Felting Feature in Inside Crochet

mavric purseIn addition to some great patterns, the new issue of Inside Crochet also features my article  on felting crochet. You’ll find lots of helpful hints and tips for beginners. I also designed three special projects to accompany the feature. My favourite is this pretty clip purse. The yarn was supplied by Lily Warne, a Dorset based, family company who source their wool from their own flock. I just love the colour palette. As many readers know, I am passionate about British wool and love to support British farmers and shepherds.  Lily Warne also sell a range of ready made items including festival blankets and hats. My favourite product in their range (apart from the wool – obviously) is this amazing pom pom – I have mine clipped to my keyring and it has been much admired. Come the winter, I might be tempted to sew it on to a big woolly hat!

pp3-510x600

Do take a minute to go and visit the Lily Warne website, drool over their wool and read all about the other parts of their family business and in particular  the Dartmoor Shepherd.

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I’ll admit  I do have a bit of a soft spot for a freshly sheared sheep!

Credits:

Styling: Claire Montgomerie

Photography: Mavric Photography

Copyright: Tailor Made Publishing

Lily Warne Pom Pom and Dartmoor shepherd photos courtesy of Lily Warne

Thanks also to Julie at Bag Clasps, who supplied the perfect size clip frame for this project.

 

 

 

100 Days of Wool: Cumbria

​Today I’m enjoying some early spring sunshine here in Cockermouth. I’ve declared the next 4 days a “work free zone” and I’m indulging in some projects just for fun. I found these two beauties in my stash, left over from some design work last year. It’s a gorgeous blend of wool and mohair. It washes beautifully (gentle hand wash please – it’s also a perfect felter!) I’m posting regular photos of my 100 days journey on Instagram, so don’t forget to follow me there or check back here for occasional highlights. 

100 Days of Wool

Herdwick wool
Herdwick Wool, reared and spun in Cumbria, the colours inspired a hard wearing messenger bag. Often Herdwick is considered a “carpet wool”, too rough for garments. These are the qualities a functional bag needs so it was the perfect choice. And those colours? Well they sum up the Cumbrian landscape perfectly for me.

For a long time I’ve been visiting the 100 Days project website and love it’s invitation to be creative every day. The concept is to do something quick and creative every day. It’s been interpreted in many different ways, especially over on Instagram where lots of people are using it as a prompt to post images on a particular subject. This year I’ve decided to join in and use it as an excuse to share my love of all things wool and how working with natural fibres influences my design work.

So, for the next 100 days (give or take – I’m giving myself permission right at the beginning to falter, forget – or  simply lack inspiration) I’ll be writing here and on Instagram a series of posts and photos that celebrate all things wool, hopefully they’ll give you an insight to my design process.

I’ve cut and pasted some guidelines from the 100 Days project website here to give you an idea of what it’s all about.

Rules for doing a 100DayProject:
There are none other than doing something hands-on with your project everyday during the 100 days – even if it’s just 5 minutes on some days.

Guidelines…if some structure or an assignment are desired, here are some guidelines:

  • Center your project on one theme – it can be a broad as you like.
  • Commit to doing something hands-on each day for 100 days.
  • Keep it fresh, let it go where it takes you.
  • Flow is the key word here.
  • Don’t get caught up in quality.
  • Consider this a first draft in the creative process.
  • Relax your standards and expectations.
  • Find a buddy or start a group to share your experience with.

Would you like to join me? If you’re already pursuing your own 100 days project I’d love to hear about it. Or, if you know a creative who inspires you leave a link below.

 

 

Wovember: Small Batch Yarn

20151007_125641This week I wanted to write about the popularity of small batch wools. Like Gin, the profile  of small scale wool producers, who process and market their own product is on the increase. I’ve been really surprised this year by how many yarn bloggers and podcasters are featuring this “new phenomenon”. Small scale single breed production is not new, but discovering and accessing these yarns is certainly becoming easier and there is a growing market for wool with a local, traceable provenance.

In Cumbria we’re lucky to have the Wool Clip (which has been around since 2001), a co-operative of fibre producers, makers and artists, many of whom raise and process their own wool. One of my favourites is Ruth Strong’s Herdwick wool, a real bargain and it’s fabulous quality. If the Wool Clip name sounds familiar to you, it may be because they are the organisers of Woolfest.. But there are other small scale co-operatives and sources of small batch, local production wools if you know where to look. I’ve written before about the amazing quality and colours of Lily Warne wool, which I first discovered when the wool was featured in Country Living magazine. It’s definitely up there among my favourites. The felted wool bag, made a couple of years ago is still in daily use and is a real conversation piece. I love being able to tell people where the wool grew and who I bought it from.

lily warne bagFor a long time, the only way to discover local, single breed wools was to befriend your local Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers or to  visit local fairs. These days there are some brilliant online resources. My current favourite is the National Sheep Association, where you can find links to all the British Sheep Breed societies. Some, like the Jacob Sheep Society have a fabulous list of producers which make it very easy to track down  wool from specific breeds.

