Tamar: a river and the tale of a yarn

Tamar: a river and the tale of a yarn


It seems that this watery story is timely, though sadly not everyone is in a position to appreciate the sheer amount of water around the UK at present.  Our thoughts are with those who have suffered flooding and those trying to keep their sheep from growing webbed feet.

Our new yarn, Tamar, is named for the river which defines the border between Devon (England) and Cornwall.  The Tamar is quite a large river, and may be 61 miles long or possibly only 50 depending on the source of information!  The nearest English river, the Exe, is also quoted variously as 60 or only 51 miles long!  Can this be a local rivalry or maybe the difference is to do with whether and how their estuaries, which include other rivers, are measured?

Cornwall is a land of water, surrounded by sea, and full of small rivers tumbling down short steep valleys to meet the sea.  Under the ground too, the mines have needed pumps to keep them clear of the water which tries to fill them and the granite rock which forms most of the basic geology is also full of water.

So it is no wonder that, in older times, when the Little People and the Big People inhabited the land, that their lives became magically entwined with water.  In Cornwall, the little people, independent and mischievous, who nowadays spend a lot of time untidying things in the home, are called piskies.

Tamara was a beautiful, independent-minded young pisky, who wanted more from life than to live beneath the earth where her parents toiled away at tunelling and other useful and industrious gnome activities.  She frequently ran away up onto the outside land to play in the sun across the moors and to swim in pools of clear water.  Here, one day, she met two young giants, the brothers Tavy and Taw and they both fell desperately in love with her.  This was quite delightful for Tamara, who happily basked in their adoration and teased them both about who might love her more.

Her worried parents were less keen on this new friendship, being very tiny, and concerned that Tamara might get hurt by such enormous beings.  They begged, scolded and shouted but Tamara was adamant that she wanted to stay with her new friends.  In a rage, her father cursed the young people, putting the giants into a deep slumber and turning his daughter into a river, which wandered sadly southwards seeking lost friends.

Tavy awoke first from the slumber and was distraught. He ran home to his father, who knew what had happened, as all parents always do, and took pity on him, even though he also thought the love for Tamara was a silly idea.  So, being endowed with magical powers, he kindly turned Tavy into a river too, and off he flowed, seeking Tamara until he eventually found her not far from the coast and the two rivers joined to flow into the sea.

Taw then woke and was equally distraught.  Being more impulsive and less keen to hear advice from a parent, he rushed off to the nearest enchanter – of course enchanters and magicians were plentiful in those days – to discover the news of the new rivers.  So he pleaded with the enchanter to be allowed to become a river too, which of course, the enchanter was happy to do, just to show off his powers.  Taw, now also a river, unfortunately rushed off in the wrong direction, so although he found the sea, he travelled northwards and never managed to meet his brother and Tamara.

For those less interested in stories, the origin of the name may be linked to Celtic words for dark water, and appears to have no direct linguistic link to Thames, so it’s not simply an old word for a river. 



Our yarn, on the other hand, is named for its lustre, flowing drape and soft watery shades of silver and grey which form the base over which we have dyed subtle shades, which we have named for some of the many other Cornish rivers.  Some of these are original shades and some are created with the second dyeing using the exchaust dye bath, diluting and watering down the original to a paler version.  The wools we have used are Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Leicester Longwool, so at least two of these are also named for rivers and valleys!  They are held together with lambs’ wool from local Cornish Mule sheep, crossbred with Welsh and Blue-faced Leicester parents.  Sheep of course do not generally live underground, nor much like swimming, although they do love wandering across the moors …  As far as we are aware, not having magical powers outside of yarn making, none of the sheep who gave us their wool for Tamar were called Tamara, Tavy or Taw, but who knows?