the best wee yarn shop in the world?

If you are lucky enough to find yourself at Kilchiaran, where lichen, wind and water claim the graves of Islay’s ancient dead. . .


. . . if you take the narrow road that winds up the curve of the bay; if you follow that road in sight of the sea; and if you turn on that road a few miles before Portnahaven, you will discover what may well be the best wee yarn shop in the world: Tormisdale croft crafts.

(the road to Tormisdale croft)

At Tormisdale croft, the wonderful and talented Anne Kemp hand spins the fleeces of many different breeds of sheep currently on Islay: Manx Loghtan, Black Hebridean, Cheviot, and Shetland, to name but a few. She also handspins some truly amazing yarn from Port Mor’s now-famous residents:

The alpacas near Port Mor. If I were an alpaca, I would like to graze in sight of Loch Indaal. (Photo taken last July)

Anne sells her handspun yarn; a wide range of quilting and knitting supplies; horn buttons and walking sticks; and some truly beautiful finished garments — including finely-worked lace shawls. These are all made by the knitters of Islay from her handspun. If you, like many contemporary spinners and knitters, are concerned about the environmental impact of your craft — the stages of processing and the miles your raw materials travel — then what Anne is doing is really exemplary. The yarn is processed, spun, and knitted up on Islay. From the back of the beast to the shawl round your shoulders, nothing has been taken off the island.

(handspun manx loghtan)

Anne’s yarn is powerfully connected to, and redolent of, Islay. Just like the island’s whisky, it speaks of the landscape.

(handspun suri alpaca)

I hope to knit something with it that speaks of the landscape too.

And if you think I am sounding slightly crazed and rhapsodic now, just imagine what I was like when I was actually there, in Anne’s workshop, surrounded by fleeces, baskets of naturally dyed shetland, gorgeous handknitted shawls, and handspun alpaca. When I first felt the skein of suri depicted in the photo above I emitted a range of curious noises and entered a troubling state of near-hysteria. Poor Anne put up with all of this most tolerantly. Anyway, just in case you haven’t got the idea already, I really, really like Tormisdale croft crafts — I am impressed both by the ethos of what Anne is doing, as well as the quality and beauty of the things that she produces. I shall return in the Spring when the lambs are there, and write a proper feature about Anne and her yarn.

Anne doesn’t have a website yet. But I encourage all of you who can to visit the croft in person. Take the back road between Port Charlotte – Kilchiaran – Portnahaven.