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First day for something

Hello, so i thought i'd put out my first blog on my new website and well its not the first of the month or first day of the week but what the hey! I tried to find a photo i took of myself recently (a rarity) but guess what i can not find it anywhere but thanks to Clare Hargreaves (instagram: larderloutuk) here is a pic she took of me at the loom for an article she was writing.

What did i want to convey from this first post? Ive kind of lost the plot just trying to get the darned photos inserted, so please bear with!

Well I have never really told people who i am but in the current consumer climate demanding provenance and accountability i feel it is important to explain the ethos behind Woolly Wally (now called Rinansay Weavings).

So please give me a moment of your time for me to let you know who I am.

I have always loved animals, it has been my reason for living and as well as now luckily being surrounded by animals i also try to help animals all over the world by giving to several charities each year.

I am a Graduate of Zoology (i really wanted to be a Vet) but you know circumstances got in the way and so life took me on another path.

For some years I worked on organic farms all over the UK and in France, during which time i started a small craft business under the name "Woolly Wally" making sheep character novelties.

I eventually found myself spending a decade on a city farm in the middle of London. Nowhere is more needing of a farm environment than inner city london- i taught kids where their food comes from and to respect and have an appreciation for animals. Something i try to teach all the time - paid for or not!!

Then a change of circumstances meant a change of location and me and my pet farm animals relocated to the tiny remote island of North Ronaldsay (where i had been visiting to help shear sheep for a few years prior) It was not an easy journey and was not all plain sailing in the first few years here. However my ability to adapt allowed me to forge a new life for me and the four legged crew.

Over the years my interest and skill in hand spinning and wet felting has been adapted to working in the islands wool mill ( spinning the native north ronaldsay sheep fleece into yarn and using the by-products of this process in my own craft business.

North Ronaldsay fleeces are about 1/3 kemp, or hair. These fibres are extracted from the fleece by passing it through a dehairing machine. The 99% hair free wool is then made into soft and bouncy yarn.

Being a person who has lived an environmentally aware lifestyle i am always concerned about waste and unsustainable practices so I made it my mission and set about finding ways to use the abundant hair.

It turned out hair was great for needle felting so i started using it in my creations- wall hangings and small models. We then did some experiments spinning the hair and it turned out it spins quite well and produces a hard wearing coarse yarn. I started weaving it on a basic ridged heddle loom.

I then got the opportunity to learn how to weave properly (by new Graduate India Johnsone, who has since started her own weaving empire up here)- how to warp a loom, how to read and write drafts. I then found a vintage counterbalance floor loom available locally and the rest, as they say, is history- Ive been weaving the nativhair-yarn into textiles for blankets, cushion covers and rugs ever since. It turns out weaving did occur on this island in the early 19 hundreds, but has not been pursued by anyone here since. I hope to redress this and hope my North Ronaldsay inspired weaings will become part of the local landscape.

Ive lived on this tiny sea bound island since 2012 with my ever increasing "forever flock" of rescued pet north ronaldsay sheep (i moved up with goats and non native sheep but sadly they have passed away over the years). My eldest sheep is now 9 years and my youngest 6 months, and along with a bunch of elderly hens, feral cats and some new ducks life here is never without its stress but i wouldnt have it any other way!

Add to the animal care, crafting, and spinning wool another handful of jobs (firefighter, airefield crew, community council clerk) and you can see life here is never boring either.

The animals are my constant inspiration and will feature heavily in future blogs. Other things also have an impact on my craft: the scenery here- the varied blues of sea and sky and greys of the stone on the shore that is used to build the famous dyke, and croft houses; the shapes in nature- the waves crashing on the shore, the stones expertly stacked to make the secure dyke, the striations of land and shore and sea and sky without the inconvenience of tall buildings or any tall trees to obscure the view. All these things inspire the weavings and needle felted wall hangings i produce.

I will blog about all that also. But to end this one- hey! i found that photo- i like dying my hair almost as much as i like dying the wool!! I dislike having my photo taken so that will probably the last time you see me!!

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