Meet the Designer #giftalong 2014

Hi everyone,

Hope you are having a fabulous December so far. I am trying to wrap things up so we can hunker down and spend some time together as a family next week and the week after. Before I do that though I have some last minute bits I want to knit for folk who mean a great deal to me. Given that these need to be finished pretty soon I need to plan strategically. I need quick and fabulous knits, chunky yarn seems the answer. Luck would have it that Monika who is the fabulous designer in my “meet the designer” feature today has some gorgeous quick knits. If you are planning some last minute gift knitting I urge you to have a look at her stunning designs.

Here are my three favourite quick knits from her pattern selection.

Pogonip uses under 100m of super bulky so it will be lightening fast to make. It features some lovely textural details and a fabulous pom pom. If you have been following me lately you will know I am pom pom obsessed. 

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It also comes in an ebook with a matching cowl that is perfect for those who like their accessories to come in a set.

The Nollie hat is another bulky knit that would be a perfect quick knit. I love that this hat is super slouchy. After pom poms slouch is my thing when it comes to hats.

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I love these mittens. I have a little one who loves mittens and these would be perfect for her. You could embellish them in so many different ways too. Have a look at all the great projects created by Ravelers. Kveta comes in a wide range of sizes from toddler to large adult. You can also get a matching hat pattern which is possibly one of the cutest hats I have seen in a long while.

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Monika also has a fabulous range of patterns that might not be suitable for knitting on a christmas deadline but they certainly are worth getting on the needles. Two of my favourites are Caramel Frappe, a gorgeous crescent shaped shawl and Saku Hana, intricate and detailed fingerless mitts. The attention to detail in this design is outstanding.

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Last month I caught up with Monika and we chatted a bit about her knitting and designing. I hope you enjoy the interview. There is a lovely giveaway too – details can be found at the end of this post.

CD: Where do you find your design inspiration?

MS: I find my inspiration almost everywhere! It can be a new skein of yarn, a color, a little dress in a magazine, a tiny piece of fabric, a button, a kids’ coloring book, a piece of ribbon, a painting, a photo (not knitting related), new design I am currently working on …. However, most of the time, new ideas pop in my head when there is peace and quiet around me, no tv, no radio, no kids running around. Letting the thoughts flow bring my inspiration new life.

CD: What types of yarn do you love to work with? I would love to know about weights, fibre types, finishes, dyeing methods etc.

MS: I rarely find a yarn I don’t like, 100% merino is my basic I use all the time. But most of the time I go through stages! Maybe everything with silk content seems amazing, and the next time tweed is The One, another time alpaca (yes, alpaca is ‘it’ these days) but mohair always finds a way back to me in one form or another. It would be equally difficult to choose only one weight of yarn as well, I love the look of chunky fabric – even better if it is worked in a lacy stitch! I love the look of delicate lace weight fabric, and I love to use sport weight as a great compromise for year-round wear (especially for kids’ knits).

CD: What is your favourite knitting technique?

MS: Each time I find a new technique, I ask myself how I lived without it for so long! I love Kitchener, German Twisted CO, mattress st, embroidery embellishments, sewn stretchy BO, adding beads, picking up sts. You name it, I would love to try them all!

CD: What is your most treasured or most useful knitting tool?

MS: My life became easier after I bought Addi needles, a ball winder, some rust proof pins and blocking matts 🙂

CD: What is your favourite quick gift knit pattern, and why?

MS: There is no single answer to this question! Once my kids entered the school system, my designs reflected the need for quick gifts. Choosing the right gift always depends on the person for whom it is intended and from avaliable knitting time. I designed Cabernet Infinity Scarves as teacher gifts for a few reasons. When you want a quick, but need the gift to make an impact (more than just a plain stockinette or garter cowl), Cabernet does the trick! Lente was meant to be a las- minute gift – you can actually CO a few hours before you need to leave your house. I consider Caramel Frappe to be a gift-to-go this season, as it is a shawlette with a lacy border. No one would anticipate how easygoing it is to knit, how quickly it knits up, and how perfect it is for any special person in your life who deserves more than just a cowl. If you need a gift for young people, Saku Hana Mitts are the way to go! And a great gift for a child? Choose a bright, colorful yarn and pair it with Kveta Mitts or Mittens pattern. You will love the recipient’s reaction when she/he opens the package. And speaking of gifts, there is a new one in testing right now. It is a baby blanket suitable for any special occasion, and uses less than  3 skeins of worsted weight yarn! How great is that?

CD: If someone gives you a gift what would you love to receive?

MS: Definitely a project bag! Can you believe I still don’t have one?

CD: Any tips for those taking part in the GAL this year?

MS: Line up your projects! If you know what are you going to CO and what yarn you are going to use before you finish your current projects, you will be surprised how fast the gifts fly off your needles.

CD: Will you be casting anything on for the #giftalong2014?

MS: I sure will! There are quite a few special people who deserve a toasty, wooly surprise this year!

CD: If someone gave you a two week knitting holiday (24 / 7 knitting and relaxing time) what projects, patterns and yarn would you pack in your bags?

