Category Archives: community

rauwerk x woollenflower

I’ve been working with a new yarn base recently and I’m thrilled to finally put it out into the world- Woollenflower Rauwerk!

I first met Christine of Rauwerk in 2016, when we had the chance to sit and talk about a project that she was working on- an old family friend had offered her the year’s clip from his flock of Bavarian Merino and she was just about the make the leap into yarn maker and yarn shop owner… it was a big step but I could see that she had a good dose of determination and respect for both the fibre given by the sheep and the need for quality yarns for our knitting community. Based partly in London and partly in her home city of Munich, Christine decided to work with a mill in the nearby Chiemgau region, the mill that spins the yarns used to make the traditional Bavarian trachten, a structured, sturdy knitted jacket characteristic of the region. Christine wanted to create the same soft, durable yarn and I was so excited to see and feel her samples- I really love the airy lightness and bounce of woollen-spun yarns and yet have found it very difficult to source any woollen-spun bases produced here in the UK, as most of the machinery here produces worsted yarn. And so, this summer, I have dyed the first batch of Rauwerk and am thrilled with it!

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with logwood

Three shades of Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with logwood

Rauwerk is a 2-ply, woollen-spun yarn that can be knitted more densely as a DK-weight or, on slightly larger needles, as a worsted-weight. It has enough twist to give it good stitch definition and enough airiness to keep it light and squidgy. And the Bavarian Merino produces fibres that are stronger than super-fine Merinos in other parts of the world but still plenty soft for most of us to wear next to our skin. It’s a perfect yarn for garments, displaying colourwork and textured stitches beautifully, as well as accessories, blankets and anything designed to keep you warm…

Three shades of Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with avocado

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with madder

I’ve been happily surprised by the depth of colour I’ve been able to achieve on this base as finer, non-superwash Merino don’t often give strong shades- I imagine it’s partly because the fibres are that little bit stronger…

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with pomegranate and rhubarb

Woollenflower Rauwerk, dyed with weld and indigo

As well as dyeing Rauwerk, I’ve also been busy putting together a range of knitted samples in it, an essential part of showing what you can use a yarn for! I could never knit enough samples but am lucky to have several willing friends with whom I’ve been able to find a way to trade skills and resources. And it’s these working relationships that really help foster friendships and a sense of working with others that I miss as a solo dyer!

Jared Flood’s Furrow Cowl, knitted by Maaike

Amy Christoffers’ Savage Heart Cardigan, knitted in Rauwerk dyed with madder

Amy Christoffers’ Savage Heart

Orlane Sucche’s Dubula, knitting in Woollenflower Rauwerk by my friend Emma (also a natural dyer!)

You can find all the vital stats on Rauwerk on Ravelry and preview the shades I’ve dyed in the shop– these will be released tomorrow, Sunday October 21 at 11am Glasgow time as part of a shop update (along with a small number of pouches, embroidered by my lovely friend Lorna of Chookiebirdie). And, if you miss out on a colour that you’d like, please get in touch to organise a custom order!

Hexagon pouch, embroidered by Lorna Reid of Chookiebirdie

Hexagon pouch, embroidered by Lorna Reid of Chookiebirdie

Wee Fox pouch, embroidered by Lorna Reid of Chookiebirdie

pippu shawl

Happy New Year to you! I really hope that 2018 promises to be a good one for you and that you have some lovely plans to look forward to… my year is still taking shape but, after a wonderfully busy 2017, I’m aiming for a good balance of time at home and some adventures further afield this year! In this quiet time of planning and regrouping before the work year starts, I just have a bit of news that I wanted to pass on- a new knitting design in woollenflower yarns!

Pippu Shawl by Ambah O’Brien

Pippu Shawl by Ambah O’Brien

Pippu Shawl by Ambah O’Brien

Ambah O’Brien, who I met at this year’s Craft Sessions after following her work online for years, has used my plant-dyed Kid Mohair/ Silk and Alpaca/ Silk/ Cashmere together for her Pippu Shawl, named for the avocado pips used to dye the shades for her sample, pippu being the Japanese word for pip. Among other things, Ambah is known for designing beautiful shawls that are both wearable and interesting to knit so I was thrilled when she chose to work with my yarns and really interested to see what she came up with. For Pippu, Ambah drew inspiration from a recent trip to Japan, its gentle ripples and lace reminiscent of a Zen garden with its walkways trimmed with mosses; playing with textures and the way the dye material is taken differently by the different fibres, Pippu is a gentle design, perfect for the softest yarns in soothing colours. Knit on the bias, it begins with easy stripes, alternating a fingering-weight with a single strand of laceweight, followed by a simple lace section worked with the laceweight doubled, giving the asymmetrical triangle a floaty finish.

Ambah is releasing the Pippu Shawl on Ravelry tonight, Friday January 5 Glasgow time. I’m always thrilled to see what people make in my yarns and can’t wait to see some more Pippus out there so please do tag me on Instagram and use #pippushawl so that I can keep up with your projects!

