  You’re sometimes tired from the journey to reach the venue, and for me the noise and clatter of the place dominates your thoughts.

 

But before long you get into the swing of things, and by about 6.30pm the stand was covered up in preparation for the first day.

And what a first day!   Unveiling the stand in the morning was satisfying, and it didn’t take long to talk Lizzi and Dorothy through the changes that had happened to stock over winter.

It wasn’t long before the queues that had been forming outside since first thing were coming through the doors and were excitedly exploring the stands.

Friday was exceptionally busy, and there were times you couldn’t move on the stand.  But almost everyone was in generous spirit, and any jostling was generally met with an “Oh I’m sorry!” or at times an apology would begin only to be interrupted with “Oh HI! It is you!” and old friends would be reunited.

At the end of the day I was able to pop next door to the Chinese restaurant to meet up with former retreatees who had joined me on Tanera Mor or at Glencanisp – it was lovely to catch up, albeit briefly.  And the food wasn’t too bad either!  I am afraid I may have gobbled my way through a couple of dishes before becoming a little more sociable!

Saturday was a much calmer day, and if you’re nervous of crowds then I would suggest you consider coming on the second day of EYF in the future.  There was much more time for me to chat to customers and to catch up with other stallholders who I know from shows gone by.

As usual I have only high praise for Jo and Mica, the organisers behind Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and their band of volunteers who work so hard to keep things running smoothly.  The Corn Exchange as a venue is great, and the security staff did not stop smiling and were helpful all weekend. The range of stallholders from all over the world ranging from big well known businesses through to the smallest, but exciting, less known businesses was phenomenal.  Sadly I didn’t have time to visit them all.  But it was good to catch up with Dana from Uist Mill and have a chat about their wonderful yarns and possible collaborations in the future.   All I can say is ROLL ON EYF 2018!

The weekend was made so much more pleasurable too because we spent it staying with our friends, Ian and Jacqui, and there couldn’t have been a nicer end to the weekend than a walk down to their local Italian restaurant for a meal on Sunday evening.  The food was superb, and of course the company was first class.

I am slowly updating the shop site with stock again, but I will also be heading to Dornoch Fibre Fest this coming weekend, so if you’re in the area do pop in.  Furthermore, I have finally got myself on to Instagram, where you can find me as ripplescraftsyarn.  Be gentle with me though …. I’m still getting the hang of it!  It will mostly be about yarn on Instagram – for more general photographs / conversation you can find me on Twitter as @ripplescrafts.

 

The Scenic Route

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Yesterday was Optician day – a day I always dread, not only because of the likely expense of new glasses, but because of the actual test itself.  We have a lovely optician, Margaret in Ullapool.  She is so thorough, and fortunately has a good sense of humour as for some reason I always get the giggles at the optician!  And as to the test, well to put it frankly I get bored.  “Tell me which is clearer ….. this, or this” (as she swiftly changes lenses in those stunningly stylish glasses things you have to wear).  “This, or this?”.  Ummmmmmmmmm.  And then that test where you have to click the clicker thing as the tiny light flashes all over a screen – well my mind tends to wander somewhat.  I find myself thinking about the dye schedule, upcoming events, the shopping I need to do before leaving Ullapool, and completely forget to press the clicker thing.  At my last check up I did so badly on that test that Margaret had me back 6 months later to try again!  So I tried really hard yesterday to stay focused, and I obviously succeeded as Margaret gave me the all clear – no change to my prescription so no need to get new glasses – what you could call a win win.

It was a beautifully sunny winters day yesterday, so we decided to take the “scenic route” to Ullapool.   Our first stop was just south of Lochinver at Culag Woods.  It is a while since we visited this community woodland, an really it is very remiss of us not to visit it more often.   The Culag Community Woodland Trust look after this project beautifully, with the paths well maintained but not obtrusively so.   The Trust are also responsible for the maintenance of one of our other favourite walks which I spoke about in the second part of this blog entry.  Although Lexie is slow these days, she was feeling quite sprightly yesterday, so we ambled our way down to the White Shore, although it is anything but white.  It is instead a beach covered in pebbles that are a multitude of colours and shapes as you can see in the photo above.  Stevan managed to capture me in a contemplative moment hoping to see an otter:

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The wood itself is a mix of native and conifer trees.  Yesterday it was looking beautiful in the dappled light that is so pretty but so difficult to photograph.

