The Yarn Behind the Yarn
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 departed the Hebrides 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.
Sunhill & Seafaring Sheep
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.
Though not carried to and fro by Birlinn, they are still very much seafaring sheep.
Meet the team...
This is me, Meg Rodger, bringing a batch of our sheep home from the islands, something which I regard as one of the perks of the job.
I started The Birlinn Yarn Company in 2015, following a couple of years trialling 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.
As the business has grown, we now buy fleece from several crofters within the Outer Hebrides who share the same values in animal husbandry and sustainability. By working with them, we are supporting the traditional Hebridean crofting way of life that has existed in these islands for generations.
Those buying our yarn and products appreciate that we are small-scale, care for our sheep and our fragile island ecology. We are now developing our product range, taking inspiration from the Norse and Hebridean heritage of the islands and our sheep, combined with a contemporary twist.
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.