Category Archives: shop

shop update: pouches!

In the lead up to this year’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival, my friend Lorna of Chookiebirdie and I hatched a plan to work on a small collaboration- I would make some of my regular pouches and she would work her magic on them, embroidering with wool felt and threads in her own charming style. I left the design up to her but, as the base fabric was a dark, heathered blue-brown reminiscent of the sea and seaweeds of West Scotland, we discussed the idea of a sea creature of some kind… we hoped that they’d capture the hearts of knitters attending the festival and they certainly did- her oystercatchers (an iconic bird found on Scottish coasts in the warmer months) had such life and character that they found homes in the first ten minutes of the show! So, when the opportunity to exhibit at Pomfest came, we thought it was time to make more of those beautiful pouches for me to take along! And, because I know that not everyone can go to Pomfest, I held back a small number for the shop  : )

Lorna made more Oystercatchers…

Oystercatcher Pouch

Oystercatcher Pouch

as well as exclusive Pompom heart pouches to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Pompom magazine…

Pompom hearts for Pomfest!

Pompom hearts for Pomfest!

and used the wee knitting foxes from her much-loved badges on others…

Wee knitting foxes!

Wee knitting foxes!

and combined birds and flowers for these- perfect for a Chookiebirdie-woollenflower collaboration, aren’t they?

Bird and Flower Pouch

Bird and flower pouch

I also have a handful of my own, unadorned pouches going into the shop too…

A classic herringbone in silver/ charcoal

Beautifully subtle salmon/ oatmeal

A warm and joyous blue

Shades of heather from a 1970’s Scottish skirt

As you can see on the sky-blue and charcoal pouches, I’ve used tweed from jacket fronts that have darts in them… for a long time, I stored these pieces, assuming that people would not want seam lines on their pouches and wondering what I could do with them. And then, talking to Lorna, I discovered that she didn’t think that seams were a problem, that people may in fact feel that the seams told more of the story of the jacket as origin… I hadn’t thought of that! That is such a good example of why working with others is so important- it’s just so easy to become fixed in the way we see things, isn’t it?

All the pouches are now in the shop for a sneak peak and will be available at 9pm Glasgow-time tomorrow, Sunday July 30. Enjoy and many thanks for your interest in my work!

(A brief word on pricing… Lorna’s pouches are a very special bunch and the price reflects the fact that they incorporate both her handwork and my sewing. And I have been holding off on increasing the price of my pouches but, after hikes in the cost of materials, such as zips and lining, I’ve had to push it up a bit. I hope that you understand and that it doesn’t make them too exclusive- I’m increasingly aware of the fact that certain corners of the knitting community can be a bit intimidating to those with less income so please do get in touch if you desperately want one but are not able to afford it- I’d be very happy to discuss a trade of some kind!)

shop update

It’s been a while between drinks but I’ve made some pouches for the shop! The update  will be tomorrow, Saturday April 8 at 3pm Glasgow-time, but they’re already loaded in the shop in case you feel like having a leisurely browse beforehand : )

As always, I got a kick out of choosing fabrics that work together and there is quite a bit of Harris Tweed in this batch, as well as the last of the teal camper van cushion covers and a couple of other colourways…

Pouches!

Scottish wool in oatmeal/ berry from my friend Lorna of Chookiebirdie

Harris Tweed in sage green/ straw

Tobacco/ rust/ oatmeal

Harris Tweed in tobacco/ rust/ oatmeal

If you’re in the market, I hope you get the one you like! Thank you as always for your enthusiasm and support xx

winter solstice raffle

It’s well into winter here in Glasgow and the shortest day of the year is upon us…

Grasses

The sun rose this morning at 8.44 and will have set by 4 and, even when it’s up, the sky is often heavy with rain, such a contrast to the warmth and light we’ve just been soaking up on a brief trip home to Melbourne! It was SO lovely to be among family and friends and a powerful reminder of how incredibly lucky we are to so be loved and supported, of how much we have in our lives… We said hello to our lovely wee house and the family enjoying living in it, walked our regular routes and some new ones, ate at our favourite places (yet to find any good Middle Eastern or Japanese restaurants here!) and soaked up the birdsong, the golden bright light and the smell of eucalypts.

Back here in Scotland, we are settling into our second winter here and, this time, embracing the slower rhythm of winter with a bit more knowledge of the long, dark months and how to get through them…  I do love the dark and cold but struggled a bit with just how long and dark it was last year! Friends say that exercise, vitamin D, good company, blankets and other warm woollies, candles and lights and just embracing the need to achieve less and sleep more all help to make winter more fun. I’ll let you know how I go and whether I turn into a hibernating bear as much as I did last year ; )

Today is my birthday and, after the year that we’ve all had, my birthday wish was for a little bit of peace and good news in the world. Instead, I was deeply saddened to wake up to news of more violence, this time in Germany and Turkey, knowing that both events have the potential to further fuel racial hatred. More and more, like so many others, I am finding myself reaching out, scrabbling, wishing I could do something, anything, to make a difference. I know what is happening in the world is so much bigger than me, than any of us, but I want to use the resources I have, humble though they are, to do something. So I am holding a small raffle in the hope of raising money for those who are far less fortunate than Scotto and I and most people we know.

How will it work? I’m offering up 3 pouches made from a very understated Harris Tweed but lined with bright, cheerful cotton, an unexpected burst of colour and joy when the zip is opened, something we all need when times are dark!