MS: Ohh, that would be my dream come true! I would pack yarn for at least 5 sweater projects for myself, just to make sure I wouldn’t run out of the yarn or projects! Sweater projects are always pushed back in my lineups (smaller and quicker projects are to blame for the constant distraction). I would bring my bright green Cascade Eco + for Aidez, blue Madelinetosh Sport for Grandpa Cardigan by Joji, Colour Adventures Merino Light for Casual Lace by Justyna, Rock Candy Mountains colorway for Harvest by Tincanknits, and one of my current WIPs, a new pullover design.

Giveaway

Monika has kindly donated two patterns to giveaway. There will be one pattern each for two lucky blog readers. All you need to do is comment on this post with your favourite design from Monika’s Ravelry store. Pop along and have a look at all her gorgeous designs, then let me know which one is your favourite. The giveaway will close on 31st December and I will announce the winners at the start of January 2015.

You can find Monika in the following places:

Instagram as monikasirnadesigns

 

Meet the Designer #giftalong2014

The Ravelry #giftalong2014 is well underway and today I have another fabulous interview with one of the designers who is participating. I chatted to Robynn Weldon, a fellow South African now living in Europe about her inspiration, designs and dream knitting. Hope you enjoy the interview.

Robynn has some stylish yet practical knits in her Ravelry store. I really like the Wraparound Mitts, the have an interesting construction and suit a slightly variegated yarn perfectly.

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Another of my favourites is the matching pair of mitts and scarf / cowl / headband / ear warmer aka the “perfect accessory for keeping you warm on a run”. The Runaround Loop was designed because Robynn enjoys running. I enjoy a little jog now and again and cycle everywhere, so this is the perfect accessory for me. The matching Runaround Mitts are the perfect companion to the Runaround Loop.

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CD: Where do you find your design inspiration?

RW: Lack of ideas has never been the problem, only lack of time to execute them. All the more so now I have two small kids. The time factor means that regardless of what exotic or fashion-forward concepts you might find in my notebook, the ideas that make it to the top of the queue tend to be small, needful things (either for myself or my children); things that are fun to make, useful and well suited to stash diving! Necessity, in my case, is the mother of inspiration.

CD: What types of yarn do you love to work with? I would love to know about weights, fibre types, finishes, dyeing methods etc.

RW: I used to run a luxury knitting shop (Purlescence.co.uk) and as you might imagine, came away with an enviable stash of hand-dyed yarn. The sensual element of knitting has always been very important to me – I can’t be bothered to work with yarn I don’t love to handle and look at. But I also don’t want to waste time on something that’s going to fall apart quickly. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years learning about yarn (I even teach a workshop about it) and have formed some pretty strong preferences: while I love natural fibres, everything from linen to merino, I won’t buy singles or pure cashmere (both too pill-y and fragile!). My absolute favourite yarn is Posh Yarn Natasha (a camel/silk blend, amazing for lace) – Posh colours are incomparable, but I’m also a big fan of Sweet Georgia. As for weights, I favour anything between regular laceweight (not cobweb) and DK. I love the way lighter fabrics move, compared with chunkier weights, and it helps that they don’t add too much bulk to my frame.

CD: What is your favourite knitting technique?

RW: I really enjoy lace stitches. Cables are awesome too, textured stitches are fun, but lace is very satisfying to me.

CD: What is your most treasured or most useful knitting tool?

RW: A girl can never have enough tape measures.

CD: What is your favourite quick gift knit pattern, and why?

RW: I don’t knit a lot of gifts. You have to be really deserving to get a knit from me, and I’ll put a lot of thought into choosing something that is just your style. But I’ve been very tempted by some of the quirkier patterns in the GAL – Platypus by Selina S, or the Neck Kraken by Annie Watts! They would be so fun to gift.

CD: If someone knitted you a gift what would you love to receive?

RW: Oh, a lovely wide scarf! Scarves are awesome, and there are so many fantastic patterns, but I don’t knit a lot of them. Maybe because I have a short attention span and scarves are so looooong.

CD: Any tips for those taking part in the GAL this year?

RW: Remember gifts for yourself count too. You know the recipient will appreciate it, and they’re surely deserving!

CD: Will you be casting anything on for the #giftalong2014?

RW: Hell yes. I’ve bought eight patterns (!) – you can see which ones on my blog – and while I’m obviously not going to be knitting all of them by GAL end, I’m hoping to have a good try. One of them is your own Jozi. I love socks that make good use of handpainted yarn, and as a South African myself, how could I resist?

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CD: If someone gave you a two week knitting holiday (24 / 7 knitting and relaxing time) what projects, patterns and yarn would you pack in your bags?

RW: What a magnificent fantasy… I long for uninterrupted time for proper, big projects and delicious lace, so I’d pack Marnie MacLean’s Arctium shawl, with a gorgeous skein of Natasha from my stash. But best of all I’d have time to work on my own hibernating Big Designs: a cowl-neck pullover in some fabulous grey alpaca/silk from The Uncommon Thread, and an oversized, richly textured fine-gauge tunic. I think Holst Garn’s Coast would be perfect for that.

