Woolfest 2015

I can hardly believe that Woolfest is over for another year. Wednesday last week found Stevan, myself, and the two dogs, driving south to the small village of Brigham just outside Cockermouth, to our small home for a few days.  It couldn’t have been more handy for the Mart where Woolfest is held – just a couple of miles up the road.

Thursday morning was free time, so we headed over to Bassenthwaite Lake to do a bit of walking.  It was overcast and grey, but the woodland walk which runs alongside the lake is very pretty.

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After lunch and fruit shopping in Keswick, it was on to the Mart at Cockermouth for the great unpacking and setting up.  I am always amazed at how long it takes me to set up the stand.  It takes about 4 hours, and even after that there is usually some frou frouing to do the following day before the doors open.

Here is the “oh good grief where did I put XYZ” stage:

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And here is the “I’m too tired to decide how to display the samples” stage:

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And here is the “I’ve had enough! Get me home and get me fed now!” stage:

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And as usual, I forgot to take a photograph once the stand was more or less just how I wanted it.  With venues such as Woolfest, you always have to be prepared to compromise on the final “look” of your stand.  It can be frustrating, but you really do have to do your best with what you have and then let it go.

Thank you to one and all who came to say hello and to buy yarn.  And thank you to my glamorous assistants, Dorothy and Lizzi for their help and support.  And a very big thank you to Stevan for ferrying me about, doing all the driving, and for putting up with all my pre-show nerves and post-show tiredness.  It is hard to believe that this was my 7th Woolfest.   Where has the time gone?  I had a quick look back through my blog entries to my first Woolfest stand in 2009.  Quite a lot less yarn than I took this year – it is good to see how the business has grown.

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Once I’ve had a chance to unpack from Woolfest I’ll update the shop.  But in the mean time, I wanted to tell you that I have decided to discontinue the Na Dannsairean 4ply base.  The remaining stock will be put up at a reduced price, and this will be your last chance to buy it.

I have some exciting news about events in August, but more of that later this week.  For the next few days I intend to take it a bit easy.

Sunday Walks – Sea Thrift

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At this time of year the sea thrift is stunning – dotted along the cliffs you’ll find little patches of pink dancing in the light breezes.  To say that the summer, thus far, has been abysmal would be putting a gloss on how the weather has been over the past few weeks, but today it was beautifully sunny, so we grabbed advantage of it and headed off to the cliffs between Stoer and Clachtoll beaches.  And the sea thrift did not disappoint.

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It can be found in the crevices of rocks in small groups, or more abundantly, clinging to the side of the cliffs.  They can be tricky to photograph, but Stevan ventured down onto the cliffs (while I wasn’t looking!) to take the picture above.

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But they’re at their best viewed with the sea behind them in the distance.  Such a pretty plant.

The machair was looking stunning today too:

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We also passed Bob and Ann’s Bororay sheep – handsome fellow! He is posing alongside what is possibly a neolithic cairn.

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And closer to home we saw this gorgeous Bororay lamb, with its tiny horns, although I’m sure they’ll be every bit as impressive as the old men’s once he’s a bit older:

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As I’ve already mentioned, I’m off to Woolfest this week, and so the shop is now pretty empty of yarn.  Yarn Club memberships are still available, so if you are wanting to join, or renew, your membership in time to receive a parcel in July, please join soon.

 

In the Loop 4 – Glasgow 2015 (and other things)

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My only visit to Shetland was back in 2010 when I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the In the Loop Conference held in Lerwick.   As I said right at the beginning of this blog post I’d waited for many a year to hold a plane ticket which would mean I was flying to Shetland.   The Conference was excellent, and resulted in my published article about the event in the Knitter magazine.  And I loved Shetland as much as I suspected I would.

I missed the next one held in Winchester a couple of years back, but I am very excited to be going to the next one which is to be held at Glasgow Uni in August this year.  Not only do I get to go to the conference, but the organisers have very kindly invited me to take my yarns with me and to set up a stand so that during the breaks in the conference attendees can browse and buy yarns from me.  I won’t be alone – The Border Tart will be there too along with all her gorgeous indigo dyed yarns and “bits of fluff” (as I call them – others more correctly call them carded batts of fibre for spinning!).   And I’m sure there will be other independent yarnies but I have not yet seen a list of who will be there.

You can find some information about the event here, and you can download the provisional programme and also find the links to how to book for the conference.  I’m pleased to see that Annemor Sundbø will once again be presenting, along with the likes of Karie Westermann, a designer/teacher in Glasgow whose work I admire.

