Category Archives: Uncategorized

guest dyer for daughter of a shepherd

My dear friend Rachel Atkinson of Daughter of a Shepherd (for whom I make pouches in her beautiful Hebridean tweed) asked me early this year to participate in her Guest Dyer series and I was thrilled to be part of this lovely project, alongside friend and fellow dyer Helen of Wool Kitchen (and others coming up in future)! It was a joy to have the opportunity to dye Rachel’s Ram Jam base, whose gradient of natural shades is made from fleeces that would otherwise go to waste, including natural black from Hebridean, Zwartbles and black Texel, white from a mixture of BFL/Cheviot Cross, Texel Cross and various other mule crosses and even fleece from the naturally black and white coloured Badgerface sheep! From the raw fibre, to the scouring, spinning and skeining and even the delivery of the final yarn, every aspect of this yarn is from Yorkshire, something that Rachel, as a proud Yorkshire lass, is very proud of.

Rachel and I decided that a blue, dyed with indigo, would sit beautifully with all the sheepy shades of Ram Jam and, after some sampling and swatching, we came up with a deep, heathered blue with indigo highlights. It was a colour she immediately named Quink, which I, as an Australian, had no reference for so had to go and research! She was right- it IS the perfect name for this deep, inky shade…

A limited run of Quink will be available from Daughter of a Shepherd from 7pm this evening, Wednesday December 11. Although Ram Jam, as a woollenspun yarn, is super flexible in both gauge and application, it is particularly suited to colourwork and, paired with other natural shades of Ram Jam, would make a lovely Bouquet Scarf, Hawkshaw Pullover or Tundra Toque!

Whatever you might make with it, we really hope that you enjoy working with it!

dye retreat at garter stitch farm

Hello! I’m currently in the midst of deep preparation for this year’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival but am just coming up for air to let you know that I’m teaching a 3-day dye intensive at my friend Kat Goldin’s farm in Stirlingshire this summer! I love teaching day-long workshops but there is nothing like being immersed in dyeing over a few days and I’ve been looking for the opportunity to run another longer workshop for a while… it’s always felt to me that that amount of time allows for much more exchange and for participants to get a deeper grasp of the process and their hands really into the doing of it all. The workshop covers all aspects of transferring the colours found in natural dyes onto yarn and fabric- full of practical skill-building and joyful exploration, it should give you the skills and confidence to develop your own dye practice!

We’ll cover all the steps involved in dyeing; exploring the potential of the flora found in our landscape and our pantries and sourcing exotic, traditional dyestuffs; preparing and mordanting fibre; setting up and working with both a dyebath and an indigo vat; overdyeing to create complex colours; keeping records of dye experiments; safe dyeing practice and other tips for dyeing with plants and other natural materials.

Beginning on Friday at 4pm, we’ll settle in, get our bearings around the farm and meet for an evening meal. We’ll also begin the weekend’s dyework by exploring fibre selection and preparation and setting up mordant baths to prepare yarn and fabric for dyeing and some of our dyebaths to help release their colours.

On Saturday, we’ll fire up the dyepots and head out to find and collect local dyeplants around the farm. Over the day, we’ll work with numerous dyebaths made from local and imported raw material to dye a range of colours and, using the first and subsequent baths, a range of shades. We’ll also explore overdyeing and the use of modifying agents to expand our set of beautiful colours. On Saturday evening, we’ll enjoy a campfire feast, hopefully under the stars if the Scottish weather allows…

Sunday begins with indigo! We’ll follow the steps involved in creating an indigo vat and then, while it rests, look into the history of this old and venerated dyestuff and explore shibori methods of folding, clamping, binding and stitching fabric to create patterning. We’ll dip our fibres multiple times to achieve good depth of colour and overdye shades dyed on Saturday to make greens, teals, purples and other complex colours. We’ll end the workshop by collating and labelling our yarn and fabric samples and looking at some helpful dye resources. We’ll then spend the evening relaxing together by the fire, with plenty of opportunity to discuss questions and make plans for summer dyeing… And, after one last farm breakfast on Monday morning, we’ll say goodbye…

If you’re interested, you can find all the details in Kat’s shop– tickets go on sale on today, Monday 18th February at 10am GMT. I hope to see a few of you there!

trunkshow at sunspun

I’m writing this in the dusk of an Australian summer day as Scotto and I begin our annual holiday in Melbourne to see our family and friends… it’s always so lovely to be back among loved ones and in our beautiful landscape and I’ve been reacquainting myself with all the plants that I love here- getting to enjoy the freshness of these early summer mornings is jet lag’s silver lining!