Even for a fantasy, that’s more knitting than I could possibly accomplish in two weeks, but I make it a firm rule never to go away with fewer than three projects. Say one craps out, one goes faster than you think, and then what?

You can find Robynn as @woollythinker on Twitter and Pinterest, and her website is studio-miranda.com.

I hope you enjoyed this interview. Are you taking part in the #giftalong2014? There are so many wonderful prizes to be won and a great chatty knit along happening over in the Ravelry group. Pop over and say hi. 

Happy knitting,

Clare

Meet the Designer #giftalong2014

It is always nice to meet the designers behind the beautifully crafted items we admire on Ravelry.

As part of the Ravelry Giftalong 2014 I have been chatting to Kimberly Golynskiy from 80skeins. 

Copyright 80skeins. Used with permission.

Copyright 80skeins. Used with permission.

She has many wonderful designs and a spectaular blog. Including one of the best blog features I have seen in ages: Around the World in 80 Skeins. Kimberley has been interviewing designers from the far flung corners of our wonderful planet. Having a wandering spirit this really appealed to me. There are interviews with designers from South Korea, Kuwait, Guatemala, Brazil and South Africa (where she incidentally interviewed my very good friend Sally Cameron aka Pink Hair Girl).

I dropped Kimberley a series of questions to get to know her a little better and this is what she had to say.

CD: Where do you find your design inspiration?

KG: I get excited about a lot of random stuff that ends up as designs. Sometimes it’s movies/shows like my Firefly/Serenity Series, sometimes it’s amazing things in the universe like my Science is Beautiful series, and most recently I’m finding inspiration from the amazing designers all over the globe. I’ve been working on a project called Around the World in 80 Skeins – a worldwide blog tour talking to fiber arts designers about how where they live inspires creation.

CD: What types of yarn do you love to work with? I would love to know about weights, fibre types, finishes, dyeing methods etc. 

KG: I really love working with fingering weight yarn. Everything always takes way longer to make, but it always drapes and fits so much nicer in fingering than heavier weights. I love alpaca and merino, and have found quite a few superwashes that are really lovely. I prefer solids and tonals and love love love gradients! My favorite workhorse yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal (when I’m on a budget) and Manos del Uruguay Fino (when it’s my birthday and I can splurge). I also recently worked with a new independent dyer called Tipsy Sheep Yarns and her baby alpaca/silk/cashmere lace weight yarn felt like butter!

CD: What is your favourite knitting technique? 

KG: I enjoy lace knitting because of how shabby it looks until it’s all done and blocked. I especially love lace with beads, because nothing makes a beautiful shawl better than a whole lot of sparkles!

CD: What is your most treasured or most useful knitting tool?

KG: I have a counter ring that my husband got for me that is awesome! I think it’s actual purpose is for some time of gaming, but it works perfectly for counting rows – and it’s blue and pretty. =)

CD: What is your favourite quick gift knit pattern, and why? 

KG: I have a couple hats that knit up really quickly and are super fun to wear. My hair is currently growing out from a pixie cut, so the Portland Saturday Market hat has been a life saver to let me go out in public on “mullet-y” days. Seismography is also a great gift because you can use up scraps and it still looks great.

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CD: If someone knitted you a gift what would you love to receive? 

KG: I would love a dress or a coat made with really thin yarn so it fits beautifully. I adore the idea of knitted full-body garments, but I think I would go mad making something so large.

CD: Any tips for those taking part in the GAL this year? 

KG: If you’re taking part in the GAL to knock out all of your holiday knitting, have a plan. Make a list of who you are knitting for, look through the Pinterest boards or the designer pages to find the perfect patterns, then start knitting/crocheting! I’ve recently started Bullet Journaling and it’s been a lifesaver for keeping track of everything I need to do. I’m definitely using it to keep my holiday gifting in order!

CD: Will you be casting anything on for the #giftalong2014? 

KG: I went through all 8 of the Pinterest boards and pinned 144 designs I love! I wish I could make my hands work faster because I want to knit them all. I plan to send the boards to my family and tell them to pick their gifts and that’s how I’ll decide what to knit in the GAL.

CD: If someone gave you a two week knitting holiday (24 / 7 knitting and relaxing time) what projects, patterns and yarn would you pack in your bags?

KG: A two week knitting holiday sounds divine! I would have to knit someone else’s design so I could shut my brain off and just enjoy the relaxation of knitting. I’d love to have the time to make a couple of sweaters like Ease or a Phoenix Sweater.

Here are some of the other designs Kimberley has in her Ravelry shop that have “Caught My Eye”. Don’t forget all the designs in the #giftalong2014 bundle are 25% off until Friday 21st November at midnight EST. 

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Hope you enjoyed this interview. I have more interviews and pattern round ups coming up in the next week. As well as a special feature on my favourite sock yarns.

Happy knitting,

Clare

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Louise Tilbrook giveaway winners

Hope you are all having a great weekend. We went on a long bike ride yesterday and I attending my first toddler party (I was scared but there was cake so I survived).

