Tag Archives: Glasgow

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

spring

Without us even realising, spring has arrived! After all the preparation for Edinburgh Yarn Festival and then the joy of the actual weekend itself (more on that soon!), it feels like I’ve now stopped to look around and everything has changed… the daylight lasts two hours longer than it did a couple of months ago, we all have a spring in our step, the tiny birds are out collecting for their nests and calling at all hours and there are green shoots everywhere!

Buds

Buds

Fresh green leaves!

Fresh green leaves!

Tiny bundles of larch needles

Larix decidua: European Larch

Cercidophyllum magnficum: Katsura

Cercidophyllum magnficum: Katsura

japmaple

Acer palmatum ‘Sangu-kaku’: Coral-bark Maple

We recently moved and are lucky enough to now overlook the river Kelvin (just a ten-minute walk along the river to the Botanics!) so those shoots are whispering promises of the green cathedral that will be on our doorstep in just a few weeks… and, although we are so excited about the idea of all that green, we can’t quite believe it will actually happen! I’m wondering if that is just because we’ve only had one spring here or if it is another expression of the human capacity to forget all but the physical state we are currently in? Perhaps part of the reason that the ancients performed midwinter rituals to recall the sun back to them was because they didn’t quite believe that it would return of its own accord! We haven’t been ritualising but we certainly have been willing the sun to come… For those who’ve grown up in cold climates, te’ll me, do you begin to remember the seasons as you see years pass?

The early spring flowers are certainly nudging us to remember the colourful beauty of last year’s warmer months…

Salix sp: Willow

Salix sp: Willow

cornus

Cornus mas: Cornelian Cherry

Gold

Forsythia sp.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus: Daffodil

Narcissus pseudonarcissus: Daffodil

Flowering currant

Ribes sanguineum: Flowering Currant

We were lucky enough to head out on Good Friday with one of Scotland’s great foragers, Mark Williams, to learn about recognising and harvesting wild foods which shows that, even this early in the growing season, there is plenty of stuff out and about!

I hope you’re enjoying the swing of the seasons, wherever you live xx

dye workshop results

Yesterday I held a day-long workshop in dyeing with plants at the Glasgow Botanics. We worked with a single dyebath of madder, in my eyes one of the loveliest dye plants around, and explored the variety of colours you can achieve from this one bath through the use of different mordants, modifiers and fibres. Each time I teach this class, I see different results! Participants made organic merino yarn and silk fabric shade cards, whereas I dyed a few small skeins and fabrics to expand on the variety of textures and shades…

A few of my favourite results…

Madder on silk, wool and other fibres

Madder on silk, wool and other fibres

Madder on cellulose and silk fibres results in beautiful terracottas and pinks, while on protein fibres, oranges, rusts and reds. I was particularly excited to see a true red on a skein of alum-mordanted Jamieson and Smith Shetland Supreme- normally I’d expect to have to play around with pH to achieve a true red but this was a neutral bath so it must be the type of fibre that resulted in that fantastic shade…

Madder on cotton lace and Shetland yarns

Madder on cotton lace and Shetland yarns

Madder on Shetland (previously dyed with Prunus sp) and Falkland fibre

Madder on Shetland (previously dyed with Prunus sp) and Falkland fibre resulted in rust shade

Madder on organic merino with various pre-and-post treatments, tannin/ alum-mordanted cotton and silk velvet and yarns of various different sheep breeds

Organic merino with various pre-and-post treatments (front), tannin/ alum-mordanted cotton and silk velvet fabrics (middle) and yarns of various different sheep breeds (top)

I also added a stunning piece of embroidery to the bath, one that I’d found at my lucky charity shop where I find so many treasures. It was such an incredible piece of work that I was a bit unsure whether to do so, especially after one of the participants, an very talented embroiderer, confirmed that it was highly unusual and skilled work! But the combination of sheer silk base fabric and denser cotton shadow-work was begging for colour to highlight the embroidery so I popped it in!

Stunning thrifted embroidery piece- silk base fabric with cotton shadow work

Thrifted embroidery piece- silk base fabric with cotton shadow-work

Thrifted embroidery piece- silk base fabric with cotton shadowwork

Thrifted embroidery piece- silk base fabric with cotton shadow-work

It is a little patchy so needs another dip but I’m so thrilled with how it picked up that dusty terracotta colour. Such amazing work.

As part of the day, we took a walk around the gardens in the rain, looking at some of the plants growing there that yield dyes and some of the markers that tell you that a plant might hold dye potential, and it was such a treat to have not only the bed dedicated to dye plants but the entire gardens themselves as a teaching resource. I’m planning to hold more similar workshops there in the spring, by which time I should have more burners, pots and a bounty of foraged dyestuff that participants can really get their hands wet with! A huge thanks to everyone who came yesterday and, if you’re interested in coming to another, keep an eye out here and on Instagram for announcements of dates  : )

saxifraga

I discovered a tiny Holi festival going on in the neighbourhood this morning! From here, these beautiful little Saxifraga x urbium or London Pride (what a great name!) don’t look all that colourful…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

But look a little closer…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

And you’ll see!

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

Aren’t they beautiful?! I completely fell in love with this sweet little plant but had no idea what it was. At first glance, I thought it might be a crassula of some kind as the flowers kind of resemble each other. But a bit of hunting and it turned out to be a saxifrage, a species that I vaguely remembered from my days as a herbalist but knew absolutely nothing about. So many plants to discover! There’s a lot of it in my neighbourhood, mostly planted amongst the rocky edges of tenement front gardens, and I’ll definitely be seeing it differently now!

There are so many details that you just can’t see unless you get in close.

The chunky, juicy style topped with delicate stigma, patiently awaiting pollen…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

Those beautiful, coral-salmon, pollen-bearing anthers…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

And that way that, once the anthers have fallen from the top, the filaments retract to form a series of rays between the petals…

Saxifraga x urbium

Saxifraga x urbium

And the summer mornings, with their long sunrise and soft, gentle light, make it easy to capture some lovely details, even for novice photographers like me, even though I know nothing about my camera’s manual settings.

How about you? Caught any nice details recently?

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!