Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Handmade Life

Eoghain and Pamela, In the hills above Elgol, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A Handmade Life

The journey here (for journey is what one must call it) takes about an hour and a half, and though the scenery is stunning (stunning is the only word) I am questioned repeatedly about the veracity of my directions.  Mountains rise before us, craggy and imposing, their steep sides plunging into lochs and sea.  We drive through drizzle, rain, and sunshine all in the span of an hour.  As we near the edge of the island I spot a small sign and we turn, pointing our car upwards where, looking down, we spot a tiny cluster of white houses clinging to a hillside overlooking the sea.  We see a gate and I hop out to open it.  The Songwriter drives through, I close the gate and climb back inside.  There is a tiny car park underneath berry-laden bushes.  We make our way down a vertical drive and turn the corner to spot three hobbit-sized cottages, one of which bears the sign we’ve been looking for:  Skye Weavers. 

In this remote place, far removed from everything commerce is expected to require, we find some of the most gorgeous woven goods one could imagine, all created by a man on a bicycle.  Roger gets up each morning, leaves his lovely cottage and walks several feet into his loom shed where he climbs aboard the bicycle that powers his handmade loom and from this perch he creates some glorious things, pedaling all the day.  Shawls and scarves, blankets and gentlemen’s ties - each one a temptation impossible to resist.  Roger’s wife, Andrea, designs these treasures with a artist’s eye for colour and Roger weaves them, expertly.  Another tiny shed serves as the shop, a textural candy store where stacks of beautifully coloured items are arranged and displayed.  

“We inherited the cottage”, says Roger.  “It was our dream to make a living doing what we loved, but we didn’t know if that was possible this far away from everything.  But believe it or not, we’re doing alright.  The internet helps, of course.  It’s kind of amazing how many people find us out here.”

After making several needful purchases and being allowed to “drive” the loom for awhile - a thrill - we reluctantly left Roger and his wife on their idyllic hillside.  But their story has stayed with me, underlined as it was by other couples we met in the Scottish Hebrides this past September.  

Meet Clare and Iain, proprietors of our favorite tiny inn on Skye, Coruisk House.  Both successful lawyers in London, they followed their dream to one of the most glorious spots on earth several years ago, rescued an old house and transformed it into a lovely destination.  Here Iain indulges his guests with incredible meals each night and Clare bakes irresistible bread, watches the details and makes everyone welcome.  Along with their black lab, Reggie, they are intoxicatingly happy, one can tell.

There are the weavers on the Isle of Harris, each one an artist of the highest order.  From garden sheds and back rooms dotted all over the island they weave their intricately beautiful fabrics for internationally known Harris Tweed.  There is the couple who own Skye Pies, a tiny whitewashed cottage on the north end of the Isle of Skye where the line for lunch stretches halfway through the garden before they even open and where you can eat, truly, the most delectable pie you could possibly imagine, sweet or savoury.  All around the cafe are baskets of knitting and tools for embroidery for diners to pick up and continue.  The place positively crackles with creativity.  Then there are our good friends, Francis and Eoghain, living in paradise on a hillside on Skye, with no television or computer and no desire for either.  Each night they climb the hill to look out over the Black Cullins towards Loch Coruisk where, as Eoghain whispered to me when he took me up there, “The mountains are ebony and the water is silver.”  (See the photo above.)

 Since retuning home from Scotland I have thought a lot about the life these people have fashioned for themselves.  Hard work, really hard work, is no stranger to these people.  But each of them radiates utter peace and contentment, qualities so often elusive to modern life.  Their values run counter to the values most commonly prized; none of them would wish for a golden tower.  But oh, what bliss they’ve created.  What joy to be found in the handmade quality of their lives.

It is disconcerting that one of the most beautiful of words, Thanksgiving, is this week to be followed by that most mercenary of sobriquets, Black Friday.  Let others fill the shopping malls and crowd the highway lanes.  I may not live on a Scottish hillside, yet, but as best I can, I have molded my own handmade life right here at The House of Edward.  My friends will receive bits of love woven into their presents this Christmas, baked or knitted, written or wrapped.  It is possible even today, even here in a metropolis, to turn from the media’s definition of success, joke that it is, and embrace those activities that feed our souls.   Mulled wine nights by the fireside, with dreaming dogs dozing at our feet and good books in our hands.  Long walks in the crisp air.  Happy conversations over delicious dinners.  The wrapping of gifts that mean as much for us to give as they will for those who unwrap them.  Music in place of news.  Joy in place of worry.  Contentment in place of stress.  For some of us, this may be hard work, really hard work.  But the rewards, I assure you, far exceed any amount of effort.  