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Once legs had been stretched we headed south again along the single track road which some find terrifying, and others find exhilarating.  I have a foot in both camps!  It certainly isn’t a road I would do in the summer when tourism is at its peak.  Passing places are few and far between, and some of the road is intensely narrow with a rock cliff to one side, and a sheer drop to the sea on the other.  It isn’t the sort of road you want to do when you’re not in the mood to concentrate.  But the views along this road are rewarding.

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The peaks all had a very light dusting of snow – just enough to keep the wind very chilly.  And once we reached Ullapool the village was looking stunning yet again.  The harbour rarely fails to enthrall me, in any weather:

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Today it is back to work.  The weather is still glorious, and now my head is full of colour inspiration from yesterday’s drive.  Oh, and a quick word to the wise – I’m leaving Stevan in charge of the dogs and hens next week and I’m heading off for a few days R&R.  Although the shop site will remain live, orders will not be processed and posted until Monday 20th February.  So if you’re wanting to order something, order soon so I can get it posted to you before I head off.

Winter Sunshine

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We have had a fabulous few days this week, where we have been treated to wall to wall blue, sunny skies, and although it was cold we enjoyed taking advantage of the weather and getting out for some walking.   As I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest advantages of being independent and running your own business is that on days like these you can just take yourself off for a walk and enjoy the outdoors, so long as all the orders are packed and posted and you’ve nothing pressing to catch up with.

One of Lexie’s favourite spots in the hills, for reasons we don’t understand, is the Old Soldier’s.  It isn’t far from us, and she’s still got the stamina to climb over the heather on the way up to the ruin.  I’ve always thought the location of this house is stunning, and the ash trees that stood protecting the house are always lovely to look at no matter what the time of year.  At this time – mid winter – they are silvery grey.

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One of the trees has taken on a very artistic shape – I wondered if it had been struck by lightning:

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Then yesterday we headed out to a different part of Assynt – The Loch an t-Sabhail circuit, Little Assynt.  The path  is about 4.5km long, and while it goes up and down, it is very easy walking.  However it is some time since Lexie, our Westie, walked this distance.  But she did very well, and thoroughly enjoyed herself.

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There were still pockets of frost on the ground, but although it is only mid January there was evidence of spring plants starting to poke through:

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The highlight of this walk is always the spot here we stop to drink hot chocolate.  The view of Quinag at this point is one of my favourites, and easy to frame beautifully against the lochan:

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This landscape may look “empty” and “wild”, but at one point there was quite a community living here.   The point from which I took the following photograph, you only had to turn round 180 degrees and you can see 3 ruined houses which were once part of a thriving community that lived here.  You can see, on the left hand side of this picture, cultivation beds where crops may have included the likes of potatoes or oats.   There would certainly have been a cow or two roaming about, and it doesn’t take a huge stretch of imagination to picture children playing happily around the houses or on the edges of the cultivation beds while the adults worked hard.

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What a view to wake up to in the morning.

While we were out walking yesterday, my mind frequently went to all those marching around the world in support of women’s rights after the inauguration of the new US president.  I would have to admit to struggling to even write the man’s name.  I would have loved to have joined the Edinburgh march, but it wasn’t possible.   I know I’m way behind, but I have finally started my own pink hat, as I’m sure there will be more occasions when the symbolic hat will be required.  I’ve chosen “A Cerise which Demands Attention” as my pink, and I am whizzing along with it.

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The photographs from the marches around the world filled my Twitter feed yesterday, and it was, at times, overwhelming to see so many taking part.  And so proud of all my friends who were there, both physically and in spirit.

