Tag Archives: stranded colourwork

faces and places: helen gray designs

Over the past seven weeks since we left Australia, we’ve been lucky enough to see some beautiful places and meet some very beautiful people… We’ve been welcomed into homes, fed, driven around, engaged in conversations, hugged and supported in a whole number of other ways. I know how blessed we are in that and, in the hope of giving something back to the community that we find ourselves part of, I’d like to introduce some of those faces and places here. Some you may already know but, more often than not, they will be new to you. I hope you enjoy and treasure them as I do…

You may well have seen Brenda’s work but, chances are, you won’t have met her. This textile designer is so understated that she doesn’t use her own name for her work; instead, she operates as Helen Gray Designs, a name she likes for its plain but dignified feel. Based in the beautiful Scottish borders in the south of the country, Brenda lives in what feels just like a dolls house, not so much because of its size but for its soft pastel walls, timbers and sweet furnishings. And it suits her perfectly. This is a woman who spends her time quietly exploring colour, knitting and reknitting her colourwork swatches until she is perfectly happy to incorporate the colour palette into a pair of her beautiful colourwork fingerless mitts or one of her long, enveloping scarves. Her work is what she presents to the world.

Swatches

Swatches

Swatches

Swatches

Swatches

Swatches

A professional in another life, Brenda now revels in the life she’s built for herself in her house by the river. Like many creative people, this gentle soul identifies as an introvert and says that she needs the quiet activity of her solitary work. She uses soft, often neutral or earthy bases on which to lay rich, saturated patterned colourwork. Unexpected highlights pop but the overall feel is of a soft palette. She knows how to balance restraint and exuberance.

Fingerless mitts

Fingerless mitts

Earthy

Earthy

Rich and surprising

Rich and surprising

Fingerless mitts

Sombre

Fingerless

Playful

Sweet combination of colour and texture

Sweet combination of colour and texture

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Thistle scarf

We sat and had tea and talked knitting for hours. Brenda doesn’t spend time with many other knitters but, I tell you, this woman knows yarn. She’s explored every British colourwork yarn out there and could tell me the stats on each and every one of them (a boon for a newly-arrived knitter!) and has seen colour ranges, yarns and entire brands come and go over the years. Together we mourned the demise of our favourite Rowan Scottish Tweed 4ply and celebrated the glorious shade cards of Jamieson and Smith and Jamiesons of Shetland…

Lots and lots of yarn

Lots and lots of yarn

More yarn

More yarn!

Brenda mentioned that she never formally trained in art and design but she is a true colourist. Combined with her skills in both hand-and-machine knitting, she is a very gifted textile designer. You can buy her beautiful work on Etsy and be inspired by it on Ravelry.

Thank you, Brenda, for the gifts of tea, endless yarn love and knitting machines to get me started on my own colourwork journey here in Scotland. Such incredibly precious gifts that I won’t forget!

workshops at the craft sessions

I’m starting to get very excited about all of the workshops on offer at the Craft Sessions … I really wish I could participate in all of them- if I could pick one class from each teacher, they’d be Leslie‘s blockprinting on fabric, Sophie‘s sewing with knits, Melissa‘s embroidery from the natural world and Georgie‘s intro to design… I think there are even a few more classes to be announced over the next few days, so it’s kind of lucky I’ll be busy teaching all weekend because I really don’t think I’d be able to choose!

My classes all revolve around colour- unintentional but not surprising for me, I suppose. I’ll be spending all of Saturday with my dyepots and the morning session will focus on sources of local colour- the plants that grow all around us in our gardens and wider landscapes. We’ll go for a walk to explore the indigenous species, common weeds and landscape plants and trees that hold pigments in their  roots, leaves and flowers and spend the rest of the session dyeing with a few of them and exploring the basic theory and practice of dyeing with plants. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be running this workshop- it is such a perfect pairing of my two great interests, plants and textiles…

Local colour

Local colour; Feijoa

My Saturday afternoon session focuses on dyeing with indigo; we’ll explore the history of this ancient and venerated dyestuff and create an indigo vat, a seemingly mysterious and specialised process unlike most other dye preparations. We’ll prepare fabric and yarn for dyeing, explore patterning using shibori (methods of folding, clamping, binding and stitching) and then get into the actual dyeing process, dipping multiple times to achieve a good depth of colour and overdyeing to create complex colours.

Wool/ silk: indigo

Indigo on wool/ silk yarn

And I’ll spend Sunday with knitters keen to try their hand at stranded colourwork (non-knitters, read Fairisle!) and this workshop is all about empowering participants- I wish I could have taken a class like this when I first tried stranded knitting! We’ll cover the how-to of this deceptively simple knitting style as well as basic colour theory, combining motifs and shaping so that participants come away with their own colourwork hat design.

Stranded colourwork hat

Stranded colourwork

And, just so you know, the dyeing classes require absolutely no previous experience in dyeing but the colourwork class does require basic skills-  but only casting on, knit, purl and increasing and decreasing.

So that’s my lineup… If you haven’t already, do have a look at the Craft Sessions website- registration opens at midday tomorrow (Monday July 15) and places are very limited, so you’ll need to make up your mind very soon about which workshops you want to do!

Happy Sunday!