CALANAS success for Uist Wool-training

CALANAS trainees examine an unwashed Herdwick fleece with workshop tutor Sheila Roderick.
CALANAS trainees examine an unwashed Herdwick fleece with workshop tutor Sheila Roderick.

THE first Uist Wool CALANAS wool-work training programme proved a huge success last weekend as 11 people participated in the initial two day workshop held at the Kallin Canteen on Grimsay.

And it’s possible that future CALANAS workshops could be held in the company’s newly built mill as Uist Wool – a community and worker-led charity – are currently in the final stages of acquiring funding to move the project forward.

The first workshop, designed to give people a better understanding into the processes involved in converting fleece into finished yarn, proved a lively mix of theory and practical sessions with trainees coming from Uist, Lewis, Skye and Barra to learn under the expert guidance of tutors Sheila Roderick and Sam Goates.

Participants were taken through the key steps of wool-work, from grading unwashed fleece through to microscopic fibre analysis and learning the principles of carding and spinning.

One trainee commented: “The workshop helped me to look at my own sheep as much more than just meat and consider all the challenges facing crofters in seeing a use for their fleeces.”

There will be another opportunity for people to take part in a second CALANAS introductory workshop, being planned for the Autumn in advance of the intermediate level of training in the programme which will be an intensive 10 week part-time course in wool-word and mill machinery.

The CALANAS project is supported by generous funding of £243,950 from the European Social Fund (ESF) and £9,900 from Awards for All.

And the further funding package of £50,000 approved by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar means that Uist Wool have entered the final fundraising stages to enable the build of a new mill on a croft at Scotvein on Grimsay later this year.

Uist Wool are now awaiting the outcome of their £90,000 application to LEADER towards the mill construction and associated start-up costs.

Commenting on the workshop success and future of Uist Wool, committee member Dana MacPhee said: “A lot of hard work has gone into getting the project to this point and this wouldn’t have been possible without the enthusiasm and encouragement from our loyal membership, local crofters and professional advisors.

“We’re optimistic that construction of the mill will start this year and by 2013 the first Uist Wool yarns will be ready to launch to the public. Personally, I can’t wait!”