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Woolen mill © Steve Roberts, www.sxc.hu

June 28 – Maybe I'm A-mazed
Lochcarron Woolen Mill, Galashiels

I am immediately enchanted by Galashiels; I feel at home here. It reminds me of a Scottish version of the small town in Kentucky where I visited relatives over the summer when I was young. Galashiels is a larger town than Melrose, with specialty shops lining the streets and larger, more general stores as well. The rain hasn't slowed down the residents of this town; the walks are busy and there is a bit of traffic, with buses whooshing past on the wet pavement. Still, it retains a small-town feel and appeal.

We park in the car park of a grocery store, then take a pedestrian walkway across to Bubbles. It is indeed a laundromat with an extremely friendly and helpful gentleman who assures us that all we need to do is leave our laundry with him and he'll take care of everything. For an extra pound they'll even do the folding for us and we can pick it up as late as 10:00PM. What a deal!

Back to the car park we trudge to retrieve the laundry, then back across the road into Bubbles. I hesitate a moment as we leave, wishing we'd been given a receipt or ticket stub, something to show that we'd left everything but the clothes on our backs behind, but put my trust in the Fates and don't think about it again.

It's cold, so cold. I can't believe it's the end of June, I think as we stroll down the sidewalk in the rain. Robin has on her cozy new jacket she purchased in the Lake District and Dana is wearing her last clean sweatshirt – but my lone sweater, that I almost didn't bring with me, and long-sleeved tees are back at Bubbles. I need something warmer. Such a pity; I'll have to buy a sweater in Scotland.

What better place for this misfortune to befall me than in Galashiels, home of many woolen mills? We are directed by a very kind man in a sporting apparel shop to the Lochcarron Woolen Mill. By the time we walk up the street, around the corner and down a narrow alley, we are soaked.

I suddenly remember that I had meant to go to the bank before we left Melrose. Regardless, I have enough cash left for snacks and other sundry items throughout the day, and my trusty (and not yet, but soon to be abused) Visa card for other purchases that may require more cash than I had on hand. "Be good," I tell myself as we climb the steps past a small museum to the expansive sales floor of the woolen mill.

Sweaters are laid out in an array of every color of the rainbow on tables. Ooh .. ah - Dana and I strip off our rain jackets. I'm not much of a shopper, perhaps because I usually shop alone, but I enjoy this shopping trip immensely with the three of us making suggestions as to our "best colors." I end up with a forest-green merino wool pullover with cable stitching down the front. It feels as soft as a lamb's breath and once I put it on, it doesn't come off for the remainder of the day.

I wander over to join Robin, as Dana looks at a sporran for her son. An elderly woman is spinning on a wheel and Robin is engaged in conversation with her. I stand watching for a moment, shy as ever, a million questions rushing through my head but no words to be found. Nearby there is a display set up of shawls, baby booties and little crocheted sheep. The woman's smile is kind as she looks at me, her eyes even more so.

Soon, my discomfort at talking with a stranger eases up as this kind woman, Dorothy Lawson, explains in great detail the method of producing yarn from the basket of fleece next to her. She mentions that what she is spinning now is two-ply yarn for a wedding veil that she will crochet; a special order from someone in the Isles who will pay £300. I remark that the yarn she is spinning looks very delicate. She relates that tradition in the Isles is that the wedding veil must be fine enough to pass through the wedding ring.

"That's my work there," she says, gesturing to the display. "The shawl at the top is single ply." I reach out and carefully take a corner of the gossamer material between my fingers. "It's like spider's web". Her eyes meet mine with approval. "It's called cobweb".

Perhaps she sees something in my eyes as well, and asks what it is that I make. I tell her that I used to make quilts and she responds that she did too. We talk about how time consuming a task it is, but how satisfying it is to complete one. She then begins asking questions of her own wanting to know where we're from and why we're in Scotland, as the wool slips between her fingers and her foot keeps a smooth unaltered rhythm on the treadle.

I'm filled with warmth as we say goodbye to Ms. Lawson. Here in this town, that feels so much like home, I feel as if we're related somehow, and if we're not, we should be. As much as I'd like to stay and talk with her much longer, we have places to go and are soon on our way, warmed both on the inside and outside from this visit to Lochcarron Woolen Mill.

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