Malham Mule collarI must admit, a lot of the single breed wool I buy sits in a cupboard, part of a growing collection of mementoes from summer holidays, trips to woolly events and gifts from friends. But at Yarndale  this year I was thrilled to discover Malham Mule, a yarn which is raised and processed in Yorkshire. This “own brand yarn” is a new venture for Jane Ellison of Purl and Jane in Skipton. I couldn’t resist trying it out and I have tried knitting and crocheting with this plump, superchunky wool and I love it. I love it even more because I’ve watched the sheep graze, and knowing the story of how it came from field to shop is fascinating. You can read more about Malham Mule on Jane Ellison’s website.

The collar (Pictured above) took two hanks of Malham Mule wool and paired with some real leather straps it’s proper draught excluder. Sadly the weather has been too mild to road test it properly, but I’m off to Malham at the end of this month and I’m hoping for some “proper” weather to test it out. I may even get around to typing up the pattern for you all!

All through November I’m posting about real wool in support of the “Wovember” campaign and I’m pleased to say lots of other knitwear designers are getting involved this year too. Sarah Hazell has launched a Knitalong over on her blog featuring Wendy Ramsdale, which I wrote about in my last Wovember post – see photo below for a reminder of the lovely scarf (and lovelier model). Go and take a look at Sarah’s design and maybe join in?

wendy ramsdale scarf

 

 

 

Welcome to Wovember

buttonWell, it seems a long time since I first wrote about Wovember way back in 2012 and it’s great to see how it has grown and become a feature of the knitters calendar. Over on Instagram I keep spotting photos tagged and shared which celebrate Wool (and for this month only, I’m talking about wool from sheep, not animal fibres in general). Back then, readers of Baking and Making might remember the ongoing conversation with the Wool Marketing Board about the labelling of British wool, I have to say things haven’t got much better and still, the best way to to be sure the wool you’re buying is 100% British wool is to ask the producer or retailer.

In some ways things have got easier, the Woolsack is still a great resource for anyone looking for stockists of British wool and there is the fabulous online retailer BritYarn, where you can check out the fibre content and provenance of some amazing yarns (and Isla is super helpful too). Some of my favourite independent dyers have also added a specific British section to their websites, making it even easier to choose British (special mention here to Eden Cottage Yarns). I would still love to see the major yarn producers show a real commitment to British wool, but at least most of them have at least one British blend or pure breed wool in their range these days.

You can read all about this years competitions, what hashtags to look out for  and information on the background over on the Wovember website. There is also a dedicated Ravelry group. I am really interested in Louise’s Knit British British Breeds Swatch Along, which is a fantastic opportunity to explore British (or local) breeds and to share knowledge about single breed wools – do check out her podcast for the full details of how to take part.

wendy ramsdale scarfAs my commitment to Wovember this year I’m going to focus on British wool and I’ll be sharing some of my favourites here on the blog. To start the ball rolling here’s a photo of the simple granny square scarf I designed in Wendy Ramsdale. This a 100% British wool distributed by Thomas B Ramsden (it’s marketed as “born, bred and made in Yorkshire) and you can find it online and in lots of “bricks and mortar” shops. One of the things I love about this wool is how all the colours work together, making it great for colourwork. It is also incredibly soft and easy to work with.

I’m going to try and post a new yarn at least once a week in Wovember, so look out for more beautiful wools, British breeds and new projects celebrating all that is great about wool.

The state we’re in

Ear Muffs made using Erika Knight British Blue Wool (image credit Tailor Made Publishing)

It’s Wool Week again, a time when my instagram, twitter and facebook feeds are full of woolly themed posts, photos of famous people wearing wool, invites to come and see wool and a general “celebrate British wool” vibe permeating through social media.

Isn’t that great? British wool is a fabulous thing. I don’t want to romanticise the farmers life (it’s bloody hard work) but the UK has a long history of producing and processing wool and buying British makes me feel I’m a part of that tradition. In just the same way as I would rather buy British lamb and mutton than an import from New Zealand.

It makes environmental sense too – shopping locally, reducing the miles a product has to travel and reducing waste are all “good things”. Sheep have to be sheared, so it seems daft to me that farmers can’t get a decent price for the fleece – but then again we live in a society where the milk price paid to farmers is insultingly tiny so that supermarkets can offer a cheap product to consumers and  so I shouldn’t be surprised. I find myself asking (again) when did British farmers become so undervalued?

Wool blanket made using Debbie Bliss British Blue Faced Leicester (image credit: Tailor Made Publishing)

As a designer working for several different magazines and publishers it’s impossible for me to choose British wool and yarn for all my commissions (some editors are more willing to use British wool than others). But for personal projects, seeking out and using “real” British yarns has become the norm. My most notable recent purchase has been some glorious alpaca. Reared, spun and sold in Cumbria (read about the whole kickstarter project here) and there is plenty of wool from British breeds in my stash.