Today I will be teaching one of my favourite classes, the joy of “Magic Loop”. I love this knitting technique and use it all the time for socks, hats, mitts, sleeves, anything in the round – I magic loop it.

Before I head off to teach I wanted to drop past and let you know who the winners were for the Louise Tilbrook giveaway. Thank you to everyone who entered my first proper giveaway on the blog. It was very exciting to host and congratulations to the three lucky winners.

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Julia – Stumpy01 on Rav

Emma – Emma1969 on Rav

Carol – Wishcatchers on Rav

I have given your details to Louise who will be in touch with you about your prize.

Have a great Sunday – chat again tomorrow.

Cx

Designer Spotlight: Louise Tilbrook

Hope you are having a great week. To mark the middle of “Socktober” (where has the first half of this month gone) I have an interview with an exceptional British sock designer and one the speediest knitters I know – Louise Tilbrook.

Hoar Frost by Louise Tilbrook. Copyright: Louise Tilbrook

Hoar Frost by Louise Tilbrook. Copyright: Louise Tilbrook

I had a quick chat with Louise last week about her love affair with socks, I hope you enjoy the interview.

CD: When did you first become enthralled with socks?

LT: A few years ago now I picked up some Regia self-striping yarn and I was hooked. Some days I think if I could knit nothing else, ever, I would be happy knitting stripy socks.

I love stripy socks too, watch out on the blog next week for a special post about some very special self striping sock yarn from The Golden Skein.

CD: How did you make the leap from knitting socks to designing socks?

LT: It was a logical progression as I started to knit more for male family members. Whilst I love to knit lace and I do like a good pair of lace-patterned socks I found that truly unisex socks in larger sizes were a little harder to find. To pass the acid test a sock pattern must be fun to knit, look far more complicated than it actually is and be officially approved as ‘non-girly’ by my DH.

CD: Does magic loop rock your boat or are you more of a DPN fan?

LT: Magic loop all the way. I’ve lost too many DPNs on trains, in cars and under sofas

CD: How do you pick a good sock yarn?

LT: I love yarns with a good firm twist that have excellent stitch definition as it helps cables and twisted stitches to really pop.

CD: Solid, tonal, variegated or stripes? Which yarn makes your heart sing?

LT: For my designs I love handpainted tonal yarns and for plain (knitting-for-me socks) it is self striping all the way – the more colourful the colours the better.

CD: Toe up or top down?

LT: I started with cuff down and then converted to toe-up. I started on the Hexipuff craze some time ago and realised that if I could cast one of those on, I could cast on a sock toe. Then I discovered Judy’s magic cast on and never looked back.

CD: Afterthought heel, love or loathe?

LT: Love them and am working on one right now.

CD: What is your favourite sock design? And why?

LT: My favourite is always the one I’m currently working on – I’m quite fickle like that – but of my published ones I’m most proud of my Silver Birch design featured in Pom Pom magazine. The yarn was heavenly to work with and I was so pleased with the finished socks.

CD: … and your favourite socks designed by someone else?

LT: Heavens – I can only pick one? For a great, effective and satisfying pattern I would have to choose the Monkey sock by Cookie A. I’d also love to try the Stitch Surfer socks by Louise Robert as they look amazing.

CD: Besides yarn and pointy sticks what is your most treasured sock knitting tool?

LT: My collection of sock project bags from Daisy Bun Boo. Since rehoming 2 kittens everything in my house needs to be under kitten-lockdown. Especially yarn and pointy sticks.

Copyright: Louise Tilbrook

Bleaberry Tarn by Louise Tilbrook. Copyright: Louise Tilbrook

Louise has a lovely range of sock patterns available on her Ravelry store and she has very generously donated some lovely prizes for the readers of this blog. She is offering a pattern from her collection to three lucky readers. To enter this competition please leave a comment below. You need to include the following in your comment to be entered.

1) Which is your favourite Louise Tilbrook design? You can find all of her designs in her Ravelry shop. 

2) What yarn would you knit this design in?

3) Please also leave a way for me to contact you should you be the lucky winner. A Ravelry ID is probably the easiest.

This competition will run until the 30th of October, and the winners will be announced on the blog on the 31st of October as we say farewell to “Socktober”

Happy knitting

Clare

Sty Head Tarn by Louise Tilbrook. Copyright: Louise Tilbrook

Sty Head Tarn by Louise Tilbrook. Copyright: Louise Tilbrook

Creative Blog Hop

A little while ago the brilliant blogger, writer and social media / marketing guru for the knitting world GreenTriangleGirl aka aplayfulfday nominated me in the Creative Blog hop. The idea is each person blogs with their answers to four standard questions and nominates two people to continue the chain.

I have really enjoyed reading answers by those who have already taken part and feel honoured to be part of this process.

Here is my contribution:

What am I working on?

At the moment I am really focussing on finding my feet.

Currently my life resembles a treadmill where someone has turned up the pace and my little legs are going as fast as they can to keep up with the belt. I am working very hard and am proud to say my legs are getting stronger and the strides are getting longer. Some days I can’t believe I am still standing, but I am and I relish a good challenge.

