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Naturally Dyed Cabled Mitts

Having finished these a couple of months ago, I definitely didn’t think I would be getting use out of them in July! However, I am sharing some pics of these to push me to write up the pattern and get it onto Ravelry. The wool used was our ethically sourced, mulesing free Aran weight wool, which I dyed up with the natural dyes of logwood and cochineal.

Winding Road Scarf Pattern

The current circumstances have allowed for a lot more knitting and spinning now that I am not travelling around, which is one of the positive things that has come out of the last few months. So I have a flurry of finished objects and patterns I want to share, including this beginners attempt at lace stitches. I made this design up as I went, and although not strictly symmetrical, I like the way it wanders and meanders around. This was knitted over such a long period, that it definitely accompanied me all over the place whilst I was getting time to knit a couple of rows here and there, so I think it is more than likely a product of my subconscious that made its way out and onto the needles! I thought I would share a few photos of the finished garment, and some places I have been lately in our little nook of the Chiltern Hills that have inspired this design…

Knitted in a wool and mohair DK blend, the fading striped yarn, made the lerfect backdrop for winding lace zig zags up the length of the scarf.

I will write this very simple pattern up, as it is perfect for beginners to get to know a vital lace stitch that is the foundation of so many intricate lace designs. For such a simple technique, it makes for a really striking pattern overall, so I am really pleased with it 🙂

A candle in the dark

What a difference a month makes! We are still busy getting products listed and designs formalised, while experimenting with materials and checking in on the close network of suppliers, many of which are small farms and family run businesses that we have found to get materials from.

It is the smaller and simpler things that are making me smile at the moment, and I actually really cherish the return to slower living this pandemic has forced upon us. Candles, journals and knitting have all become central to my routine, and I am dipping into all of our product ranges to make sure I am well stocked. Make sure you check out our listings, as I am updating them everyday, and if there is something you are really in need of, drop me a line to see if I have it coming up or could put something together for you.

I now volunteer a couple of days a week at a London based hospital, the Whittington, and the staff there are working beyond expectations and round the clock, so we have set up an Amazon gift list of items they have told us that really make a difference to them. Often they are staying at the hospital 24/7 and not getting a chance to shop themselves, so these everyday essentials can really turnaround a touch day and shift.

I won’t say much more about the difficult stuff at the moment, but leave you with some images taken from times when we are a little more free to roam around these hills in the Chilterns!

Making the Arctic Berry Hat

Seeing as wet and windy weather seems to be staying with us well into Spring, I decided to knit up another warm and cosy bobble hat. Using the maroon colourway that I named this pattern after, I cast on the stitches whilst tucked up next to the fire with the sound of lashing rain outside.

Rib brim of Arctic Berry hat.

Using our Aran weight yarn, a super soft Merino wool, means this pattern really glides off the needles fast! I have written it for x4 different sizes, from 6-10 years to adult, so you can make one for different friends and family members. I have also included instructions and tips for pom pom making, and a notes page on the back for your own amendments and thoughts.

100% wool makes this hat really warm and cosy, and is perfect for those that can’t handle rough yarns on their forehead- I can’t so need something really soft and luxurious, and save my lovely rustic yarns for jumpers and cardigans.

Dyed up, this colourway takes it inspiration from the wild, slow-growing arctic bramble and its fruit found in arctic and alpine regions of Alaska, northern United States and Canada, northern Scandinavia and Finland, Russia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Mongolia and northeastern China, amongst others. The bramble belongs to the Rose family and the dark red fruit is considered a delicacy. This ethically sourced and mulesing-free hand-dyed yarn can be purchased in the shop on our website, and the pattern is available in our Ravelry store and linked below!

The hat worked up quickly and each evening as I sat next to the fire to knit, the days became noticeably longer and birds louder. Spring is definitely on it’s way but there is still cold showers and winds to battle before the long, hazy days of summer.

I have been journaling the progress on my hat and other projects in our leather journals, available in the shop. In the meantime, I will be wrapping up warm in hand knit woollies and injecting some colour into my wardrobe and the surrounding landscape when out on my walks!