Pippu requires 1 skein of Woollenflower Alpaca/ Silk/ Cashmere (400m/ 100gm) and 2 skeins of Woollenflower Kid Mohair/ Silk (420m/ 50gm) and some of each will be available in the shop tonight- that’s Friday January 5 at 9pm. They are now listed for preview if you’d like to have a look! Ambah worked her shawl with both yarns dyed with avocado pips to achieve a subtle variation in colour and I have dyed 5 shades of both yarn bases in the same dyebath to achieve a similar result, however there is also the option of adding more contrast to the stripes by choosing more contrasting shades… 

Buckthorn berries and logwood

Madder

Avocado pips

Indigo and goldenrod

Indigo

Well, that’s it for now but I wish you all a very peaceful January, whether you’re snuggling by the nearest heat source in the northern hemisphere like me or relaxing in the summer heat down south! Either way, may you have time for the things that make you happy…

Pippu Shawl

shop update

Hello! It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a chance to sit down and write here… I really wish I’d been able to make time to do so as I love sharing a little of what I’ve been seeing and doing but I suppose we all have to prioritise activities and this year has been so full of lots of wonderful travels that I this little place has not got a look in. And I know I’m not alone is feeling that, somehow, the longer between posts, the harder it seems to get back to write one. But I do have a couple of plant and dye posts in the works and more waiting and hope to share them with you over the next couple of weeks! In the meantime, I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m adding some pouches to the shop tomorrow…

A plethora of pouches

This is a cheerful bunch, made up of some of Lorna‘s beautiful handwork (that has been so loved by many of you- thank you!) and a few special fabrics. I’ve slowly worked my way through my lovely collection of worn-out jackets (and have also been doing a lot more plant-dyeing) and, as a result, my pouch-making has slowed down this year… I see this as a natural part of the way I work- there are only so many beautiful Harris Tweed jackets out there needing a new life and my focus has always been to do just that, to find a purpose for waste. But I stumbled on some beautiful (new) fabrics that I wanted to highlight in a short run of pouches, this time from Peter Grieg of Kirkcaldy, the same mill that weaves the linen I use to line my pouches. They are made from lambswool so are a softer fabric than HT but are based on some of the old Scottish tweeds and tartans and make a lovely juxtaposition to it.

Benmore Red from Peter Grieg (L, M and S)

Ancient Robertson (L and M)

As you can see, I’ve also expanded my range to include three sizes of pouches! Over the last couple of years, I’ve stored up some larger scraps so, when Rachel of Daughter of a Shepherd asked whether I’d be able to make some different sizes for our collaboration, it seemed like a great time to start using them. Because of the way I work, not all sizes are available in every fabric- it really depends on what size pieces I have- but I do have quite a few of each size in this update. My standard pouch is now my M and I’ve added a S (perfect for notions or needles) and a L (fits a medium shawl project or a baby garment) and they are £26, £23 and £30 respectively.

Harris Tweed (L and M)

And the other special fabric in this update is this wonderful hot-pink and green wool boucle!

Josh’s wool boucle

I was lucky enough to be contacted by Josh, a Dutch knitting friend from Instagram, offering me this wonderful vintage wool boucle- it had formed part of her godmother’s treasured fabric stash until her recent death and Josh really wanted to find a way to honour her and her stash and wondered if it might work as pouches. I held it back for a while, unsure if it was a bit thick for the purpose, and then realised that the gauge of the fabric would work really well as a larger pouch. And it does- the combination of that hot-pink/ grass-green/ sage check and the plump, dense fabric has made super cosy pouches and I love them!

So that’s the update. Please do head over and have a look if you’re interested- they are available for preview now and for sale tomorrow evening, Friday December 1 at 8pm Glasgow time. (For any overseas buyers keen for delivery before the holidays, please get in touch after making your purchase to discuss postage- as a guide, a small parcel containing up to 3 pouches tracked to Australia/ US costs £12.95 and takes an estimated 7-10 days. Please note that, while it’s almost certain to arrive by December 24, I can’t guarantee delivery!)

Many thanks for your interest!

munro, kintail and ardnamurchan

After being happily car-free for more than two years, we all of a sudden realised that we really wanted to have more freedom to explore Scotland and to see more of its wild and hidden places… in the best of affirmations, less than a month passed between making that decision and finding a perfect little van for ourselves, not for city driving but just for weekend hikes and camping and we are very happy that we made the decision! We’ve already got quite friendly with our “Munro”, heading out of Glasgow almost every weekend since, and it’s already enabled us to visit friends on the west coast, with more visits planned soon… Crucially for me, self-employed and working from home, it’s really creating a break between the end of the working week and beginning of the weekend, something I’m not very good at. So it’s a wonderful thing. And, just so you can see how wonderful, here are few highlights of the first couple of outings in Munro!