A Day Off

One of the pleasures of self employment is that you’re not tied to regimented hours of 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, which means you have to face the shops on a Saturday or Sunday when most of the rest of the working population are doing their shopping.  So on Tuesday I declared we were risking scurvy unless we got across to the east coast to stock up with lots of salad and vegetables.  To be honest, we were both going a little stir crazy too, as we’ve been postponing the shopping due to some stormy, wet, windy weather.

But Tuesday dawned calm, and so we set off for our preferred shopping location of Tain, a little town on the east coast, north of Inverness.  The drive across is slow, but the views are fabulous.  It was one of those days where a mist sits just above the tops of trees and everything looks so still and peaceful.

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Most of the trip to Tain is done on single track roads, and fortunately it wasn’t too busy on Tuesday.  At the height of summer this trip can take a lot longer as you are continually pulling in to passing places to let others past, or having to reverse to a passing place because someone coming in the opposite direction failed to stop.   But there is always something new to spot on the road so it is never boring.

Once the little Panda was piled high with all the necessities and a few luxuries, we headed back home, but first we stopped at a wonderful community owned and managed woodland near the small community of Ardgay – Gearrchoille Community Wood.  The woodland covers about 30 acres, although we’ve only explored a fraction of that.  It is a great “stopping off” point to let the dogs out and to stretch our legs before the long drive home.  It was very mild for the middle of January – you can see I’m in my shirt sleeves!

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Judging by the full car park and the number of folk we met on our short wander, it seems it is a well used community facility, which is always good to see.  And of course, I couldn’t help but look for fungi and lichen!

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But I’m back in the dye shed for the rest of the week, as I plough on with work and preparations for the shows ahead of me in 2017.  At the moment I am confirmed for the following events in 2017:

Edinburgh Yarn Festival

Dornoch FibreFest

Perth Festival of Yarn

I am hoping to attend more than those 3, but the application process for these events have to take their course.

In the dye shed I’m working on new shades as well as old favourites.  This weekend I hope to update the shop with the returning Na Dannsairean Aran.  I stopped dyeing this some time back, but have brought it back into the Ripples Crafts fold.  While dyeing this past week I made a mistake in adding the incorrect colours to the dye pots for the recipe I was following, but the resulting accidental colour is rather lovely, and this will be one of the shades available on the aran weight yarn.

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The colour is slightly on the red side of terracotta, if that makes sense.  But I rather like it, so accidental or not, I’ll be dyeing more of this shade.  This yarn base is beautifully warm and cosy, and I recently knitted a cowl using this base – you’ll be able to see it in real life if you come to Edinburgh Yarn Festival:

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The pattern is Turbulence Cowl, and takes one hank of each colour.  It knitted up in no time at all, and is very cosy, so still time to knit one up for this current winter.

Also in the dye pots today is more of the Suilven Lace in the colour “Emeralds at Midnight”.  This colour sold out very quickly when I put it up in the shop last week, so I have been dyeing more and as soon as it is dry enough I’ll put it up in the shop for sale.  I’ll also be bringing this shade to Edinburgh Yarn Festival, so if you’d like to pre-order this particular colour, please get in touch.

 

New Yarns and Pricing News

A really boring title to this blog entry, I know, but it sort of says it all!  This entry will be about a couple of new yarns and news on my pricing, so if you’re only looking for pretty pictures of Assynt, sorry!

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Suilven Lace – Assynt Storms

First of all, the new yarns.  2 new yarns are joining the Ripples Crafts family of yarn bases.  The first one, which has been on the website for about 24 hours and which is selling quickly, is a medium laceweight base.  Suilven Lace is, as the name suggests, the same fibre content as the Suilven 4ply, that is to say 60% merino, 20% silk and 20% yak.  The difference between the two bases though is that the Lace base is a single ply base.  This gives it a slightly different feel, and the yarn has more of a halo than the 4ply Suilven which is a plied yarn.  It takes the dye beautifully, and because the base colour is a pale silvery brown, the colours tend to be richer and deeper than yarns which begin life as a cream shade.  Suilven Lace has 800m in each 100g hank

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Suilven Lace – Emeralds at Midnight

As I mentioned, I put this base up in the shop yesterday, and many of the shades have already sold out, but there are still some colours available.  And I will be ordering in more stock soon so if there is a colour you would like that is showing as sold out, please get in touch.  (But please remember that Assynt Storms colours cannot be replicated).