Pouch in oatmeal/ lichen Harris Tweed

Pouch in oatmeal/ lichen Harris Tweed

Pouch in oatmeal/ lichen Harris Tweed

I’ll draw three winners from a hat on December 28 and send them each a pouch as a post-festive/ end-of-year treat! To go into the draw to win one, I just ask that, in the spirit of humanity and kindness, you make a contribution to a humanitarian aid organisation- I’m suggesting Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres or Oxfam for the incredibly important work they are doing  with Syrian refugees but please let me know if there is another group that you know of who does good work! The raffle is open to all countries and there is no minimum donation but please give as much as you can afford. I’m not going to ask for proof of donation but instead will rely on honesty! All you need to do is leave a comment here or on my Instagram feed to let me know who you decided to donate to and you’ll be in the hat on Dec 28. Good luck and huge thanks for any support you can give!

last shop update for the year

Just a quick heads up that I’ll be updating the shop with some pouches, cowls and plant-dyed yarns tomorrow, Sunday November 20 at 8pm Glasgow time! Below is a sneak peek but you can also preview all items in the shop now if you’d like a bit of time to have a good look.

Pouch made from dressmaking scraps

Pouch made from dressmaking scraps

Shetland Pine Cowl in Flannel/Bokhara

Shetland Pine Cowl in Flannel/Bokhara

Plant-dyed baby alpaca/ linen/ silk

Plant-dyed baby alpaca/ linen/ silk

Plant-dyed kid mohair/ silk

Plant-dyed kid mohair/ silk

I’m heading back to Australia for a fortnight on Thursday so all orders received by 9pm Wednesday will be sent before I leave, in plenty of time for Christmas post!

Please feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss yarn colours (always difficult to assess on a computer screen!), combining postage or other issues…

Huge thanks to all of you for your interest in and support of my work this year, whether dyeing and making, knitting, travelling or plant-hunting- I really appreciate it and would like to wish you a happy and peaceful end to the year xx

dyeing with avocado pips

A few years ago, after reading on Ravelry dye threads and other blogs about the dyes held in avocado pips and skins, my friend Nandi and I collected a whole lot of pips and got together for a day of dyeing. Carol Lee, one of the great American dyers, had established that the colour is best extracted slowly in an alkali environment so we’d chopped the pips up to increase the surface area as much as possible and left them to soak in a 50/50 water and ammonia solution for a few weeks. Then came the time to see the results of our patience! We heated the dye bath (leaving the dyestuff in) and yarn and waited patiently as the fibres took up the dye… but the end results were unspectacular shades of beige- after seeing and hearing all about the pinks and rusts that other people were achieving, we were more than a bit disappointed. After washing and squirrelling away the pips for months, I turned my back on avocados as a dye ; )

But, after seeing the lovely results that London-based plant dyer Rebecca Desnos achieves with both pip and skin on cellulose fibres, I recently decided to give them another try and set up a large jar on our kitchen windowsill- I half-filled it with water and enough washing soda (sodium carbonate) to take the pH to 10 and , as we finished each avocado, I chopped the pip finely and added it to the jar, ending up a few months later with a jar full of pip in a very dark rust-coloured solution. Over the period of collecting, the solution naturally began to ferment, in turn resulting in a drop in pH so I regularly tested and modified the pH to keep it up around 9-10. Other than that, I just let it do its thing.

Preparing the pips for soaking

Preparing the pips for soaking

The colour emerging on contact with oxygen

The colour emerging on contact with oxygen

A few weeks ago, it was time to try dyeing with it. I added the solution and pips to a dyepot, gradually heated it and let it sit at around 70C for an hour. I then let it cool, strained out the pips and set them aside and added yarn to the pot. Avocado pips are rich in tannins which acts as a natural mordant, however, after my last experiment dyeing with it, I really wanted to maximise the results and so used yarn mordanted in alum- two sample skeins of Shetland, one white and one grey, and two skeins of one of the yarn bases I’ve been dyeing with, a blend of alpaca, silk and cashmere. I again gradually heated the solution to 70C, held it there for around 90 minutes and then turned the heat off and let the whole lot sit overnight.

The next morning, I pulled out the yarn and was thrilled with the soft salmon colour! However, the solution was still dark in colour and the pips that I’d strained out the day before were the colour of cooked quinces- a rich red. So I added them back to the dye bath and put the pot back on the stove to resimmer and then dyed a whole lot more yarn. In the end, about 25 pips dyed over a kilo of yarn!

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere, alpaca/ linen/ silk and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ linen/ silk, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

shetland

Silk/ mohair, alpaca/ linen/ silk, alpaca/ silk/ cashmere and Shetland, all dyed with avocado pips

I modified some of the skeins with iron, which transformed the salmon-peach to soft, warm greys and complex purple-greys.

Greys from avocado and iron

Greys from avocado and iron

And, as avocados are rich in anthocyanins which are very sensitive to changes in pH, next time I’ll also try adding them to an alkali bath after dyeing to try to achieve the dark reds and purples that Carol Lee mentions. I suspect the the difference in pH (and minerals) between the water of Glasgow and that of Melbourne may be responsible for the more interesting colours achieved this second time… or perhaps it is the soils that the avocados we buy here were grown in that did it. Either way, needless to say, there is a new collection building in the jar and I’m really looking forward to using this wonderful dye again.

If you’re interested in learning more about dyeing with natural materials, I’d really recommend Rebecca Desnos’ e-book as a good basic introduction to plant dyes, especially if you’re interested in working with avocado dyes and cellulose (plant-based) fibre, and I have two upcoming classes at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens on Sunday August 14 and October 9. And I’ll be adding these skeins to the shop as part of an update in the next couple of weeks so, in case you can’t be bothered collecting pips and dyeing your own, keep an eye out on here, Instagram or sign up for the newsletter for notifications!