ORDERS are flooding in for Uist wool from customers from the US and all over the UK, now that a community benefit society has been given a financial helping hand to become a fully trading social enterprise.

Uist Wool is selling its goods on its new website, after receiving a £90,000 grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to help it grow its mill in Grimsay, between North Uist and Benbecula.

Uist Wool spins a range of yarns for knitting and weaving using local fleece and specialises in one of the oldest native Scottish breeds, the Hebridean. The yarns will be sold exclusively under the Uist Wool brand.

The emphasis is on using natural blends of wool to give a distinctive and natural finish to the cloth yarn. Makers in the Outer Hebrides and beyond will be commissioned to create high-quality garments and furnishings which showcase the natural palette of Uist Wool yarns.

HIE’s support will help cover revenue costs until a steady income stream is established. Uist Wool has already raised more than £1million in public and private funds to construct the mill and centre, acquire and refurbish heritage spinning machinery and train a skilled team.

The social enterprise structure puts any profits back into the organisation. If the mill does well, the benefits get passed back to the crofters as a return for their wool.

After years of community concern about the decline of the traditional woollen industry in the Uists, the local Wool Development Group formed in 2008 and went on to establish Uist Wool in 2011.

The idea to start a wool-spinning mill came about through community meetings and workshops with the public, crofters and craftspeople, and following a major feasibility study.

Last year, a new team of six employees started at Uist Wool including founding member and now full-time director Dana Macphee.

She said it had taken a lot of hard work to get to this stage, but she was delighted at the number of customers flocking to the new website.

“It feels good to see orders coming from places like Arizona, it is really encouraging because clearly the news is getting out there internationally. One customer in America the other day made me smile. She said: ‘I buried my nose in it straight away to smell the sea air’.”