As Christmas approaches, the elves at Wild Bouquet Press are busy sending out orders for Edward Speaks at Midnight.  A truly handmade effort and one that both Edward and I are immensely proud of.  Beautifully illustrated, it is a window into our own Christmas here at The House of Edward and I hope it will find its way underneath many trees this year.

 You can find your copy HERE.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
I am forever so thankful for my readers.

Do some Christmas Shopping at Skye Weavers, HERE
and visit,


  1. I do hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving. Sending warmest wishes from New York.
    I loved the craftspeople from Scotland you featured above.
    Yes, creating things is very therapeutic.
    Let's try for a moment to cast aside the pall of sadness that is washing over our once great country and seek the comfort of friends....and keep creating.
    Pats for Edward and Apple. x

  2. Oh what a fabulous post and so timely!
    I have been immersed in my knitting too and have several gifts made and squirrelled away for Xmas...homemade shortbread, rum balls and fruitcake will also be on my list.
    I love giving beeswax candles and Irish linen tea towels as hostess gifts...
    Your book looks intriguing...I have 3 wee grandies that might love having that book wrapped up under their tree!
    Hope you enjoy your week!

  3. You are blessed indeed to have had sunshine - or at least a break in the clouds !
    A reading from our copy of Edwards Speaks at Midnight now a PON family routine .

  4. I love my copy of Edward Speaks at Midnight and making it a tradional Christmas Eve read at my cottage πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

  5. Wonderful trip and stories of those souls. Hope your Thanksgiving is a special one this year dear Pamela.

  6. What a lovely trip you've taken me on today and a glimpse into lives well-lived. May you and those you love have a happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for the reminder that there is so much to share and look forward to in the coming season.

  7. What a lovely tribute to these hardworking, and creative folks. They seem to personify that old concept of "finding your bliss." I wondered if you had plans to do a column about your Scottish travels. I'm trying to plan our first trip to Scotland and, frankly, finding it a bit daunting. I enjoy your blog so much, very happy that you continue to share. Have a wonderful holiday!

  8. I wish this post was the lead story on the news tonite and the feature story on "Breaking News" channels everywhere. I wish I wish...There is such comfort to be found here and in leading a life based on peace, love, creativity and respect for others. Thank you for a bit of beauty amidst the strife of the world. I will dwell here as often as possible for the holiday season and everyday.

  9. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and stories about Scotland! I am in the mist of reading Michael Phillips books about Stonewycke in Scotland. Happy Thanksgiving to you, the songwriter and Edward and Apple!

  10. USA is filled with such people. Currently they're called rural or agrarian.

    Love the twist of sacred & profane in your story. Choosing to live in beauty, yet needing to create filthy lucre.

    Story of life.

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

  11. Beautiful post, Thank you
    Happy Thanksgiving to You & Yours


  12. The beautiful landscape of Elgol.
    Pamela, that amazing walk to Camasunary Bay.
    Is there any place on earth more stunning?
    It truly is a magical having just experienced what you have just so fondly written about.
    Planning to return, but spending more time island hopping.
    Fell under the spell of the ferries.
    Its just wonderful to be on the water.
    Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving
    Anita xx

  13. Stunning scenery and so wonderful to know that there are still artisans out there making the most beautiful things .... Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Pamela ..... wishing you a lovely day. XXXX

  14. Just a line from the Scottish Borders to say thank you for telling us about Coruisk House - we are overdue another visit to Skye and hadn't heard about Coruisk - it's great to get a personal recommendation all the way from the American South! It really is a small world. I'm a new visitor to H of E and looking forward to reading more!

  15. Sarah Katherine MooreNovember 26, 2016 at 11:51 AM

    Another bit of utter magic from Scotland: a white rainbow aka a "fogbow". This made the BBC (my go-to source for slightly more balanced reporting on world events):

  16. Black Friday - so aptly named. Nothing I'd like to do less. Our own version, on the rural Eastern Shore of Virginia, is the annual Artisans' Guild Tour on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. We drive the beautiful local country roads, and visit the studios of the many artists and artisans who've made their homes here. I am lucky to have recently retired and joined their ranks, so next year instead of going on the tour, I'll be a stop on the tour!


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