Rainbow over Loch Lomond

On the way up to Skye- Eilan Donan, one of Scotland’s most photographed views

Eilan Donan

One of the five sisters of Kintail

The view from Glenelg to the five sisters of Kintail

For all the HP fans: the Glenfinnan viaduct

In the hills of Ardnamurchan, looking to the west coast

As I said, another thing about Munro is that he enables us to visit friends around Scotland and the UK and I was especially keen to visit my friend Debbie and her husband John in Ardnamurchan. Deb has been extraordinarily supportive and generous since we met not long after Scotto and I arrived in Scotland and I really wanted the chance to spend some time with her (although on one of the world’s most beautiful train lines, Ardnamurchan is so beautiful that you want to cruise along the tiny coast roads and really take in the views, either in a car and on foot if you have the time!).

We timed our trip to combine it with a workshop run by Plantlife Scotland on lichens and the Celtic or Atlantic rain forests of the west coast of Scotland and so met Deb and John at the Ariundle Centre in Strontian. We spent the day learning about lichens- the complex, almost magical way that these organisms come about and the intricate relationships that they have with the plants and environment around them- and collecting and dyeing with some of the windfall species found in the rainforest. There are so many different species of lichen in this habitat…

A mini forest of lichens!

Lobaria sp

Lobaria sp

Dog Lichen (because of the "teeth" on the underside)

Dog Lichen (because of the “teeth” on the underside)

Macro closeup of the tiny fruiting bodies of Cladonia sp.

Lobaria pulmonaria (Lungwort)

Beautiful white crusty lichen and moss

Beautiful white crusty lichen and moss

And here are a few moments captured in the dye studio:

Preparing Bog Myrtle and Usnea dye baths

Fleece dyed with Lungwort, Usnea and Bog Myrtle

Usnea sp (Old Man’s Beard) and a small sample of fleece dyed with it

Yarn dyed with Lungwort

It was a wonderful day and a lovely way to share some time with new friends!

Next stop… who knows! But I know it will be somewhere beautiful- pretty much all of Scotland is stunning : )

coming home: an old maiden aunt collaboration

Last June an email from Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt dropped into my inbox about the making of a book to celebrate the tenth year of her business. I was super excited for her but, as I opened the email, wondered why she was contacting me about it… We are friends and have had some lovely chats about dyeing and running a small business but I didn’t know what I might have to offer such a project… and then she came to it- would I act as her pattern model for the book?

I have to say, my gut clenched slightly as I read this and the rest of the email! As any regular readers will know, I very rarely post photos of myself, either here on or on my Instagram feed, and get very nervous standing up in front of a group to talk or teach. I push myself on this because part of my job is teaching and I love sharing skills but it is an ongoing challenge for me! When it comes down to it, I’ve realised that it’s not that I’m particularly camera-shy but more that having everyones’s eyes on me provokes real anxiety for me… and I knew that taking this on would challenge all that. (And, let’s be honest, challenge my vanity too!)

But I really wanted to be part of such an amazing project! And to have the chance to work with not only Lilith and Jeni (who knows my deal and, over the course of photographing a few patterns for me, has worked out how to put me at ease!) but all the other amazing women who had gathered around Lilith for the project: designers Anna Maltz, Ysolda Teague, Kristen Kapur, Rachel Coopey, Lorna Reid, Felix Ford and Bristol Ivy, essayist Clara Parkes and book-makers Amelia Hodson and Nic Vowles… How often do so many talented women come together?! I feel so lucky to be able to have a small business, to be able to make my own work and shape my year as I like, but I really do miss working with other people and these kinds of collaborations are becoming more and more important to me… did I really want to let my own thoughts of whether I looked ridiculous get in the way of being part of this wonderful undertaking?!

Lilith reassured me that she was after a very relaxed look for the book and, as I thought about it, I began to trust that, if Jeni thought she could get what she needed from me, I’d take the leap and see it as a chance to explore and learn- and, after all, a weekend in a cottage in the forests of Dumfries with friends and a dog was a major enticement…

Lilith, Amelia and Jeni all did a beautiful job at putting me at ease, making me laugh in between shots and discretely looking the other way when I was trying to relax my face out of a grimace! It was a joy to work with them and I think we were all aware just how rare that kind of time is, to be working with friends and colleagues in such a beautiful setting and on such a heartfelt project.

Lilith realising I really didn’t have any idea how to put on my own makeup ; )

Amelia working her production editor magic in the Dumfries woods

Lilith giving me a lesson on how not to look ridiculous leaning against a tree

And I’m so glad I did take that leap. So often we hold back from doing things because of the anticipation of things going somehow horribly wrong and this is the perfect example of that… and yet such a huge amount of joy was had that weekend (and since) that all that anxiety has faded into the background! And look at the beautiful shots that Jeni made:

Felix’s Mountain Time mitts and flowering quinces

The perfect setting for Anna’s beautiful Bounnet

All the colours in the landscape picked up in Ysolda’s Inchgarvie shawl

Bristol Ivy’s beautiful Canadee-i-o cowl made me feel like I was on a shoot for a Rowan magazine!

Lilith is launching Coming Home at this year’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival but you can see all the designs on Ravelry and preorder your copy via Lilith’s shop. It’s a real beauty of a book and I’m so pleased to have played a small role in its making… thank you so much, Lilith, for including me in this lovely group of women (and giving me a gentle nudge to do something I never thought I could) and huge congratulations on 10 years of your business!