"Last Call for Hot Meals"

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You won’t get a calmer crossing. Today the rise and fall of the window view is only 5 degrees.  A mere hint of motion as the ferry makes its peaceful homecoming to Stornoway.

It is a beautiful evening. Colours of pale yellow and gold, silver grey and mirror blue. Dappled sky reflected in a sea thick like oil, with slow, slick ripples. The soft line of the horizon broken only by low dark islands and their shadowy mountain brothers beyond. Shafts of early evening sun angle steeply into the sea. A stairway to heaven. A lazy guillemot paddles by, in no hurry to change its course.

A gentle snore. Rustling papers. Children’s carefree laughter. Small hands slapping giant windows. Photos, videos, headphones. Black pudding rolls. The atmosphere on the boat is quiet and relaxed tonight. I have my favourite nooks and corners for sleep, views or solitude. To embrace the ferry social or avoid it? Today I watch the view, enjoying the easy conversation of closest friends.

The wind changes direction, shifting the Saltire aesthetically to the north, its fringed tattered edge a remnant of more eventful crossings. We are entering the middle of the Minch. On a different day this is where the real weather begins. I recall the deep, cold darkness of an early crossing in winter. The noisy roll and creak of a tested hull. Waves which bash and crash on salt stained windows. A rolling whitecapped landscape rising and falling, sky to sea to sky to sea.

But today we have peace. ‘Last call for hot meals’ and we are nearly home.

The palette changes as we approach land. A pale wash now over the scene, softening all the edges. 3 brushstrokes of watercolour blue hues, defining the contours with a subtle change of tone. The light shafts intensify, cutting gold into the picture. Illuminating the middle horizon into a thin strip of molten sunshine. A deep contrast sky behind. Not an incoming squall, but the soft comforting colour of a sleepy evening, damp with a summer days end.

We are home and these weary travellers are ready for their beds.

Bye Bye By Rosie

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I got home from work tonight at 9pm. After hanging the closed sign at 5.30, I stayed late to change the window display and get organised for an upcoming charity event. I tidied the shop, swapping products and colours about until I was satisfied that it looked the best it could. I worked through some admin so it wouldn't be there when I go in tomorrow. I enjoyed the solitude and silence of my space.

Working late is a rare occurrence these days. After 7 years, finally I have got the balance right. I am organised at ordering and production, I have staff to take the pressure off manufacture and I no longer work weekends. I make a good living from my business and I have time to garden, to kayak, to watch the birds.

But at this stage of my life, I am so ready to start a new chapter. I like to see life as chapters. Good ones, slow ones, memorable characters, exotic settings. The Lewis chapter has been one of the very best. Great characters. Awesome locations.

I sometimes read books or watch old movies and feel a strange nostalgia for a time I was not part of. Perhaps it is a longing to be so perfectly in a moment that it truly becomes 'yours'. To realise its importance or relevance whilst still being within it. I suppose that is truly living in the Now. There are many amazing memories I will treasure.

In the early days of 'By Rosie in the Hebrides' I shared the premises (and forged a great friendship) with Catherine Ann. She had a boutique in what became my workroom. I can picture the scene as though looking at a photograph; it is one of those rare and glorious, hot summer days in Town. We are sitting outside on the sill of my shop window (because it is slightly wider than the other window and therefore lends itself better to basking). We are wearing big dark sunglasses and drinking ice-cold milkshakes through a straw, watching the passing traffic. Watching them watch us.

Were these the golden years? Looking back, I already know it was so. This was my time. Queen of my Castle on a small Island in the North Atlantic. Who could have written that?

In 3 short months, it will be bye-bye By Rosie. I am heading away on a year long honeymoon, and beyond that, no plans. It is a thrilling concept. Clearing through the various accumulated 'treasures' has begun, and the inevitable lump in my throat. The soft hand of sadness lingers on my shoulder for just a moment. All the hard work and love poured in.  So many connections made. The sub-plots of my Hebridean life in 1000 memories. The tiny stitched details of my craft, which have mattered so much to me.

There are no worries or fears for the future, only excitement at the endless possibilities. So many new chapters to write and ideas to explore. A story that began with Love has come full circle.

