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Bird Yarns brings together knitters from around the UK

Bird Yarns - a knitted tern. Image by Shannon Tofts

Cape Farewell and An Tobar announce the launch of Bird Yarns, in partnership with an international community of knitters and textile artist Deirdre Nelson.

Bird Yarns is part of Sea Change, a Cape Farewell programme of expedition, residencies, events and exhibitions across the Islands of Scotland between 2011 and 2014, exploring the relationships between people, place and resources.

Bird Yarns - tern map

Bird Yarns celebrates the feats of the Arctic tern, the greatest traveller on earth, and reflects on the plight of migratory sea birds affected by environmental and climate change.

Bird Yarns brings knitters from Mull and across the UK together with textile artist Deirdre Nelson in response to the changing migration patterns of seabirds across Scotland’s islands. 

A flock of over 80 ‘lost’ terns are being created by the knitters, made from local wool from Ardalanish, Mull, and recycled materials. The terns will arrive on Tobermory pier by 21 June. 

A listening post, narrated by Gordon Buchanan, will accompany the birds as they begin their journey across the UK, and they will be welcomed by a pop-up cafe on Tobermory Beach serving local produce prepared by chef Oliver Rowe.

Knitting kits will also be developed in partnership with local producers to highlight the plight of migratory birds and celebrate local resources and resourcefulness.

Cape Farewell Associate Director Ruth Little says: “The Bird Yarns project has been many months in the making, involving the craft skills, enthusiasm and commitment of knitters from Mull to Arkansas, Cape Breton to Tiree. Under the wise and witty guidance of Deirdre Nelson, the project has expanded to incorporate and promote local producers on Mull and the rich human and natural resources of Scotland’s islands. Sea Change is made up of an archipelago of art projects based on local knowledge, which are being developed on the islands and presented on Mull, Shetland, North Uist and Barra, at Dovecot Studios Edinburgh, and on the BBC/ACE digital platform The Space.”

Making ternsDeirdre Nelson is an embroiderer and textile artist based in Glasgow, who has exhibited widely in a variety of gallery and museum contexts nationally and internationally, and has been involved in site specific works in heritage locations such as Gibside Estate Northumbria and Brodsworth Hall Yorkshire. Research and education forms a large part of her practice with extensive experience in school and community contexts. Deirdre is artist-in-residence at An Tobar, Mull, in 2012.

Bird Yarns launches at An Tobar on 21 June at 8.30pm, where Deirdre Nelson will be joined by Gaelic poet Rody Gordman, Black Isle writer and broadcaster Kenny Taylor, and Cape Breton Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond.

Read Deirdre Nelson’s Bird Yarns blog 

Find out more about Sea Change and Bird Yarns at: 


Top - a knitted tern, image by Shannon Tofts.

Centre - map of tern knitters.

Bottom - making terns, image by Deirdre Nelson.

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