Herdy wool cushions, made using British wool and trimmed with Cumbrian Herdwick
Herdy wool cushions, made using British wool and trimmed with Cumbrian Herdwick

I love how more and more knitters are seeking out British wool and enquiring about the provenance of their wool. Sadly they are  often duped and disappointed to find the “made in the UK” label is wrapped around Australian merino or Peruvian alpaca. If the labelling is misleading, how are knitters supposed to make an informed choice?

Of course there’s nothing illegal about this labelling. If the yarn is processed in the UK (spun, wound or dyed here) then a company is entitled to promote it as made in Britain – and many  do exactly that – because they know knitters love the idea of (and will pay a premium for) a British product.  I’ll often spot the union jack prominently displayed on a label, but search in vain on the website for the source of the fibre, an early clue that it probably didn’t come off the back of a British sheep. I wonder if the time is ripe for a new kind of labelling where the source of a fibre has to listed on the label?

Occasionally I have asked companies why they don’t use British wool and I’m told that British fleeces are ” poor quality”  or simply (and honestly) foreign wool is cheaper and easier to source. That makes me sad. Which is why This post, written from the perspective of a designer and daughter of a shepherd struck a cord.

The last time I wrote about British wool (in response to the WI launching an acrylic range with Hobbycraft)  I was inundated with messages, tweets and emails from small scale producers who are trying to find a market for their yarn and from knitters who want to buy great quality British yarn.

Finding a British yarn within the offerings of the larger manufacturers isn’t hard – Rowan, Debbie Bliss etc usually carry at least one British wool within their range. But is this enough today? Wouldn’t it be fabulous to see the Wool Marketing Board and British yarn companies working together to source British fleeces and support British farmers – and in turn support British mills in processing the yarn? Yes, I know there are cost implications “infrastructure” and numerous other obstacles to overcome. But, British wool was once the envy of the world, couldn’t that be a goal to aim for now?

PS if you are interested in sourcing British wool from British sheep here are a few places to start:

Knitbritish guide to British wools under a fiver (yes, really!)

Baa Baa Brighouse which stocks a wide range of British yarns, including Wendy Ramsdale and Herdy (two of my favourites)

Brityarn an online yarn store with a real commitment to British yarns and British independent  producers, Isla lists the provenance of all her yarns and is incredibly helpful.

And (as far as I know, the newest kid on the British wool block) Purl and Jane  are stocking Malham Mule (reared, sheared, spun and sold in Yorkshire)

Fabulous Bright Cushions

20150322_145423My new chunky cushions have been very popular this week. I am just in love with these colours and on a 6mm hook they can be made in just a couple of hours.

The wool is from Herdy and is 100% British Wool (yes – “properly British” – from sheep  reared and sheared right here in the UK), Herdy are based in Cumbria and make the cutest collection of products in addition to their range of wool. I first met them at Woolfest and loved them! No, the wool base isn’t Herdwick, but the wool is sourced in the UK and dyed in a vibrant range of colours. Some of the cushions are trimmed in undyed Herdwick (donated from my Mother in Law’s stash). You could say these are  a truly Cumbrian product, made in Cockermouth, with wool from a Cumbrian company and trimmed with local  wool. That’s not a bad provenance eh?

20150322_145002I will be releasing the patterns for some of the cushions  shortly. But, the “Big Granny” is easy to make for yourself without a pattern and I’ve written the instructions below so you can make one for yourself.

20150322_144943 Just in case you need a reminder of granny square basics, I’ve linked to a new video I found recently on youtube which is easy to follow (and uses UK crochet terms)*. Most learn to crochet books include a tutorial, check out your local library for books such as Emma Varnam’s “Learn to Crochet”, or Dorling Kindersley “The Complete Guide to Crochet” (shameless plug – you’ll find a couple of granny square projects by me in there!)

To make your own cushion:

You’ll need a 6mm hook and Herdy Wool in your favourite colours (if you want to make a plain or two colour  square you’ll need two balls), a 35cm cushion pad and a couple of hours.

  1. Follow your favourite granny square pattern until the square is just smaller than your cushion pad (that took 10 rounds for me). Fasten off yarn and weave in all your ends.  For a larger cushion, just make more rounds.
  2. Join the two squares with a double crochet seam around three sides (worked with wrong sides together). Slip in the cushion pad and complete the seam around the last side.

And that’s it, a simple cushion which will give any home the “Wow” factor! I also made some larger cushions by adding an extra round.

If you can’t crochet, don’t despair, the full range of cushions is for sale in Gallery Artemis, Main St, Cockermouth and they will be available in my Etsy shop very soon.

 Links

*You can find Sarah Shrimpton’s video on how to make a granny square here. (A word of advice – despite the current trend to use a magic loop for all crochet in the round; for homewares and items which will get a lot of wear and tear (such as blankets and cushions) I still recommend the chain ring. It’s easy to make, secure and won’t work undone! If the worst does happen, Claire Montgomerie walks you through the perfect granny square repair here).

You can buy Herdy Wool online from Baa Baa Brighouse, the friendliest online retailer and delivery is super speedy!.