When I lock the shop door for the last time, I won’t look back too soon. The star of this story is only turning the page.

Observations on an April Morning

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It’s here. I think it is. Buds can be seen on trees from afar now, not just upon close inspection. The days are longer, the songbirds louder.

There is a beautiful blackbird who is visiting the garden. I love to hear him sing, high up in the corner tree. He is perfect. Each glossy feather in place and new. Beak so bright. So yellow. His round eye is bold, a hand drawn circle keeping a constant lookout. When I feed the chickens he will be there, waiting for some careless crumbs. He will cock his little head and peer at me. His tiny yellow ringed eye so cautious. My tiny green one so eager for his friendship. Then tail up, and gone!

Spring is pouring in now. All the bulbs and spring flowers are blooming at once. Crocus, daffodil, primrose, tulip. Sun through a window making rooms warm and golden, pouring yellow happiness throughout the house, across the lawn, over the hawthorn hedge and all the way to Stornoway.

Crofts greening up gradually and sheep swell. Geese honking in the air and by the river. Tumbling burn full of cold clean water rushing its way to the sea. The seashore and the sand that starts to warm. Nearly time for bare feet, but not quite. Returning birds, a gannet’s black-tipped ink-dipped wing.

And the sky. That blue is back, that new blue. That promising sky of longer days and warmth and beach and camping and friends, and all good things.

And there, he’s back again, that little blackbird on the lawn.

Lobster Pot Ceilidh

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Last year I began the process of having two new tweeds produced at the Shawbost Mill.

The design process was much more complex than I had naïvely a­nticipated. The way that the colours play when woven together can create new tones and sometimes mysterious, almost psychedelic patterns. These can vary wildly from what you imagined, making visualising the finished product practically impossible.

It begins by choosing your basic colour palette and favoured weave patterns. Once this is done, you have an agonising wait to see the result whilst the samples are made.

All the different variations are woven onto the same length on the loom. These trial pieces are called pattern blankets, a work of art in themselves. When I used to first visit the mill, I would spy these miraculous creations piled up in a corner and dream of having my own. When mine arrived at the shop, it was with a mixture of pure delight, and also horror, as I knew I would have to somehow choose between them all.

I limited myself to two choices. This involved carrying a large bundle of tweed samples on my person for over a month, as I gradually whittled them down to the final pair.

I wanted a snappy new orange in the collection. To create a little more texture in my favourite plain orange tweed, different weaves were sampled to add in a hint of cloudy grey. The final choice has a gentle pattern of grey flecks, which build mini creels across the fabric, giving ‘Lobster Pot’ its name.

My favourite orange and blue yarns were woven together as a herringbone. This became an enigma. Some see pink, some see rust, some cannot put a name to it. There is the last glow of a sunny day, liquid gold fleetingly captured inside the wavy blue grooves of the tide. The burn of embers and flame as the night grows long, chatting around a fire. A playful dance in perfect unison. ‘Ceilidh’ was born with a good yarn between orange and blue.

Did I remove some of the romance of Harris Tweed by getting to the nitty gritty of its design? Impossible. There is no way to do that here. By getting in closer, I only understood more of its mystery. It comes from the hearts and minds of the people who create it using tradition and skill and a knack. And maybe just an ounce of magic too.

Tea for Two

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“Tea for two, and two for tea,
Me for you, and you for me,
Can’t you see, how happy we could be?”
– Doris Day

The snowy start to this year has been unusually cold for Lewis, with crisp, still, blue-sky days. Gallons of tea have been consumed at By Rosie HQ – a cheery warmer in the workroom.

There is an oversized tea cup with matching saucer that I am particularly fond of and rather possessive over. The cup and saucer must always be used as a pair, or it just doesn’t feel right. The ceramic clink after each sip is both retro and decadent in its tiny act of ceremony. Wrapping chilly fingers around its stout curves, and taking a short moment to breathe in the delicate aroma, is an undeniably lovely way to have a break.

Mugs are one of my simple pleasures. I have a wide selection, all matched to their different, specific beverages. The pattern of tea and coffee drinking maps the day, and can make a distinct impression on that day too. A good coffee first thing and the world will be alright. A herbal tea can give a much-needed moment of reflection in a hectic day. And, as an aesthetically driven soul (okay, material girl), the right receptacle will always lead to a more satisfying brew.

