22/7/22 (Nice Days Out)

Nice days out are important, and I’m typing in a fairly bleary state because I’ve just been on one at Birkhill House – it wasn’t what I’d planned to write about this week, but it was super nice and if you need some lovely crafty, animaly time then it’s the place to go. I’m channelling the nice things today okay. Nice is nice. 😊

I went along with Julia Parks, who is artist in residence at Alchemy Film & Arts at the moment, and is running a series of 16mm filmmaking workshops as part of that (That’s what I was planning to write about…), and Bea, who’s working on a summer placement with Alchemy.

We arrived, and were warmly greeted by Lara, who’s the lovely person in charge. I’d heard good things from mutual friends at Unwind Yarns (Best shop in the Borders), and wasn’t disappointed. Then (even better!), we were welcomed by a herd of ragdoll cats, who are beautiful and soft and just want a fuss and I’m honestly surprised Lara doesn’t check everyone’s bags before we’re let out of the gate.

Over the last weeks, mysterious concoctions in jars have been brewing, colourful recipes of wool and cotton and plants and powders. Cooked by sunlight and warmth, and surely the warm fuzzy vibes of the place too, they’ve been developing. Chemistry is in motion and we arrived in time to witness the unveiling of some of the yarns and the roving and the fleece that have been gently stewing in the sunshine.

a photo of woolen roving in a tall spaghetti jar, coloured by plants in stripes that start red at the base, go purple then beige.
roving (brushed, but not spun wool) ready for the big reveal

Felicitously, Sunshine (what a great name) who runs My Mama Knits, an independent hand-dyed yarn brand, is the alchemist behind the mysterious processes of solar dyeing. Everyone – a collection of women who are all lovely and interesting and enthusiastic about textile-based crafts (and other crafts I’m sure) – chats about what went in, how the colours came out, what’s a surprise, who’s got ‘green envy’, and what’s going to be made from the yarns. I take home two skeins of double knitting (that means a kind of medium-thickness) wool yarn, that are greeny-yellow and am formulating plans for them to become bobble hats…

Bea, on the drive back to Hawick, says it was the most wholesome morning, and she’s so right. There’s something really special about the joint understanding and safety of the place, and the delightful, alchemic, magical process, a simplicity of just doing things, in good company, with good cats looking for a fuss.

I’m going to go and make a pizza for my tea, I hope you have a nice day out soon, or had one today too, and do keep an eye out on what Lara’s got happening at Birkhill house, you won’t regret it. There’s more info on the solar dyeing stuff on their instagram.

Links is my favourite bit of these posts to write:

Check out At Birkhill House CIC’s website here
Go to Julia’s website here – there’s loads of her films to watch on it and I particularly like this one.
And find out about Sunshine(seriously what a great name)’s dyeing work here
Go to the best shop in the borders here 😉


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