For Arctic Berry Hat pattern sales on Ravelry, click here- buy now

Exhibition review- Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles

Two Temple Place, London, 25th January- 19th April 2020

Giubba (n.d.), Albania.
Giubba (19th century), Albania. Photo: Calderdale Museums Collection, Halifax

On a chilly but bright Sunday at the end of February, I set out to see the latest winter exhibition at Two Temple Place, London. This impressive Neo-Gothic building on the Thames was built by William Waldorf Astor in 1895, and sits snugly nestled amongst the Inns of Court of Central London. The exhibition highlights the stories of seven intrepid collectors of textiles, all bound by a common thread- a passion for textiles and their collection. Each of the women included differs subtly in their reasoning for collection, as would be expected given the chronological scope of the exhibition, which spans from Olive Matthews in the late 1800’s buying items of historical costume at her local London markets, to Nina Poovaya-Smith acquiring contemporary textile works linked to Bradford’s industrial textile heritage and cultural diversity on behalf of the city’s Cartwright Hall.

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Unknown maker, border fragment, 1992, embroidered cloth.

While much is made of the emphasis on museum collections and their own history of acquisition through these seven women, much can be gained by visiting the exhibition purely to indulge in dipping across the textiles of different cultures and time periods. In fact, the pick and mix approach of the curators allows you to sample breathtakingly detailed and coloured Balkan embroidery of the 19th Century, a beautifully embellished silk taffeta Regency spencer, monochrome splendours of Tudor blackwork embroidery, eye-popping 1930’s blockprint cottons, bejewelled Indian zardosi robes, hand dyed saris, and thought provoking contemporary indigo dyeing and weavings. 

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Edith Durham as a young woman.

A further connection across most of the historic women’s collections were the use to which they put their lovingly gathered samples of embroidery, weaving, dyeing and sketches of “local” costume and loom constructions. Louise Pesel (1870-1944), one of the collectors featured, used her historic Greek embroidery samples to teach injured servicemen during the First World War who were suffering with PTSD, and an example of their work is included in the exhibition. Edith Durham (1963-1944) became heavily involved with relief work and political campaigning for the Balkan region, particularly Albania, after travelling the region collecting and researching their textiles. Muriel Rose collected traditional English quilts from mining areas of Wales and Durham for display and sale in her London gallery which she ran from 1928 to 1939, and pioneered the skills of traditional craftspeople to be held as equal to that of fine artists.

Quilt maker using a quilting frame.

It would seem safe to say that whatever your interest and practice in the field of textiles, there will be something for you in this compact and detailed exhibition. It runs until 19th April, is free admission, and has a host of intriguing events and workshops associated with it. Of note would be the talks and lectures, including “The politics of textiles”, “Textiles, identity and self-expression” and workshops, including weaving, silk painting and “subversive stitching”.

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Nettle Fibre at London Fashion Week 2019

After recently having the pleasure of an introduction to nettle fibre and the process undertaken to create this by Allan Brown earlier in the summer, I am fully aware of the time and skill involved in creating this interesting fabric.I was equally stunned at the quality of drape and sheen the final cloth can achieve.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find this fibre a main talking point of London Fashion Week this year, as the designers VIN + OMI decided to show off nettle fibre fabrics as the showstopper to their Spring 2020 collection fashion show, entitled “Sting”. To help them garner publicity for their eco-friendly design ethos, they specifically used nettles gathered from Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate, as well as wood that was shaped into handles for handbags in the collection.

The designers also chose to use natural dyes madder and woad, which I had recently heard more about during a talk by author and natural dyer, Judy Hardman.

The press releases for the show struck me as particularly fun, as the pair attached biodegradable and plastic free plasters to their card invitations, with seeds of wildflowers tucked into the plaster. Recipients of the invitations could then put the entire thing in their garden in order to plant the seeds.

Other eco-friendly fabric related antics include using recycled plastic from The Savoy hotel in London to create printed scarves that the hotel has sold in their gift shop, but the VIN + OMI website gives a lot of detail on the myriad projects and design inspiration that they have been involved with, and is well worth checking out. 

It is great to see alternative, environmentally friendly and sustainable fibres, fabrics and dyes penetrating couture fashion and hope to see more instances of this making its way onto the highstreet.

Spinning with Nettles

So this was interesting. Our July Guild meeting was held on a gorgeous farm in South Oxfordshire containing a workshop run by Alan, who taught us the basics of spinning fibre extracted from stinging nettles.

Alan is behind the nettle spinning movement and star of the below video, in which he takes you on the journey of collecting, preparing and harvesting the fire for spinning. Under his guidance and watchful eye, he had us picking nettles and extracting fibre, ready to spin, there and then- take a look below…

Fibre stripped from nettle stalk.

Dried and starting to separate into separate fibres ready to be spun.

