Fleece Internships 2021

Exciting residency and internship opportunities At Birkhill House crafting centre, Summer 2021

At Birkhill House crafting centre is delighted to announce the creation of two opportunities for interns interested in learning about fleece and fibre processing and incorporating some of our homegrown Huacaya alpaca and Castlemilk Moorit sheep fleeces into independent projects.

About At Birkhill House

At Birkhill House is a crafting centre and animal assisted activity venture near Earlston in the Scottish Borders, offering therapeutic contact with animals alongside an array of modern and traditional crafting opportunities. 

The focus At Birkhill House is on wellness and mindfulness. Set on nine acres of beautiful land, the estate has a rich farming and equine history dating back to the 1800s. The property is now a busy smallholding, the residents of which include 15 Huacaya alpacas, a flock of Castlemilk Moorit sheep, pygmy & Golden Guernsey goats, domestic Ragdoll cats, a gaggle of small dogs, a plethora of hens and a friendly pair of peacocks.

What’s on offer and to whom?

For the inaugural placements, we have decided to keep the pool of applicants small, opening these opportunities to Heriot Watt University undergraduate and postgraduate textile students only.

The opportunities are as follows:

  1. Residency: 29th May – 19th June 2021
  2. Internship: one day/week starting w/b 22nd June 2021

Further information about the residency

This residency is offered from Saturday 29th May – Saturday 19th June 2021.

Using this year’s shearing process as a starting point, the successful applicant will be given the opportunity to develop a self-driven, independently-led project involving At Birkhill House fleeces/fibres. The project details and content will be determined entirely by the successful applicant.

Although there will be no structured tuition, we will be on hand to teach our inaugural fleece resident about the animals in the field – from feeding and handling to nutritional support for fibre production – and demonstrate the basics of equipment use in aid of fibre processing. Everything here is done by hand and that process will necessarily translate to the chosen project.

Whilst you are here, you will have your own concerted workspace in one of our renovated stable workshops, which can be accessed 24 hours a day. You will also be able to access the whole of our nine-acre smallholding, which is a beautiful, inspiring setting that will no doubt help to fuel creativity.

The emphasis is very much on experimentation and play. You are being invited to share in the joy brought by these magnificent creatures and the care and concern involved in looking after them, whilst growing your knowledge of small-scale, sustainable fibre production at the same time. At Birkhill House is a family small-holding and, as such, you will be welcomed by the entire Armitage clan and their menagerie.

Residency Accommodation

The successful applicant will stay in our gorgeous, three-bedroom Victorian-era cottage, which is adjoined to our smallholding. Comprised of a fully equipped kitchen, large downstairs landing, family bathroom, lounge with wood burner, downstairs double bedroom, upstairs en suite queen bedroom and small children’s bunk room. There is also a suntrap conservatory and small private, fenced garden with a table for six and an outdoor barbecue. Family and friends are very welcome, as well as dogs, cats and other creatures. There is a wireless network, flat screen TV (Firestick) and lots of books, games and puzzles stocked in the cupboard. Eggs from our hens and produce from our outdoor garden beds and polytunnel are included in the offer. Unfortunately, we are unable to pay a living stipend. This is hopefully something we will be able to offer in future. Further information and pictures of the cottage can be found at: www.birkhillcottage.co.uk

Further information about the internship

This internship is offered over a six-week period from the week beginning 22nd June 2021.

It will entail attendance At Birkhill House for one day per week for the duration of the internship. Once our alpacas and sheep are sheared each year, we find ourselves surrounded by beautiful fleeces. Skirting, picking, carding and prepping for the mill are all parts of the job at hand and we envisage the successful intern as being at the heart of this process. If you have an interest in learning about the process of preparing fleece from start to finish then this is the opportunity for you. You will also be afforded the time to conduct an independent project of your choosing, using some of our fleeces, as well as your own concerted workspace in one of our renovated stable workshops, which can be accessed between 8am-8pm on your chosen day.

A note about Covid

At Birkhill House, we adhere to all government guidelines relating to Covid-19 to ensure the safety of all staff and service users. We are offering these opportunities in good faith that the lifting of restrictions will continue along the current roadmap, as laid out by Scottish government. Should this trajectory change, we will review the opportunity in light of any shifts in consultation with the successful applicants in order to determine a way to either adapt or postpone the opportunities.

How do I apply?

Tell us, in no more than 800 words, what you intend to do with your time here At Birkhill House. Guiding questions could be:

• Where fleece and fibre are concerned, what is your current area of interest?

• What would you like to learn more about?

• Roughly, what is your project idea? Be as specific as you can be, although we do understand that often the

creative path is best laid through experimentation and that is very much encouraged here At Birkhill House.

• How will you experiment with the materials here?

• Will you be exploring the tools and equipment on offer?

• Is part of the focus of your time here to learn more about the process of seeing the fleece from field right

through to finished product?

• Why do you want to work specifically with alpacas and/or Castlemilk Moorit sheep?

You can take any, all or none of these prompts as your que to provide us with a snapshot of how you would envisage using your time here. Please state whether you are interested in the residency, the internship or if you are potentially interested in either opportunity. Please remember to include your name, address and a contact telephone number.


Send submissions to Lara Armitage (lara_armitage@hotmail.com), clearly marked “Fleece internship opportunities – application”, no later than 5pm on Tuesday, 11th May 2021. The successful applicant will be informed by 5pm on Friday, 14th May 2021.


Birkhill House

Earlston TD4 6AR

email & phone


07779 339 653