This year has been pretty huge for me on the work front and things are really picking up. This is wonderful and I am infinitely grateful for each and every opportunity that comes my way. As a bit of background, I had dabbled a little bit in some technical editing work when my daughter first arrived but had planned to go back to work in my old field. I never thought of myself as someone who would thrive on being self-employed. I am not sure why this is because I could not have been more wrong, it’s great working for myself and the world of freelancing is where I belong. I love it.

After building up my client base I finally took the big plunge a few weeks ago and went fully freelance (technically part-time I suppose as I wanted to balance my time between work and my little one). I have not looked back since. Current projects include technical editing and layout design, collaborations with fabulous indie-dyers for design collections of my own and researching for some pieces of writing commissioned by a knitting magazine.

No day is ever the same and I am very fortunate to have a good balance of creative design work and ordered more technical work, the perfect match for me.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a difficult question for me. I am the ‘new kid on the block’, I am carving out a place for myself in this sector and that will take time. Actually, I think it will always be a ‘work in progress’. I have an interesting mix of skills and this has translated into an interesting mix of work within this sector.

On the client work front I like to think of myself as someone who is balanced and brings a wealth of experience from different sectors together to be the most effective editor and designer I can be for each individual client. In the past decade I have been on what some might think of a very varied and rather random journey. I started out studying photography, then worked in media selling advertising for a national newspaper, then shifted focus and worked in the humanitarian sector before studying to be a teacher. During this time I lived and worked on three continents; loving life and taking random opportunities to up sticks and move on as they presented themselves. I think this gives me a pretty unique set of skills. I love being behind the camera, I am passionate about creating with my hands and am equally comfortable behind a laptop screen plugging away at excel or tinkering about with a client layout. Having worked in fast paced deadline driven environments I thrive on the pressure that an imminent deadline brings (always useful when submissions are due).

Why do I create what I do?

I love making things work. At heart I am a problem solver who likes to look at the puzzle pieces and put them together, finding the missing pieces and working out where they are or how the gaps can be filled in the most effective way. This is why I love technical editing and layout work as a combined project for a client. Technical editing is a puzzle with maths, words and structure. I find the process of reading a pattern, knitting the design in my head and plugging the numbers into a spreadsheet very satisfying. Bringing the technical elements together with the words and watching the design dance across the page is pure magic. Sometimes when I am engrossed in my knitting I feel as if my fingers are dancing across the needles, the yarn turning and twisting through my fingers, I become entranced by the process of creating. I find the same joy in watching words and numbers combine into a brilliant pattern.

Combining this technical work with the creative process of designing a layout brings together a package that really works for designers. I love walking people through the process of what they want, what they need, what works for them, what they would like to avoid and then combining all of this together into a style that screams “I am xxxx”. The knitting world is a busy place and it is important to know who you are and have an identity that speaks to those who love your work and support you as a creative. A good pattern and layout design is just one tiny part of the process but I love being part of it, and that is why I have chosen to do what I do.

Creative blog hop_1

How does my creative process work?

I am an ideas person, ask the people close to me and they will attest to the fact that I have no shortage of ideas. I really do need a few more days in my week. I like to get all my ideas out there, frequently in a stream of consciousness to my husband the second he walks through the door. Then I like to let things simmer away, tinkering here and there, pondering the multiple options and waiting for the last minute before the deadline where I pull everything together in a blaze of glory and produce a finished product. (Okay maybe it is less of a blaze of glory sometimes and a mad dash to the finish line). I doubt this is the optimum way to work, waiting for the last minute, and in all honesty I do a lot of work before the deadline is even close. However, I always seem to have the most focus when I have no other option but to focus. With weeks to go my mind easily wanders off to my next brilliant plan, it is only in the final days that I can neatly tie up loose ends and bring something to life.

Between the idea and the mad rush for the finish line there is a process. It always involves my notebook and a pen. I love my computer but there is something about putting pen to paper that makes a difference to the way my brain works. I also like to talk to my nearest and dearest about ideas, problems and potential solutions. Articulating the process helps me to digest it a little better.

Creative blog hop_2

There you have it. A little bit more about who I am, what I am doing and why. I have a new blog series planned about getting started and am just putting the final touches to the first posts. Watch this space for more details.

In the spirit of the creative blog hop I would like to nominate two fabulous ladies who are rocking their own sectors of this industry at the moment.

The first is someone who has been a brilliant source of inspiration to me in the last year. Jess from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh has a way with the dye pots and a fabulous bricks and mortar shop.

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My second nomination is my favourite northerner Jo the voice behind the Shinybees podcast and half of the brilliant The Golden Skein team.

shinybees

The golden skein

 

An Interview

Things have been a little slow on the blog lately. I am finding my feet in the world of freelancing. It is great and I am loving every second of it, although the pace at the moment is a little fast.

That said, I wanted to pop past and share this podcast interview with you. I met up with Jo from the Shinybees podcast at Unwind in Brighton last month.

http://shinybees.com/2014/08/25/episode-20-pack-up-your-troubles/

If you would like to know a little bit more about me and how I am finding my place in the knitting world drop past and listen to this excellent podcast. The interview also features George from Yarn Garden who is a fantastic dyer from Newcastle.