Alan’s drop spindling of nettle fibre after carding- needless to say this was far better than my attempts!

In conclusion, this was a really interesting exploration of a historical material that has been spun for generations. It is probably safe to assume that I am not an easy convert due to the time differences involved with wool and other animal and plant fibres, but I am not ruling it our completely, especially as it grows freely (as well as rampantly), in my garden…

The finished cloth that Alan showed us was an exquisite surprise, and I can well understand how nettle fibre gained the name “Silk of the North” in its heyday.

New Breed Studies: mini spinning projects

Excitingly, I recently came across a stash of mini fleece selections, all rare breeds and all carded up and ready to go! I cannot wait to get my wheel into these, and have this small collection spun up.

Quite keen to knit up a project that includes all of the different spun fibres and shows them off in some way, perhaps a scarf made up of sections of different knitted up pieces? Will start a Ravelry hunt now….

This beaut is currently a forerunner, nabbed from pinterest of course,

Book Review: “Handknitting for winter” and “The works of Aran Knitting”, Part Two

My second book of the two purchased recently is “The works of Aran Knitting”, (the first review you can see at the bottom of this page, under previous post.

This is an utterly adorable Japanese tour of the Aran Isles, their knitted social history, museum and archival visits, stitch dictionary and introduction to the local knitting shops and their proprietors. All in all, a whistle stop tour of all things woolly on the Isles of Aran, and far more than just a pattern book.

There are 17 patterns for knitted accessories , with projects ranging from a cute pompom egg cosy, to beautiful travelling cape, with cables being the predominant technique. Indeed, for anyone looking to master the art of cabling, this gives lovely inspiration, and includes ten samplers for cables and texture patterns, with a chapter on their history and development with historical examples of traditional sweaters from museum archives.

All the patterns and swatch designs are charted, with clear construction diagrams to indicate how they are put together, making this easy to navigate for a non-Japanese reader like myself.

It is also lovely to see that the samples used for photography in the book have been knitted in a traditional Aran wool, and I can well imagine the gorgeous, crunchy, and rustic feel of the wool that gives this wee collection it’s heritage look.

Overall, this book is a really sweet treasure, using the knitting design history of this collection of islands to put Ireland on the map for knitting travelers, and justly so.

Book Review: “Handknitting for winter” and “The works of Aran Knitting”, Part One.

So these two beauties arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago to cheer me up during my working week. I am not ashamed to admit that I took them to work so that I could glance away from my computer to the top tier of my in-tray, just to lovingly lose myself on their front page photographs. Then, at lunchtime, I greedily stole away to read them up for an hour before heading back to the office and wondering if I could position them open on my desk in some way that other people wouldn’t notice.

I bought them through (the global site, rather than the version of the site that only ships to the US and Canada), after having heard Ella Gordon in Shetland talk about this site as the place where she gets her Japanese knitting books from. And if you take a look, you won’t be disappointed.

Handknitting for winter, by Yuka Kobayashi, published in Japanese in the Let’s Knit Series.

Despite the main language of publication being Japanese, there is often enough English spattered about the place to make them use-able, and actually make quite a lot of sense, if you are like me and speak/read absolutely no Japanese. This is particularly true if you are also the owner of the recently re-published “Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible” by Hitomi Shida, which goes to great length to describe and explain the slight differences in the symbols used in Japanese charts, and thus translate them to the English charting symbols.

There is quite a good range on YesAsia, a search entitled “knitting” coming up with 7 pages of relevant titles. And the books are well priced- these two only cost me a total of £35 including postage.

“Handknitting for Winter” by Yuka Kobayashi is a beautiful collection of 24 accessories patterns using colour work and cabling. All the designs are charted, so if you have little-to-no Knitting Japanese (as I like to call it, having just acquired a Knitmaster knitting machine, and Japanese Stitch Bible it has struck me I could well make my millions publishing a Japanese dictionary for knitters), you will most likely be absolutely fine and able to work it all out.

You could actually work out the colourwork and cable sections just from the detailed series of pictures and photographed step-by-step techniques that are usefully included in the book.

The aesthetic of the photography and overall feel of the book is lovely, with really clear charts and construction instructions which you could very easily interpret without much knitting experience. You can also indulge your love of all things “Handknitting for Winter” by following the author on instagram and pinterest (tsumugi_knits), to get an extended cut of this knitting lifestyle…

Check out Part Two of this blog post to see the review of “The Works of Aran Knitting”.