The next new base is not up in the shop yet, but it will be soon.  It is a 50% wool and 50% cotton base.  Following my theme of naming yarn bases with Assynt names, I’ve called this base Drumbeg.  Drumbeg is a little settlement a few miles north of Clachtoll where Ripples Crafts is based.

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Drumbeg – Turquoise Delight

The fibre composition of Drumbeg means that the colours I achieve on this base are more muted, more subtle, than the extremely vibrant colours you’ll find on some of my other bases.  I have yet to knit something in this base, but my first project will be some socks as I think this will make a lovely sock yarn, with the cotton giving it a strength that will make them long lasting.

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Drumbeg – Assynt Storms

 

Now …. prices!  As I’ve mentioned on Ravelry and in my newsletter to those of you who receive it,  2016 was a tumultuous year for many small businesses in the UK after the result of the EU Referendum was declared in favour of the UK leaving the EU.   The wildly fluctuating pound resulted in an increase in the price of my bare yarn stock.  My main supplier has done his utmost to maintain this increase at manageable levels, and it is partly due to this as well as to my own price structuring that I am able to keep most of my prices at their current level.  But not all of them.   So with effect from Sunday 15th January the following yarn bases will increase in price by 50p a hank:

Quinag (100% Bluefaced Leicester 4ply) – Rises from £14.50 to £15.00

Superwash Merino Laceweight – Rises from £14.00 to £14.50

Reliable Sock Yarn 4ply – Rises from £12.50 to £13.00

Doubly Reliable Sock Yarn – Rises from £15.00 to £15.50

Merino Sport Weight – Rises from £13.50 to £14.00

I hope I can maintain these prices for at least the next 12 months.    But if you want to buy a specific colour before the price of these bases increases, you have until Sunday.

Thank you for your continuing custom and support.  I know I have said this before, but I really do love what I do, and I try very hard to keep my overheads and costs to a minimum so that I can maintain a price level to suit a range of budgets.

 

Well, Hello 2017

The first day of 2017 dawned in the same way as the last day of 2016 – wet and windy!  We have had front after front of “weather” coming through Assynt since before Christmas.  We had two named storms pass over – Barbara and Conor, and while they were fierce we were fortunate enough not to suffer any damage.

On Hogmanay we took a walk down to Stoer beach, which was looking beautiful, but pretty wild.

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With a final, end of year selfie

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we made our way home to the warmth and settled in for a long evening of silly TV, a big dinner, and too many maltesers.  And once the bells had rung, we headed out as we always do, up to the top of the little hill behind our house to look at the stars (which were stunning), then climbed the stairs and headed to bed.

Because Christmas Day was so wild, we didn’t get out for our normal Christmas walk in the hills, sadly.  But today we headed off up towards the Old Soldier’s.  The wind was bitter, but there were blue patches in the sky encouraging us upwards.  We found out recently that on our pay as you go mobile tariff with Giff Gaff, calls to Australia, South Africa and the USA are very reasonable, and certainly much cheaper than our land line.  However we can’t get a mobile phone signal at home, so whenever we’re out we take the opportunity of getting in touch with our close friends and family around the world.  And today was no different:

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While Stevan chatted (and Peggy looked on, impatiently!), I took in the vistas:

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Happy new year to all of you who read this blog.  I’m sorry that entries have been so patchy over the last few months – I will try to improve that!!  No, it isn’t a new year’s resolution, but an intention.  I hope 2017 brings you everything you need to make you happy.

Heartfelt Thanks

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At this time of year we are bombarded with “shopping opportunities” that are given silly names – usually to do with colours.  Besides Black Friday (which has crept over the Atlantic to the UK and which now seems to extend not just to the Friday after the US celebration of Thanksgiving, but to a week, if not more), I’ve had emails from companies heralding Orange Wednesday and Pink Tuesday, to say nothing of Green Thursday.