Happy listening and happy knitting.

C
x

Interview: Gina from Natural Yarns

This week I am interviewing Gina from Natural Yarns. NaturalYarns.co.za is a fairly new online shop selling the most gorgeous natural fibres. Gina filled a huge gap in the South African market and her shop was very much needed by local knitters who wanted good online options for natural yarns.

Gina sells both local and internationally sourced yarn and her service is impeccable. Without further ado I bring you the interview with Gina ….

Natural Yarns

When did you first start knitting? What drew you to the craft?

My Ouma (grandmother) who was hardly ever seen without her knitting taught me my first stitches. Both my parents are compulsively practical and I have always felt that there is virtually nothing the two of them cannot make or do! After school I studied Fine Art, spent some time abroad, then studied again, qualifying as a Digital Designer – web and graphic. For the past 8 years I have immersed myself in developing my web design business, which offers a great outlet for my creativity. Against this ‘virtual’ creative backdrop, I felt a need to work with a more traditional and physical medium….one that I can take with me wherever I go: knitting was a natural choice!

How would you describe your knitting style?

I enjoy projects which challenge & teach me new skills.
I love experimenting with different techniques and stitch combinations. I enjoy improvising and have often found myself drawn to projects which combine knitting, crochet and/or felting. I also love creating texture with different yarns in my crochet projects.

What is your dream fibre.

I love all good quality, natural fibres. They make it a pleasure to spend precious free time working on a project.

If you could pick one project to be your dream project what would you choose?

I think it would be Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur, which I have no doubt I will knit a number of times in my life as I adore this pattern. I already have a number of yarns picked out for my first (few)!

What is your favourite knitting tool?

I don’t have a specific favourite – I sometimes find myself without my regular ‘tools’ & have to get inventive … for a long time I used some awesome spiral paperclips, as stitch markers. I have also found ordinary paperclips very useful on occasion – as makeshift cable needles, stitch markers or to assist in correcting a dropped stitch. I love knitting with my Ouma’s old knitting needles & other vintage needles I sourced from abroad and I’m enjoying my ChiaoGoo bamboo interchangeables too!

What are you knitting at the moment?

I am knitting the Tempest Shawlette by Tabetha Hedrick in MANOS Serena. Other WIP’s include a pair of socks and a crochet blanket for my daughter. I am also putting together a pattern for a very pretty crochet hot water bottle cover.

You recently opened an online shop. Tell me a little bit about your motivation for doing this.

When I started knitting again, I very quickly found myself only working with yarns with high or 100% natural fibre content. Wherever we go, I find myself on the lookout for lovely yarn!  A few years ago I accompanied my husband on one of his business trips to Argentina. We took a road trip, and in my quest to find hand spun / dyed yarn, we found ourselves ascending to great altitudes in the Andes to where the air is thin, temperatures are extreme and one sees Alpaca grazing freely. We visited a variety of yarn producers, both family-run and commercial. We encountered inspired spinners, crafters, designers and shops working passionately with (mostly) Merino and Alpaca. As a result of the trip, I became even more absorbed in my passion for natural yarns.

This is how Natural Yarns was conceived!

Your shop has a gorgeous selection of yarns from both South Africa and abroad, tell me a little bit more about how you choose the yarn you stock.

Thank you!  Natural Yarns is all about quality yarns that have the highest possible natural fibre content, Environmental consciousness is also important to me, so I have selected suppliers who are environmentally aware in the production of their yarns.

MANOS del Uruguay kept coming up on my Ravelry pattern searches and the more I read about MANOS & their Fair Trade yarns, the more I became convinced that I needed to bring these yarns to South Africa. Being a website designer, I could make these yarns available online so that, no matter where local yarn lovers live, they can buy good quality, natural yarns in South Africa! Snuggling in my stash was a ball of Nurturing Fibres yarn from my LYS that I had been treasuring for a while.  I made contact and met up with Carle’ and we started working together on an exclusive range for my shop. It is important to me to support South Africans who are living their dream in creating something special. LeLana yarn is so airily spun & beautifully hand painted by Lana … and Adele’s yarns are quite well known both locally and abroad (where they are marketed under the BeSweet label) — all are a popular choice amongst my customers.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2013? I know you are looking at Malabrigo, when can we expect that gorgeous yarn on our shores? Any other exciting news?

I am presently finalising my Malabrigo order. Something I enjoy about my business is investigating other yarn sources & new opportunities. I am very excited about a friend’s *secret* yarn project which is currently in the development phase.

You have been developing some unique colourways with Carle from Nurturing Fibres. Can you tell me a little more about the process and the inspiration behind this collaboration?

Working with Carle’ is an organic experience. Firstly, I select images and colours that I am drawn to and decide on a potential range of colourways. I present them to Carle. We then discuss them, shift them, plan, change direction; sifting, filtering all of the possibilities…Carle’ adds her stories, knowledge and expertise…I love the process – We often find things to laugh about as we work our way to a final selection. The reward of seeing this process unfold & become gorgeous knittable yarn is very exciting!