My day starts with a strong coffee, every day, without fail. Be it from our wee coffee machine at home, or brewed on the camping stove in the hills. Mid-morning, it is a large cup of Earl Grey – just a splash of milk please. The lunchtime brew can vary from instant coffee to turmeric infusion, depending on the day. My afternoon cuppa is a gallon of mint tea, or a cheeky flat white from our neighbours at Kopi Java (who brew the best coffee in Stornoway).

There is a small joy in the ritual of making a brew. The wonderful ceremony of making a pot, not just a cup.  A lingering moment taken to stop and steep, to think, to rest and to share.  And in the colder months, what better time is there to enjoy yet another cuppa?

Exploring the World in Fabric

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Each new year, I dedicate some time to long, luxurious days of just 'creating'. New designs, new tweed combinations, new techniques all prepare for the year to come and the new By Rosie collection.
As I peruse the shelves of my workroom, I can see storage boxes, the translucent plastic not quite disguising the colourful contents within. Over-stuffed cotton tote bags with just a corner, a glimpse, of something sparkly trying to escape. Bolts of fabric, rolled so that the good side of the cloth is protected and hidden from view, but inevitably not from memory.
My workroom is not only a tweed trove. There are sari silks and ribbons I collected in India many moons ago, mercilessly discarding personal belongings in order to stuff a suitcase full of the glorious bejewelled cloth, sequinned patches and beaded ribbons. There is hot, tropical African wax-print, diligently carried across continents by my dear friend, the patterns and shapes dancing from the sturdy cotton as if in animation. A rainbow of Mexican tapestry and earthy Chilean wovens are treasures brought back from many travels.
There are also luxurious, long-pile faux furs, polka dots, fishes, florals and stripes. A parade of texture and pattern, memories and places. The next few months are set to be a colourful, joyous, creative journey, crafting new products and exploring the world – via the shelves and cupboards.

Window to My Soul

 Bepsoke Hoody Service:  contact us  now for more details.

Bepsoke Hoody Service: contact us now for more details.

A picnic set, mandolin, Irn Bru cans, various china bird ornaments and a rusty bicycle frame amongst other curios have all adorned the By Rosie shop window display throughout the years – creating intrigue, drawing you inside. Currently, as part of our festive window, Granny’s printed plaster nativity set appears in all its kitschy glory.

Curating objects and decorating the displays is one of my favourite parts of running the shop, especially at Christmas time when I can unwrap my precious glass baubles from their tissue paper hibernation. I feel a ridiculous childlike joy at the glitter-encrusted, segmented shapes hanging in the window, translucent and beautiful as the hard winter light illuminates them.

As I decorate, a passer-by glances up, half curious, half alarmed, at the woman precariously balancing on a chair in the window, a clutch of baubles in her arms.

And I look out at them, a storm-beaten shopper, hurrying along the street tugging at their hood as they are driven along by a harsh sleety wind.

The shop window becomes a moment, framed. For those looking in and out. The snapshot start of 1000 possible stories. Characters in the daily show of Stornoway. A man and his dog, off on an adventure, two lovers hand in hand, an old woman braced against the weather.

And what do you see, looking in? A shared laugh, a sigh of despair with stitch un-picker in hand, a karaoke moment to the radio?

From our window we can see the souls of Stornoway, its characters and its visitors. A familiar face or a stranger. Looking in, you might see three cosy birds, or perhaps Christmas elves, unrolling tweeds, snipping threads and busying away at the sewing machines. And quite possibly having a karaoke moment to Slade. This is the heart and soul of By Rosie HQ.

Merry Christmas to all our lovely customers near and far. Thank you for another wonderful year.

Layers of Love

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Sean’s great uncle wore his wedding kilt only once. It was made in the 1950s, from Ancient Macleod of Harris tartan. To me it is the colours of the summer: rich blue and turquoise with black shadow and a red and yellow overcheck. I instantly saw the waters of the island where we ourselves will marry next August. The kilt will once again be worn, this time by Sean.

