Category Archives: shop

kleur

At this, the turning of the wheel and the beginning of this new year, I’d really like to wish you all a peaceful and happy 2019! This holiday is often full of joy and new promise but can also make us acutely aware of opportunities we missed this last year or the distance between us and those we love so, wherever you are and however your year has started, I wish you good things. I’d also like to thank you for your interest in and support of my work this past year- I so appreciate it and could not do what I do without it… So thank you!

We saw in the new year at a small village ceilidh (dance with traditional Scottish music!) with some dear friends and there was plenty of laughing, dancing and great cheer! We were very lucky to be included in what were largely family gatherings for both this and Christmas Day and, since this is definitely the time we most feel that distance from our own families, we feel very happy to be building a new community here in this way.

And so the new year begins and I shall mostly spend the next few couple of months preparing for Edinburgh Yarn Festival… I hope to fit in another shop update in that time but, in the meantime, I just wanted to let you know that my dear friend Anna Maltz is releasing a new design tonight, her Kleur shawl, featuring a combination of my Masgot Fine with Garthenor’s Ronas! Kleur (colour in Dutch) is a a joyful celebration of the colours found in both natural dyes and natural sheep shades, all in Anna’s inimitable style!

Kleur by Anna Maltz

Kleur from Anna Maltz

Kleur from Anna Maltz

The shawl starts with a quarter of a circle. A mini-spectrum of seven wedges, shaped using simple short rows: just turning, no wrapping, to help create lines of decorative eyelets between the coloured wedges and make the shawl reversible. They are pictured in a rainbow, naturally dyed on Masgot Fine, from deepest purple using indigo and cochineal to a pink dyed solely with cochineal. The wedges (and the spines that mirror them as the last step of the shawl) use a scant 10g or 15g, depending on the size of shawl: a perfect amount to showcase such a selection of naturally dyed yarns. Next, you knit on in monochrome shades, adding a whole lot more stitches and introduce a mitre. Regular cast offs along one edge make this the triangular half of the shawl, while the change of angle is highlighted by stripes in striking undyed Shetland black and white yarn – Chalk and Chalkboard, organic wool from Uradale farm in Shetland and spun for Garthenor as Ronas. Decreases are worked along one edge, until the tip of the mitre is reached, at which point a third natural shade is added, the beautiful grey, Shale. This unites the triangular and circular sides of the shawl with a simple swathe of pure colour. Finally, the spectrum is revisited with spines.

Kleur from Anna Maltz

I have added just some kits to the shop for the colour wheel part of Kleur in both the small and large size. As well as the rainbow shown in Anna’s sample (which is the large version of the shawl), I’ve made up kits in three other colour ways: red/ blue (dyed with indigo, madder and avocado), pink/ teal (dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, madder and oak moss) and gold/ purple (dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, pomegranate and rhubarb). 

Rainbow colourway, dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo and madder

Red/ blue colourway, dyed with avocado, indigo and madder

Gold/ purple colourway, dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, pomegranate and rhubarb

Pink/ teal colourway, dyed with buckthorn, cochineal, indigo, madder and oakmoss

All are available for both the small and large shawl. Please note that the kit includes yarn for the colourwheel only- you will need to pair it with three shades of Ronas, other shades of Masgot Fine (available in the shop) or other fingering-weight yarn.

I hope you enjoy Kleur! Anna is an incredibly innovative and creative knitter and designer and I find knitting her patterns thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating! She always finds a way to hide  new tricks and techniques in the fun knitting and pushes the design envelope in a way that I think we need in the hand knitting community…

Again, I wish you a joyous and peaceful year ahead and look forward to sharing the year with you!

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: woollenflower x chookiebirdie 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!

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

Wee knitting foxes!

and combined birds and flowers for these- perfect for a Chookiebirdie x 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…

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!)

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!

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 a couple of hours. I then let it cool overnight, repeated the process the next day and then, the following day, I 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,10 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.

So why did I (and many others) have such bland results when I first tried dyeing with avocado? I think slow extraction in the pot over a couple of days of heating and cooling is crucial to build up good colour. I also 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 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!