With all that gorgeous yarn I feel like so much of it would slip into my stash. How do you restrain yourself with all that gorgeous yarn about?

It is VERY tempting, but it is so rewarding to send out gorgeous yarn, knowing it will be loved and (hopefully) knitted up sooner than I can get through my current WIP’s to enjoy working with it myself! The quantity of this gorgeous yarn in my studio actually forces me to be quite selective when stashing for myself. I often do set something aside & pretend it’s in my stash…just for a while… until I’m ready to let go or absolutely know I want to stash it 🙂

You are also looking at stocking ChiaoGoo, could you tell me a little more about your plans. What other gorgeous knitting goodies can we expect to see in the shop soon?

I plan on having ChiaoGoo here as soon as possible – their range is so extensive that it has been hard to choose! The exchange rate at the moment makes things tricky so I have decided to start with a basic selection and expand from there. There are some really cool stitch markers and some fun Book Line Markers (for keeping one’s place on a pattern page) which will be available soon. I have a lot of other ideas and plans for the future.

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I really enjoyed chatting to Gina about her shop. It was inspiring to hear about her journey to the Andes, and I always enjoy browsing her shop.

Gina has a very active Ravelry group with KALs’ and special offers and is also on Facebook and Twitter.

I have picked some yarn candy for you to have a look at here, but I highly recommend a virtual trip to Gina’s shop.

This gorgeous selection of LeLana yarns would work so well together.

I can’t help but smile when I see this sunshine yellow yarn.

IMG_7048-380x380_lelana_sunshine

Copyright: NaturalYarns

The new Nurturing Fibres Winter collection has many stunning new shades, carefully designed by Gina and Carle. There are also many new exciting bases.

I love this colour combination in Adele’s Skinny Wool. I think it would make a gorgeous shawl.

Last, but certainly not least is the gorgeous Manos…

Interview Series: Hartlam

All photographs in this post are copyrighted and belong to Hartlam. They have been used with permission.

Copyright: Hartlam

Copyright: Hartlam

This week I have an interview with the brilliant South African indie dyer Michelle, from Hartlam. Hartlam is almost a year old and her yarns are truly gorgeous. She has some beautiful bases, which you don’t see very often in South Africa and her colourways are awe inspiring.

Naturally I love the stunning grey yarns she produces and have a couple stashed away. I have been fortunate enough to knit with the Franschhoek, I knitted a Rondelay for my mother-in-law, and currently have some Sutherland DK on the needles for the Rikke Hat. I also have a skein of Sutherland Lace which I hope to turn into another Featherweight (one day).

With so many gorgeous colourways I often find myself drooling over the regular shop updates. If you want to get your hands on some of this gorgeous yarn pop over to Michelle’s shop. She updates every Wednesday and posts both locally and internationally.

I recently chatted to Michelle and found out more about her, her knitting journey and her business. The interview is fairly long, but totally worth the read, so grab a cuppa and enjoy!

When did you first start knitting? What drew you to the craft?

My grandmother was a skilled knitter and crocheter, and I remember watching her work as a small child, but it was only in my late teens that I rediscovered knitting. I love the tactility of knitting, but honestly I think what I enjoy most about it is that it gives me an excuse to hoard yarn!

How would you describe your knitting style? What attracts to you a new project?

I am not the quickest of knitters, and find that I get distracted by new yarns or patterns quite easily, so I generally prefer smaller projects, and especially love gloves and mittens! That said, I tend to pick yarn first, and then look for a pattern to match the yarn.

Who do you knit for? Do you prefer to knit for yourself or for others?

I generally prefer to knit for myself but would have to say I end up knitting about 50/50 for myself and for others. While I do not really like “knitting on demand”, I often give FO’s intended for myself away if someone really loves it, and usually have a long list of projects that I would love to make for this or that family member/friend.

What is your dream fibre?

It would have to be Alpaca! I love the super softness, the drape and the warmth of Alpaca. Other fibres that I would like to get my hands on are Angora (rabbit, not goat) and Possum! Also, living in an area where summer temperatures are often in the high 30’s, I really enjoy the cool feeling of working with silk in the hotter months.

If you could pick one project to be your dream project what would you choose?

The project I have been dreaming about lately is a large stripey chevron blanket, made with chunky Alpaca in fresh, bright colours. If I could go to a parallel universe where I could just sit and knit, with no other commitments, this is what I would be working on!

What is your favourite knitting tool?

My KnitPro Nova needles – I love working with smooth and sharp needles! I have also recently started using the County phone app, which is great for keeping track of your rows and pattern repeats.

Do you have knitting goals for 2013 and beyond, would you like to share them with us?

Hmm, I’m not sure if it can be called goals, but I do have a few things in my queue that I would love to get round to knitting this year! One of them is an Adrift cardigan that I’m planning to knit in in Sutherland Lace. Perhaps I will get to start on my dream blanket too…

What are you knitting at the moment?

