For You Gran
My gran was just the best. When I was little, she would play boules and tennis with me (using the sofa as a net!) and she spent hours teaching me to knit and crochet. She had the patience of a saint and would have our projects ready for when I visited. She also used to rub whiskey into my gums when I had toothache. I had toothache often but in those days things were very different! In between visits, she would undo and re-do my knitting disasters, and not once did she ever criticise or point out my mistakes. She just quietly fixed them.
A Yarn Story
My gran was also a keen follower of horse racing. I remember her telling me a wonderful tale about her one and only time to the races. She accompanied my grandad and their friends from the newsagents. Mary and Gran did that thing where they picked a horse based on the jockey’s colours! A complete outsider…which only went and won! Grandad never got over her massive win as he never did achieve quite the same! And so, Saturday afternoons at Gran’s house included knitting, crochet and betting on the races. We used refreshers as our money – who remembers those?!
Growing up in Hawick, Gran began work in one of the many woollen mills, the Braemar Mill. As I understand it, she worked as a finisher, not surprising given her skill and attention to detail. After marrying Grandad, she moved firstly to Berwick Upon Tweed and then onto Seahouses, where Grandad set up our family bakery.
Of all the places I could live, I ended up moving to some 14 miles from Hawick. I’ve done a small amount of family history research and found out that Gran’s Grandad moved from Carlisle to Hawick to seek work in the woollen mills. Back in the 1800’s, these mills thrived and today Hawick remains a leading centre for the woollen and textile industry. Although many mills around the Borders have long since closed, the resurgence in handcrafts such as knitting has seen new businesses open.
Alpaca fibre is wonderful. Considered like cashmere, it really is a beautiful luxury product. I hadn’t set off on my alpaca journey with yarn in mind, but then I hadn’t set off on my move to the countryside with alpacas in mind either!
Being so close to Hawick, to Gran’s history and to the mills, there was only one thing to do – make yarn. We met the wonderful Juliette from The Border Mill through an introduction by the lovely Debbie at Barnacre Alpacas, where we got our first five boys. Owning alpacas herself, Juliette had struggled to find anywhere to spin her fibre. The Border Mill was born and with their unit in Duns, not far from us, it meant our yarn would not only be Scottish, but a true Scottish Borders product. I felt I had to send off some of our fleece to make yarn in memory of Gran.
The yarn came back, and it was just beautiful. We sent two fleeces - Sam our grey alpaca and Tenzing our ecru. The most beautiful yarn came back to us and I couldn’t quite believe that we had done it. I knew Gran would have been delighted with our final product.
This year was our biggest haul with over 30kg of finished yarn coming back to us. We work with our neighbours and have created blends incorporating their sheep wool, and of course our pure alpaca range. It is a huge privilege to showcase The Kale Valley in this way. The valley’s long history with farming traditional animals, mixed with a bit of the new in alpacas. We can tell you exactly which alpaca the yarn is from and show you the flock of sheep who provided the wool. If I said the entire collection came from farms within 500 metres of me, no one would quite believe it.
Each day we live, work and breathe the hills, the wild and ruggedness, the weather be it the hottest of summers or snowiest of winters. This brings a whole new appreciation to our product and there’s nothing more satisfying than receiving a compliment about a hat or scarf or cosy socks and being able to explain how and where it came from.
Small scale production isn’t easy and can be a labour of love getting the product from its raw form into the yarn, but it’s a journey we are excited to continue, to take forward and to develop new lines and ranges as we go.
Take a look at our yarn here. We also provide a bespoke knitting service where those special items can be made just for you.
Let us see your knitting projects. There’s talk of a knitted Christmas tree project in our valley this year, what’s on your needles?
For You Gran x