I just wanted to let those readers in Melbourne know about a small trunkshow that Amy of Sunspun and I are holding next Friday November 30th! I’ve brought a small selection of plant-dyed yarns pouches, kits and samples with me and will be hanging out knitting and catching up with my Melbourne community from 3-7pm at Sunspun in Canterbury. Please feel free to pop in for a quick look or an afternoon of knitting with Amy and I- it would be lovely to see you!

And there’ll be some lovely new things coming up in the shop before Christmas- a new design collaboration with my dear friend Anna Maltz that combines a gradient of my Masgot Fine with the natural shades of Garthenor’s Ronas (I’ll be adding kits for the design and a whole range of colours in Masgot Fine) and a small run of pouches embroidered by Lorna Reid of Chookiebirdie. I’ll send out a newsletter closer to the time to confirm the date and details of the update but just wanted to let you know in advance about these! 

Wishing you a lovely weekend…

getting out

It’s been 10 weeks since we arrived here and I can’t believe it! As always, it seems like forever and yet hardly any time since we left home… We are slowly making a life for ourselves here and I’ve had some lovely moments with lovely people and finding things that feel important to get involved in (more on those soon)! The last weeks have mostly been spent finding things that we need (the most simple things like broadband, Rooibos, enough blankets to keep us warm and tofu!) and want (good bread, a nice teapot and secondhand books on local history, flora and British cooking!) and our flat is starting to feel quite cosy! For me personally, my main focus has been finding sources for things that I need to make stock for my shop and lots of things are getting scratched off on that list too.

One thing I’m still working on getting enough of is space… Or, more particularly, green space. Glasgow has a really open feel about it, in the sense that streets are wide and the city not too built up, but, moving from a city of over four million people to one with less that a quarter of that, I expected to have a greater sense of space. But, of course, I was forgetting how much much more densely populated Europe is and Glasgow, while definitely easier to get around than Melbourne and blessed with some fantastic parks and gardens, is the most densely populated city in Scotland. But, for me, it’s not really the streetscape but our living spaces that I’m struggling with. Don’t get me wrong- we have a beautiful flat with plenty of light and space. It’s more that living on the fourth floor is a big change and I really miss the signs of life that I was so used to… looking out the windows and seeing the trees move in the wind, having cats around to smooch with (I can’t tell you how much I miss that!) and being able to take a bowl of food out onto the back deck and eat under the sky.

So we’re finding new ways to bring that into the day. House plants are now on the list of things we need. So is a bird feeder to put on the window sill. We’ve cut through the silicon seals on some of our windows so that we can feel the breeze moving through the house… The Glasgow parks are an absolute gift and seem to be appreciated and used by many and we’re lucky enough to be a ten-minute walk from the Glasgow botanic gardens- as you can imagine, I end up there at some point most days! And it turns out that it’s only 20 minutes on our local train to the beginning of the West Highland Way, a 150km walk that starts in Milngavie and takes walkers through some beautiful land all the way to Fort William. So easy and quick to get out of town! That’s certainly a benefit of a smaller city. We headed out this morning and did the first 8km of the walk and then turned around- it was just enough walking to feel like we’d got moving and was an absolute delight for our nervous systems too! The sound of birds, wind and trees, the glow of green leaves, the movement of sun and clouds above us and the dark, cool shadows under the trees…

Big sky

Big sky

Fishing

Fishing

Reeds

Reeds

Beech

Branches

Birches

Birches

Larch

Larch

Larch bundles

Larch bundles

The gorse was in bloom everywhere so I was able to harvest some beautiful flowers (along with birch bark) to use for dyeing. Scotto and I were blown away by how like Reef Oil their perfume is! Incongruous! (I’ve been so missing my dye pots but that’s set to change! Dye classes are also in the planning so do keep an eye out if you’re interested in learning.)

