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Features / ‘I’m gobsmacked by their popularity’ – the peerie creatures making a big impression

Leanne Hutchison with some of her Scobbins.

FOR SOMETHING so small, they are certainly making a big impact.

Shetland-made Scobbins, which can fit in your palm, are charming folk around the world with their cheeky grins, bug-like eyes and boisterous hair.

The needle-felted character is the latest handmade creature from the curious world of Burra based Trowie Knowe Crafts, and they are helping the small business reach all corners of the globe.

The first Scobbin was created on Halloween last year somewhat by chance by Trowie Knowe’s Leanne Hutchison as she played around with scraps left from making needle-felted snails.

The follow on from Trowie Knowe’s distinctive trows in jars, and other bits and bobs, but they already proving more popular.

“I’ve been so gobsmacked and confused with their popularity,” Leanne says.

“I still am – it’s like a very bizarre dream. There hasn’t been a day since I posted the first Scobbin online that I haven’t had enquiries about them.

“Even on Christmas day I was getting Scobbin enquiries. As soon as I list them on my online shop, they sell out within minutes.

“I get Scobbin updates and photos sent to me daily from customers from all over the world too.”

Leanne admits she can’t keep up with demand, with one Scobbin taking up to a day to complete. This, however, is quicker that the trow crafts she has previously made.

The roots of Trowie Knowe stem back nearly a decade when Leanne made trows for fun.

It morphed into a fully fledged business in 2015 when the “orders kept on coming in”.

Leanne is the main force behind Trowie Knowe, but her partner Neil is a big part of the business too.

“We work on a lot of projects together at nights and at weekends and we’re always brainstorming ideas together,” she says.

“Neil is more the woodwork side of things. He’s only really just getting going in his workshop this year, even though he’s had the workshop for a couple of years now. He’s been so busy with other things. I can’t wait to see what he creates.

“We’ve worked together on various driftwood projects. Most recently, driftwood signs. Then I make the trows, Vikings, drunken snails and various other creatures. We have lots of new ideas on the go or are planning.

“We actually have something quite exciting that we’re secretly working on, that I think everyone is really going to like. It will be unveiled in the summer.”

Two big inspirations behind the crafts are folklore and nature. “I’ve always been fascinated with trows and the idea of peerie folk living among us that we can’t see,” Leanne says. “I want to live in their world.”

Leanne has to make do living in the real world in Burra, where she has been based since last year after working from her living room in Whalsay.

Leanne’s workspace at her home in Burra.

Her new workspace is compact but still mightily impressive, with the wooden surroundings feeling more like a scene from Lord of the Rings rather than Bridge End.

“Neil’s made the worktops, storage units and shelves all from driftwood and scrap wood that we’ve collected while out on walks with our dog,” she explains.

“It’s tiny but amazing having a workroom after working from my living room for so long. The storage especially.

“Neil has a separate small workshop next to the house. It’s an old lamby shed that we rent from our neighbour, which Neil has also renovated. He now has it all kitted out with woodwork machines.”

Leanne says she closed down her online shop during lockdown last year and then later set up a driftwood-clad ‘Trow fridge’ where customers could collect purchases without coming in contact with anyone.

She describes selling online as being a “saviour to my business this past year”.

“We really missed the annual Shetland Arts and Craft Fair last year and all the other markets that we usually attend,” Leanne adds.

“Also folk coming by the house to pick up their orders too has been such a big miss.

“I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without my online shop and I have been so incredibly grateful to all of my customers for their continued support during this pandemic. They’re amazing.”