A few alterations are needed and so the kilt must be stripped back. Buckles unpicked, stitches cut. I peel the lining back in sections to reveal the work beneath. Zig zag threads bounding across fabric, keeping the strict pleats in order. Layers of canvas for stability. Secret tucks and hidden folds of cloth, ensuring that as the man grows, so can the kilt.

The fabric is soft to handle, the smell of tobacco lingers in the woollen fibres. I have the sense of another time, a different man, a whole other married life about to start. I have a deep feeling of nostalgia for a time I had never known. Who had sewn these pleats? Hours of careful, accurate skill. For a kilt cannot be rushed. And it seems to me that amongst all the hours, and all the layers and thousands of stitches, are really layers and layers of love. For who would embark on such a project without it?

The nostalgic feeling changes to excitement for the future. Into the folds of this old kilt will be pressed a new story. A new adventure for our marriage and a new lease of life for the pleats.

Something About Heather

A few weeks ago we spent a night camped deep in the hills of Eishken on Lewis. It was a magical time to be there, in one of the wildest parts of the island. Just us, the deer and the heather.

We walked ‘the old way’ from one abandoned settlement to another, 15km through moorland, hills and glen. These ways were the easiest paths from village to village, marked by natural features and well-placed cairns. Despite being disused for many decades and hard to see by eye, you can feel the path underfoot when you are truly on it, a sense of flattened earth and ease of tread, made so by hundreds of bare feet passing along it in the past. It was a humbling journey, one we enjoyed as a weekend stroll, but one that was a necessity for those families for generations. 

On our journey, we were surrounded by heather. The moor was a swathe of gentle colour. At closer inspection, there are many different types of heather on the moor, and I found myself admiring the many shades of purple. The ‘Heather Purple’ in our collection captures the colour of that gentle mist across the hills. ‘Moor Purple’ is worth getting under a magnifying glass, for there you will truly see the Lewis moorland: deep purple blooms between yellowed green stems and the last flecks of the summer’s white bog-cotton. I finally understood the colour of my ‘gaudy’ purple primaloft jacket. It really is the colour of Bell Heather – Erica Cinereal – the brightest of all our moorland heathers.

Trudging out at the end of our adventure, utterly soaked from marching through hip deep vegetation along the loch’s side, I stopped to admire the view before hitting civilisation again. I gazed back along our path and found myself with a renewed appreciation for heather, in all its unassuming, gentle and purple beauty.

Beautiful Things

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My small Hebridean plot is an attempted homage to my parents' garden, where some of my happiest childhood memories were made.
Whilst on a recent trip home to Dorset, I found myself raking through the family albums. My mother has always been happiest in her garden and has spent a lifetime pouring her love into the soil. I have, over the years, had many failings trying to recreate my own English country garden in the Outer Hebrides!
By this time of year, most of the flowers are finishing and the leaves are just starting to turn. The stacks of lupin seeds are lined up on their stems, already organised for next year’s display of colour. I look at Mother Nature’s reliable preparation for the future with admiration and realise that She, and my own mother, have shown me that, with diligence and hard work, beautiful things can be achieved and grown.

The New Blue

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in New Blue Herringbone

It’s tricky when new tweeds arrive from the Mill. They all have very boring, unromantic codes, which don’t suit the incredibly romantic essence of Harris Tweed. Naming them for our own use can be easy and instant or it can take weeks of living with the cloth until that 'Eureka!' moment.
Sometimes I will give a tweed (or a bag for that matter) a name, not intending it to stick and feeling that the perfect name must be just around the corner…
For weeks I struggled with ‘New Blue Herringbone’. It was the exact colour of the spring sky I looked at from my house. All the colours in the yarn mirroring the rainbows after a downpour. But ‘Rainbow Sky’? No.
After some time I realised that actually ‘New Blue’ was just what it was. The blue of spring skies and morning light. The colour of new beginnings and that exciting feeling of spotting a rainbow after a storm. The New Blue in my collection, and the New Blue of the Hebrides. (Or Code HF703-B3 if you prefer.)

A New Season is Here

With the welcome arrival of summer comes my new By Rosie collection, inspired by explorations into the heather moors and rolling hills, deep lochs and shallow lagoons of the Hebrides.

This year, I am delighted to have tweeds from independent weaver Donald John Mackay, of Luskentyre, including Moss Red (pictured here), alongside others from Shawbost Mill.