I have 3 projects on the go at the moment – a pair of Paraphernalia socks in Tulbagh Sock, a ruched scarf in Greyton Lace, and a crochet pillow in (shock and horror!) acrylic yarn.

Next we moved on to talking about her yarn dyeing business. This is a selection of some of the gorgeous yarns Michelle has dyed. 

When and why did you start dyeing?

I started dyeing yarn for myself about three or four years ago because I was frustrated with the selection (or more often, lack thereof) of luxury yarn in local yarn shops. Allthough I was living in Johannesburg at the time, and had access to some great yarn shops, the imported commercial yarns didn’t tickle my fancy the way the international indie-dyed yarns did. Once I started, I was completely hooked and it was just a matter of time before I started hunting down some delicious yarn bases…

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from many sources! One of the big ones would have to be the landscapes around me. The colours of the agricultural fields, fynbos, mountains and sky are what I often aspire to capture in my dyeing. Other than that I take a lot of inspiration from everyday objects as well as nature in general – the colours on a cake tin, flowers, birds, a period costume in a movie, artwork and photographs, anything really that catches my eye gets saved for future dyeing possibilities.

Tell me a little more about the development process for your hand dyed yarns?

As I mostly do unique, one-off colourways, my yarns do not go through much of a development process. I usually start off with a base/overall colour in mind, and whether the colourway will be a semi-solid, tonally variegated, or multi-colour variegated. From there on it’s very much like cooking – add a touch of this here and a splash of that there. Some of my variegated colourways go through up to 5 steps during the dyeing process, so I often keep track of the ‘recipe’ while I dye because results can be very surprising, and there’s nothing worse than having a gorgeous colourway, with no idea how you got there!

You have some very exciting bases, could you tell me more about them?

Each base has its own special quality that I love.

The high twist yarns like Calvinia and Ladismith are great for strength and stitch definition, while still being soft and bouncy – great for socks and gloves. Victoria West is a 100% single spun Merino that it very soft and cuddly for next-to-the-skin wear, and Tulbagh with its Merino/Nylon/Cashmere blend is my personal go-to yarn. It has a lovely warm and dense feeling, great next to the skin, good stitch definition and blocks beautifully!

The Sutherland yarns have a hint of subtle silver sparkle (which is non-scratchy, btw) and a touch of silk for that extra lustre, smoothness and a bit of drape. This yarn is particularly lovely in lace-weight.

The 50/50 Merino/Silk blend of the Franschhoek base has been very popular for its great sheen, and is heaven to knit with. This is a yarn which feels both heavy and light, warm and cool at the same time, while it drapes beautifully – perfect for spring/autumn projects. Franschhoek will also be available in double knit very soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Hartlam’s softest yarn base would have to be Darling. This Alpaca/Cashmere/Silk blend is just the ultimate in luxury, and great for anyone who can’t have sheep’s wool next to their skin. The first time I felt this yarn, marshmallow clouds were the thing that came to mind! Besides its incredible softness, it also has a lovely drape, a slight bloom, and blocks well.

Recently two Bluefaced Leicester yarns have also been added to the range of bases – Alldays, which is a 100% superwash BFL sock weight that comes in a bigger 150g skein, and Greyton, which is a lace weight yarn with 20% silk added. The Alldays has a “stronger” feel than the other Merino wool yarns, and will be great for more hardwearing items, the extra 200m of yarn coming in particularly handy when making man-size socks. Greyton has incredible crimp and bounce, with a subtle sheen and drape from the silk, which give this yarn a “fun” feeling that puts it at the top of my to-knit-with list for anyone who (like me) has been intimidated by the thought of knitting with lace-weight yarn!

You currently sell your yarns online through your store Hartlam. Do you have any plans to sell the yarns anywhere else?

There are a few things in the pipe-line for Hartlam yarns to possibly become available in other local yarn and online shops, but for the foreseeable future they are still exclusively available from the Hartlam shop.

What plans to do you have for Hartlam over the next year?

I would love to add more bases (yes, I said more!), and in particular some heavier weights, and I am working on a pattern or two, but the rest of the developments are still a bit under wraps, so you’ll have to wait and see!

What is your favourite part of being an indie dyer?

Having the freedom to express myself in colour, and the privilege to share that with other knitter and yarn-lovers. Oh, and of course the days when the huge boxes of new yarns arrive!

What do you find most challenging about being an indie dyer?

I would have to say having discipline to do all the non-yarn things, like admin!

What advice could you offer to someone who wants to start dyeing yarn?

Just have fun! There is so much information out there on the many different methods, tools and processes you can use that it can sometimes be a bit intimidating to start, but there are no wrong answers. Well, there are one or two, but for the most part if you’re having fun you’re doing it right!

Anything else you would like to add?

It seems very fitting that this interview comes out almost exactly on the Hartlam shop’s first birthday, and I would just like to thank all the wonderful Hartlammetjies who have given me so much support and feedback in the last year. I could not have done it without you, and I hope to be sharing my love for you delicious yarns with you for many more years to come.

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I hope you have enjoyed this interview. Would you like to see what Hartlam has to offer? 

Hartlam SA shop 

Facebook page 

Ravelry group