But before you think I’ve turned into a Grumpy Old Woman (yes, yes, I know what many of you are thinking) there is one promotion I will be supporting this year.  Small Business Saturday.  Small Business Saturday is a campaign aimed at getting people to support their local (or favourite online) small business.  I have received such fabulous support from my customers over the last 8 years and I hope to be here for quite a few more years to come.  Your support has enabled us to live where we do, in a fragile community that needs each and every person living here to sustain it.  Through this small business of mine I’ve managed, in my own way, to bring money into this community, not only into my own bank account.  There have been retreats where money has been spent within the area.  Folk have come here on holiday after reading a blog entry of mine or after seeing my photographs, thus bringing money into the area.  Stevan has been able to undertake study, resulting in a degree through the University of the Highlands and Islands.  This, in turn, has led to his involvement in local projects which, while voluntary, have nonetheless been valuable.   All this has been possible because you, dear customers, buy my hand dyed yarns.

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We’re not wealthy, but we’re never hungry.  We’ll never be millionaires, but we’re never cold due to the inability to heat our home.   We have the sort of life that isn’t for everyone, but we love it and we are happy – and that is something not everyone can say.   All because of this small business of mine.   And it goes without saying that it is hard work, but if you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d have a creative business that supported us I’d never have believed it possible.   I cannot imagine now not being in a job that is part of the UK creative industries, a sector of the business community that contributes over £84 Billion to the UK economy each year.  And while I can’t pretend to understand exactly what defines the “rural economy” it is stated on the same website just linked to that the UK craft industry (as opposed to the larger defined group known as the Creative industry) contribute over £500 million per annum to the rural economy.  So that would include a business like Ripples Crafts.

“So what has this all to do with Small Business Saturday?!”  Well, here’s what I’m planning.  Every single order that I receive on Saturday 3rd December will be sent out with a special code included in the invoice when it is posted.  The code will entitle you to 10% off your next order.  The discount will be applied to anything you buy from the online store, and will be valid until 31st December 2016.

I’ve been busy dyeing lots of bright, cheerful colours over the last few days and hopefully by Saturday I’ll have them all photographed and ready for you to buy.   I plan to use my own discretion if you are buying from outwith Scotland and the UK.  If I deem you to have purchased something on what would be the 3rd December in your own country, I’ll send you a coupon.

Thank you for supporting Ripples Crafts over the last 8 years.  Here’s to the next 8!  And if you are not in a position to support me on this year’s Small Business Saturday, maybe you can think about buying something from a small, independent business close to where you live.

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Clearing the Mind

I doubt anyone could deny that 2016 has thrown some real stinkers at the world.  It has been quite a year.  Sometimes we just need to step back, take a deep breath, and decide what we want to focus on.  Do we want to constantly seek out the negative or do we want to try and find something, albeit small, that is positive?

My year of yarn shows ended towards the end of October (except for the local Christmas market this coming weekend in Lochinver), and so I have spent November focusing on colour, the landscape, and the beauty that surrounds us in Assynt.   I have also been giving much consideration to the yarns in the range and looking at potential yarn to add to the range.  There will be more about that over the coming months.

To accompany my quest to look for the loveliness of Assynt, November has treated us to some pretty spectacular days.  We’ve been treated to double rainbows:

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as well as blue skies with spectacular cloud formations:

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And there have been days that were so still that there was barely a ripple on Lexie’s Loch:

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Stoer beach has been seen in a range of moods:

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and I have continued to fail in my aim to achieve great photographs of Peggy! (makes note in diary to try harder in 2017)

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I have also spent part of November concentrating on improving my weaving skills.  This small throw was woven in a yarn that was very popular a couple of years back – Na Dannsairean Aran – and this is one of the yarns that will be making a welcome return to the Ripples Crafts fold:

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In the meantime, the Na Dannsairean 4ply has already returned to the fold, and can be found in the shop now.  At the moment there is a limited range of colours, but this range will grow over the coming months.   I would have to admit that my favourite of the current colour range is this outrageous shade of cerise, aptly named A Cerise which Demands Attention:

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I’ve been focusing on colours which have the potential to brighten our days with joyful colour rather than the muted neutral shades which so often dominate the winter months.  I think this shade meets that particular criterion.

