Machair – Hebridean 2 Ply
Alice Starmore® Hebridean 2 Ply Yarn is made from premium quality pure new British wool, dyed in the fleece and skillfully blended into unique shades. It is hand-washed and dried in the Hebridean air, and supplied in hand-made skeins which may vary in weight. It is priced per 25g at standard conditions. All yarn is weighed to order on balances that are checked daily to ensure that you receive the correct total amount.
Machair is part of the Summer Isle range, which is inspired by the tiny Summer Islands in the mouth of Loch Broom.
What is machair? Every Gael knows the answer to that although there is some dispute amongt biologists and ecologists, so I quote the definition given by the British conservation body, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, in 1995.
Gently sloping coastal plains formed by wind-blown calcareous shell-sand, which incorporates a mosaic of species-rich grassland, fens and lochs, with dunes towards the sea and blackland (a mixture of peat and sand) further inland. All these individual elements are crucial parts of the machair system. The grassland has traditionally been maintained by low intensity agriculture. In Europe this habitat occurs only in Scotland and Ireland.
From this definition it can be seen that while machair is a coastal grassland, not all coastal grassland is machair. A degree of shell sand is a pre-requisite; then a rare balance of enough wind to blow the sand when dry, but enough moisture to allow blown sand to be deposited. Then there must be exactly the right amount of light, managed grazing at the right times of year. In fact, it is a geo and bio-miracle that we have any at all, and between the depredations of overgrazing and 4×4 traffic, we may not have it for very long.
Those wishing to know the full details of how machair systems are formed should seek out The Outer Hebrides: the shaping of the islands by Stewart Angus, The White Horse Press, 1997, ISBN 1-874267-33-2. This is an academic text, but well-written and highly readable.
Those who simply want to know what they look like, should know that in high summer the machair explodes into banks of colour: Monet-by-the-sea? The explosion of floral life is rampant but delicate. Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Clover, Daisy, Eyebright, Lady’s Bedstraw, Red Fescue, Ribwort Plantain, Yarrow. This poetic litany names some of the machair flowers that bloom in summer – a delicate profusion set against a unique, tranquil green. We have tried to capture this effect in our yarn, and I am confident that we have succeeded.