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

Fuzzy gorse (or furze as it’s known here)

And, with the help of my macro lens, we explored the colours and textures of some wonderful and tiny fungi…

Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor

Lovely colours on these Trametes versicolor

Lovely colours on these Trametes versicolor

Trametes sp... suavolens?

Trametes sp… suavolens?

Mushroom

Birch bracket fungus

And there were plenty of other flowers about.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Can anyone tell me what this beauty is? It's got to be in the Rosaceae family but I've got no idea, beyond that!

Rubus spectabilis or Salmonberry, an escapee from North America with fruit similar to raspberries.

Anemone

Anemone nemorosa

I even saw the beginnings of the bluebell season- one, as-yet-unopened specimen! But I’ll hold out on posting until they’re in their full glory- I can’t wait to experience that…

It’s been such a lovely reminder of how easy it is to get into the green places and we plan to make this a regular walk. I’d love to hear about any other spots around Glasgow that are easy to get to or worth a trip… do please let me know if you know somewhere or are heading out yourself- I’m always up for new walking buddies!

casting on and off

I’ve been looking forward to teaching my first knitting classes in Scotland since our very first week here, when I went over to Edinburgh to meet Jess of Ginger Twist Studio (and lovely Clare who facilitated the meeting and who, interestingly, is moving to Australia later this year!) and she asked me to teach some classes at this sweetest of yarn shops. And I’m so happy that the day is finally getting close!

The first class of the day on April 19th, Knitting Tips and Tricks, sold out really quickly because, well, it’s obvious what the class is all about. It’s always an easy class to sell. I want my classes to be practical and for participants to leave knowing that they can go straight out and apply what we’ve covered, to feel like they’ve got something new in their kit that they can’t imagine being without. But the afternoon’s class, Cast-ons and Cast-offs… I’m always a little toey about running this class, not because of what it covers but because it’s not an easy class to sell- the content isn’t as immediately engaging as, say, colourwork or seamless knitting… but I actually think it’s way more life-changing and practical than most of my other classes! That’s because the edges of our knitting are so much more important than we may realise. They’re the bits that one usually sees first, the beginning and ending. If they don’t fit with the fabric in-between, because they pull in or are sloppy, the piece just doesn’t look right. It doesn’t have integrity… whereas a beautiful edge is magic.

Tubular cast-on on the Frankie Hat

A beautiful tubular cast-on on the Frankie Hat

Many people learn to cast on and off from their mum, auntie or grandpa and never learn another method; their way suits them just fine. And I love and respect that. But, at the same time, I think that the many methods we now have available to us all work particularly well in certain situations. So why limit ourselves to one method? For example, if you’re casting off a beautiful lace shawl and you stick to the trusty chain cast-off, you’ll probably find that the edge of your shawl won’t be able to stretch as far as you’d like to really open out the lace. There is a method for every situation and every method has its strengths- it’s just a matter of knowing how to work them and how to match method to project…

So, in this class, we’ll cover my default cast-on, the wonderful long-tail (or Continental) cast-on and a few variations on it (as well as how to calculate how much yarn you’ll need so you don’t run out!), my favourite version of the tubular cast-on (as seen above on the Frankie Hat), a provisional cast-on that allows you to come back and undo your edge and work in the opposite direction and other methods for getting your knitting started.

And we’ll look at a series of cast-offs that produce different finishes- lightweight, sturdy, stretchy and firm- including the sewn and i-cord cast-offs, the three-needle cast-off that allows you to cast off and seam two pieces together at the same time and working a knitted-on edging that avoids casting off entirely.

And, finally, we’ll look at pairing cast-on and cast-off so that the edges of a knitted fabric look similar- this is so crucial in something like a scarf but is very rarely considered!

IMGP7116_medium2

Echo Flower with a sturdy Russian cast-off

Hansel with knitted-on edging

Hansel with knitted-on edging

Bailey Cardigan with i-cord cast-off

Bailey Cardigan with i-cord

There are two places left in this class on April 19th so, if you feel like you’d benefit from a little up-skilling in this area, do jump in and book. I’m always intrigued to see who books in for this class- for some reason, it’s always an interesting group!