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.
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.
The History of Birlinn Yarns:
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.
My chat with Meg Rodger of Birlinn Yarn Co in her home on Berneray, Outer Hebrides