I wanted the tweeds for this collection to celebrate the heart of Harris Tweed, with real depth of colour in the yarn and traditional patterns. Exciting, beautiful, subtle and rich colours that mirror the landscape.

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in Moss Red Harris Tweed

Lovey Dovey

The days are still short here in the Hebrides, although Spring is creeping in, with the tiny fresh green shoots of daffs and crocus just peeping out from the hard ground. Reward for forward planning months ago, when each year I underestimate the long wait til the days start to lengthen. I pat myself on the back for having hap-hazardly shoved the tiny, dry bulbs into various pots and containers around my front door, and eagerly await the arrival of the first flowers. Until then, it is still the season for wrapping up and enjoying our winter layers, wooly favourites and tweedy companions. In these Winter months, our lovely Knitters have been very busy indeed. So we are pleased to offer you a treat to see you through til spring- £10 off any of our bobbin wool products. Just in time for valentines too! Me and my man have been sporting matching Herringbone hats. You can use code 'loveydovey' at checkout and do the same...

We are Hiring!

As our lovely Katie leaves us for an adventure into South East Asia, we will have a space to fill in the workroom! We are a close team, and a busy business, so we need someone who will be hard working and motivated, with positivity and good energy. Our wee workroom is a fun place to work, but we also need to get lots done each day to keep up with our Tweed loving customers. If you love to sew, and think this could be the job for you- please do apply! See our advery below for full details....

Winter light

Early January is quiet. A time for reflection on the year passed and a wonderful opportunity to plan the year ahead. It is usually the time that I choose all my tweeds for the coming summer season (unlike other designers, I am NOT 12 months ahead of myself!) Harris Tweed is best viewed in daylight, so that all the colour subtleties can reveal themelves. This does not leave me with many hours in a day to peruse the fabric swatches. January is typically dark and grey, with only a few quality hours of good light to play with. Those few hours, however, are filled with some of the most special light that the Hebrides will offer; the soft, daydreaming, ever changing light of winter.

Christmas Eve Advent Giveaway! #24

Merry Christmas Everybody! To see our By Rosie Advent Giveaway out with a beautiful BANG, here is one of our large Tote bags up for Grabs. Another Limited edition, this Tote features our best selling wave-blue Herringbone Harris Tweed, with leather handles and supersize pockets for all your stuff. There's only 3 of these bags in all the world, and I am delighted to be giving one away as a very special Christmas present to one of you lucky lot! Just Like our By Rosie Facebook page, then LIKE and SHARE to your own Facebook timeline. You know the drill. Good Luck everybody, and have a fabulous Christmas Eve!

Advent Giveaway #21!

Another double act is our lovely prize today- a Crofter hat and classic snood, both in our favourite, Oystercatcher orange of course! It's the signature By Rosie colour and is a beautiful shade of bright, burnt orange. Both items are unisex and would look great if worn together or styled separately. Perfect for beach walks or city living. To enter the giveaway, just 'like' our By-rosie Facebook page, then LIKE and SHARE this post to your own Facebook timeline. Entries will be accepted until midnight tonight, with the winner announced tomorrow morning. Good luck and Thank you for entering!

Advent Giveaway #19!

Today's treat for you all is not one, but two, lovely By Rosie goodies! If you're feeling generous you could even give one away!? .....maybe. One of our perfectly cute Make-up bags to match a very Orange iPad clutch bag. These cheerful accessories are just the ticket to see you through the dark winter days. To enter the giveaway just 'like' our By-rosie Facebook page, then LIKE and SHARE this post to your own Facebook timeline. Easy peasy. Entries accepted until midnight tonight, with the winner announced tomorrow morning. Good luck everyone!

Advent Giveaway #17 & #18

It's the last shopping weekend before Christmas! Take advantage and receive a FREE Moine Hat with every online order over £100! Our Moine hats are Hand knitted with a beautiful Cable design which is inspired by the peat stacks found here in the Hebrides. They are warm, cosy and gorgeously stylish to boot. Just use code freebiehat at checkout to receive your gift. There are 2 colours, cloudy grey and sea pink, just let us know in the comments which you would prefer. Happy Shopping!