Small is beautiful


Today I would like to share an article with you that is at the heart of this year's Wovember campaign. I wrote this piece because the focus for 2015 is on the small producer - and I am lucky enough to have one on my doorstep......

Tucked away on East Chase farm in Kenilworth, Warwickshire , there is a tiny woolshed that every knitter should know about.

I found out about In The Woolshed through the Warwickshire Open Studios Event earlier on in the year. Every year at the end of June and beginning of July, artists open the doors of their studios and invite people in to see how their work is made. I was so excited to learn that only half an hour from my house was a dye studio, where I would not only be able to buy yarn, but witness the entire process from fleece to skein!

In the Woolshed is the result of a vision shared by two sisters, Emma and Louise. They grew up in Kenilworth, but spent lots of family holidays on the Lleyn Peninsula in North West Wales. This was followed by several years travelling around India, learning and sharing textile skills with villagers and farmers in a remote Himalayan village.Fast forward a few years and Louise has marred a local farmer and Emma hastrained as afine artist. However, the sisters found themselves wanting to find a way of realising their passions for real craft, to create a business that embodied the simplicity and authenticity of the handmade. This has been made possible by them sharing both their skills and resources.

Louise's farm is home to a flock of Lleyn sheep. In fact these sheep are the first thing that you see when you turn off the main road and drive up towards the farm. They are good mothers, have a high milk yield and produce beautiful white wool.

Louise also provided the container that sits in the farmyard and is the shop for all the gorgeous yarns and kits.

Emma has a dye studio in one of the barns and this is the real creative hub of the business. As you approach the studio you will find last year's fleeces stored outside the door.

Lift the latch and you enter a orld where yarn is dyed by hand using only natural dyes and environmentally friendly mordants. Emma first started experimenting with natural dyes as a student in Manchester and recalls that there were always pans boiling and fleeces soaking in the flat that she shared with other students. It is this sense of exploration and discovery that underpins Emma's work.

It is barely six months since I first met Emma, but we both recognised a shared passion for colour, texture and the desire for a purposeful way of working. The process and results of natural dyeing have been a revelation to me. I wrote a book several years ago called Exploring Colour in Knitting, (Collins and Brown 2011). I would love to be able to go back and wtite an additional chapter on natural dyes! The book describes how colours relate to each other and how to manage different aspects of your colour in your knitting, given that the colours we want to use are largely dictated by those that the manufacturers select for us.

How often have we pored over a shade card and not been able to find the right shade of blue/red/green etc?. Natural dues do not necessarlly hold all the answers - there are some who would find the levels of unpredictability quite problematic, but they can help to satisfy several other issues. To start with, they are a world away from the uniformity of chemical dyes, offering a wealth of variation. They mature with age, developing a kind of patina of their own. You can take part in the process and dye you own yarn. Natural dyeing has a low carbon footprint and encourages a slower, more thoughtful way of working.

And then there are the colours......yellows, so acidic, they make your mouth water,

deep and complex purples that conjure up sloes and damsons, rich paprika reds,

dark, indigo blues that will fade and age like your favourite pair of jeans, tranquil teals and greens and the calm of those neutrals that are difficult to pinpoint, but you know you will never tire of.

I am so pleased that this year's Wovember campaign has celebrated the small producer. In 1973, an important collection of essays was published by British economist, E.F Schumacher. It was called Small is Beautiful: A study of economics as if people mattered. Schumacher's central philosophy was one of 'enoughness'. He believed that production should always be about appropriateness of scale, 'obtaining the maximum amount of well being with the minimum amount of consumption'. Like Schumacher, Emma has had direct experience of village based economics. Those same principles of small scale production are intrinsic to the Woolshed - it's not fast and furious, it is slow, (it takes nearly two and a half from a lamb being born to a ball of yarn being ready to work with), it respects the hand made and promotes a slower, more reflective response from the knitter.

My Colour Block cabled Hat kit is now available as part of the Slow Comfort collection. I wanted to design something that would be cosy in the country and chic in the city, so that everyone can experience the benefits of pure wool. The kit uses naturally dyed yarn from In The Woolshed and come in three different colourways - Grellow, Denim and Madder. Let's keep wearing wool!