Finally, I am absolutely thrilled to say that I have had my stand application for Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017 accepted.  If you’ve attended this event in the past couple of years you’ll know just what a highlight it is in the wool calendar.  The work that is put in behind the scenes by Jo and Mica, the two organisers, is phenomenal and it shows in so many ways.  So if you’ve never been to Edinburgh Yarn Festival before, I urge you to come.   10th / 11th March 2017 – put it in your diary now.

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2016 has been a stinker in so many ways, but I refuse to be bowed by it.  I will continue to seek out the positive side of life and will continue to add my own brand of colour to the world.  Do you want to join in the fun?

Deer Hunting

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Before you leave the blog in disgust thinking I’m talking about deer hunting with rifles, let me put your mind at rest.  This is deer hunting with cameras only!  At this time of year the rut starts, and as a result it is quite common to see one large stag with a harem of hinds,  and as the hills are not far from our front door we have a huge opportunity to both see and hear them around this time of the year.

We have been having some wonderful autumnal weather, so yesterday we set off up to Water Loch, an area where we are usually assured of seeing deer.  And we were not disappointed.  As we approached Water Loch we realised we’d been rather noisy on our ascent up to the loch – chattering away forgetting that the deer would be on the look out for strange predators.  We were also very visible against the skyline, so it was unsurprising our first glimpse of deer was of them disappearing over a ridge in the distance.  We headed up the next hill more quietly and carefully, and were rewarded with this:

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Peggy and Lexie seem to know the routine now – although Peggy may have been known to go charging down the hill in an attempt to scatter the deer!  They are very good and seem to know exactly what we’re doing when we dip down low and watch the deer from behind a rock.   And ultimately, if we don’t get to see any deer at all, we still have a fabulous walk in some of the best scenery in the world.

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Showtime!

It has been a busy few weeks.  The week before last saw Stevan and I and the dogs heading south for Yarndale in Skipton, North Yorkshire.  This was my third outing at Yarndale, and as usual it was well organised and well attended.  This year I tried to remember to take some photographs:

Before:

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Mid way through:

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Under wraps for the first day:

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And show ready!

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Peggy and Lexie seemed to enjoy their mini holiday away, especially our stay at the Annandale Arms where they were treated with great respect!

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We got home last Monday, and it was a very fast turnaround and before I knew it it was time to pack our Fiat Panda up again for Loch Ness Knit Fest:

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This was the first year of Loch Ness Knit Fest and I’ll be the first to admit that it has not been without its issues.  But what a wonderfully friendly event!  It was held at Eden Court, the arts centre in Inverness.  The event was aimed primarily at those who lived outwith Scotland, and it brought in folk from much of Scandanavia, France, Netherlands, and the USA, as well as a few Australians.  It was the inaugural year of the event, and as always with a new event there is much to be learned but I’m confident many of the comments will be taken on board and the event will develop year on year.

I cannot deny that I thoroughly enjoyed the LNKF, despite its flaws.  I didn’t get a chance to take part in any of the classes, and I have to admit that after the close of the market place each day I was simply too tired to take advantage of the evening events.  But those who did only had positive reports about them.

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The samples you can see hanging up on the right hand side were not mine, but those of Vithard Villumsen who shared a corner of the stand with me.  He is a designer and textile artist from Denmark, and it was fun to have someone whose textiles focus was quite different to my own sharing the stand.

There isn’t much time for rest now I’m home from these two busy shows as the next one is on the 22nd October in Strathpeffer – the Highland Wool and Textile Fair.  It will be my last big outing of the year, although you will be able to still find me at local “Made in Assynt” events up to the end of 2016.

I will be updating the website over the next few days, so you’ll start to see stock appearing soon.