Slow comfort


Slow Comfort is the title of a new series of patterns, kits and blog posts designed to enthuse and sustain you through the winter months. My inspiration has been drawn from a variety of sources including promoting the British wool industry, locally sourced yarns, natural dyeing and an increasing interest in slower fashion. The collection will build slowly over the weeks of winter so that there is always something new to inspire us and chase away the gloom!

I love cold, frosty mornings but dislike the shorter days and grey skies of winter. I think it must be a light thing. However, this year I am taking up the challenge offered by @silverpebble2 over on Instagram. I first started following the jeweller Emma Mitchell, (aka silverpebble2) because I was drawn to the beautiful images she posts. There is a lightness of touch and attention to detail in her approach that is very calming. Last week she invited those who enjoy and those who endure winter, to share their seasonal creativity with ideas that in her words might, "cheer a grey day". Already the first week of November has passed by, but I am going to try and post images as often as I can between now and March using the #making_winter hashtag on Instagram. For those of you who would like to find out more about joining and following this theme, then here is the link.

The Prairie Poncho is the first piece in my collection and is a key accessory in this season's 70's revival. This simple design is enhanced with geometric patterning in a classic 70's teal,orange and brown palette, highlighted with navy and a neutral. The borders and neckline are defined with a simple crocheted edging. If you are new to stranded colour work or crochet, I will be adding tutorials via the blog, later in the month. I thought it would make a comforting project to work on over the next few months and so I will be hosting my first KAL over on Ravelry at the end of the month.

Earlier on in the year I worked on a design for the British Sheep Breeds issue of Let's Knit and discovered Wendy Ramsdale. This wonderful yarn is 'born, bred and made in Yorkshire'.It is a 100% wool blend of Masham fleece from the Yorkshire dales, dyed, spun and then balled all in Yorkshire. I love it that each colour is named after a town or village in Yorkshire! It is quite a heavy DK, roving style yarn, that doesn't split and handles really well. It creates soft, but well defined stitches and is great for colour work. So, when I was thinking about a suitable yarn for the project, this was a natural choice.

This kit is now available to order in time for our KAL which will launch via the Ravelry group on Saturday 28th November. The idea is that you have a project to keep you going during all that the next few months bring! The KAL will close at the end of February, ready for prize-giving! The kit includes all the yarn you will need and a printed version of the pattern, with free p&p for the month of Wovember. I hope you can join in the fun with me!

I can hardly believe that we are into the second week of Wovember already! This campaign is very close to my heart as it is all about encouraging people to wear pure wool during the month of November. I was even more excited about the fact that this year the focus of the campaign is on the small producer. I am lucky enough to live a mere half an hour away from my nearest yarn producer. I have been working closely with Emma Price over at In The Woolshed in Kenilworth for a few months now and was delighted when Louise Scollay of the Wovember campaign said that she would like to run a feature that I have written on the significance of the small producer. I will let you know when the full story is published, but in the meantime here are a few images of her glorious yarn and a hint of a limited edition kit to come!

Patchwork Throw - Kit and pattern launching 20th August 2015


I was delighted when Simply Crochet asked if they could feature my Patchwork Throw in this month’s issue. (on sale 20th August)

The design was inspired by traditional patchwork throws in which the fabric pieces appear to overlap – I am always fascinated how different textile traditions can inspire others

The yarn choice comes from the Navia brand – a relatively new company that is family run and strongly associated with the knitting
traditions of the Faroe Islands. When I first met up with Fiona Parker from The Island Wool Co , who distributes this yarn in the UK and
Ireland, we started to talk about how the yarn might also be used for crochet.
Navia Duo is one of the few pure wool yarns that I have come across that is so well suited to crochet. It provides excellent stitch definition without being stark, is lightweight, requires very little blocking and has a glorious colour palette. This has allowed me to create a traditional piece in a relevant, modern palette.

The exciting news is that the yarn for this design will be available as a kit from Thursday 20th August 2015. We will start to process orders for kits from Monday 24th August. In the meantime if you have any questions then please contact me via
I’ll be back in the office on Monday!