August is looking like it will be a busy month, and there will be more news about another happening in August, but until details are finalised I’ll have to keep you in suspense.  So watch this space!

I’m away off to Woolfest next week, so the shop will be a little empty.  So if you had your eye on anything in particular, best order it soon.  Perhaps some “Glencanisp in the Autumn”?

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I am thoroughly enjoying knitting with the Suilven base.  I am making Stay the Same by Veera Välimäki and I am using the combination of  That will be the Coal Then and Victoria Plum.

RC-115808-18062015Before I began knitting I wasn’t sure how neat the change in colour would be, as this top is knitted in the round, but it is a very clever construction resulting in relatively neat colour changes.  If I were more careful it could probably be even neater!

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Sadly I won’t have time to finish this in time for Woolfest, but I’ll have it on the stand as a “work in progress” so if you’re coming you can have a look at the fabric produced by this yarn.  Will I see you there?

 

 

Sunday Walks

What a week!  It is hard to believe that XpoNorth and Cr&FT2015 has come and gone.  The week went by in a bit of a whirlwind, and I arrived home late on Friday afternoon exhausted, but buoyed up by the experience of XpoNorth 2015.

Wednesday evening found me, along with 10 other designers from the Highlands and Islands setting up our showcase tables at The Iron Works in Inverness.  The evening was busy, loud and very tiring, especially given I was in a frock and heels!  When you work on your own all day and almost every day, in a quiet shed with perhaps just the radio for company,  it is a real shock to the system to be launched into a noisy, busy environment with 250 other people and live, loud music.  It is quite disorientating and unnerving.  But it is good to change your environment like this from time to time, if only to confirm that you’re happiest in your own environment.

We only had a small space to showcase our work, and the focus was on collaborations and collections, so I chose to showcase one of the yarns from the Yarn Notes in Assynt yarn club, a collaboration with Stevan which is being received so well by club members, and the Orkney Collection from a couple of years ago, but which is still popular among knitters.

 

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This wasn’t the final layout of the table, but I forgot to photograph it once I had finalised the layout and was happy!

Thursday was a more “normal” day for me, where we were able to set up a small stand and sell our wares.  I’m much happier doing that, and a pleasant day was had chatting to folk, and getting to know my fellow makers who had been selected for the event.  I was placed between Niella Nell and her absolutely gorgeous knitwear which she designs and makes and Melanie Muir and her stunning jewellery and it was lovely to spend time talking to them about their business and how they coped with some of the challenges of working in the Highlands and Islands.

On Friday I was able to go to the Colour/Style Trends seminar presented by Anne Ritchie, sadly for the last time as she is due to retire later this year.  As usual her information was helpful in thinking about the coming seasons and the styles and colours that are predicted to be popular.  We were looking at trends for Autumn/Winter 2016/2017, and I’m pleased to say that it is forecast that knitwear will still be a popular trend, especially large, chunky knitwear.

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So today was a day for fresh air and walking.  We headed up to a super secret location (!) to do some research for the site we will cover in the July edition of Yarn Notes from Assynt.  We were looking for a specific site, and so there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing while we searched and searched, and once we’d found the spot we had two very tired, hot terriers, so a dip in the burn was required.

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It has been a cold, wet start to the summer (the temperature went down to 4 degrees last night), but the marsh orchids are abundant this year, and were everywhere.

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It is difficult to give you scale for these orchids.  But they are really small.  The flower head is probably not much bigger than my thumb knuckle.  But so pretty.

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There were some gorgeous lichen to be seen today – I wish I were better at identifying the different lichen, but here were two that caught my eye

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A lovely walk, and we were treated to sunshine most of the time.  We even managed to get down to t-shirts at one stage!

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Next, Woolfest!  I can hardly believe it is only 11 days away!  So much to do still, but I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends old and new again, and to show my yarns to the visitors.  I will have plenty of my new yarn base, Suilven, as well as all the other bases.  Will I see you there?

Are you in Inverness on Wednesday?

Email invite

If you are able to come to this event, please note that if you have not already registered for XpoNorth online you will need to register here to enable you to attend any of the events.

XpoNorth Cr&FT 2015

I know the blog has been awfully quiet for a while, but there has been a lot going on at Ripples Crafts Towers.  A couple of weeks ago I applied to XpoNorth Cr&FT 2015, to be held in Inverness 10th – 11th June.   Applications were put to a panel to choose those who would be invited to take part.  I was very pleased to be accepted, and next Wednesday I will be taking my place alongside 10 other Highland Designers and Craftspeople.

XpoNorth is Scotland’s leading creative industries festival, and is the only festival of its kind in Scotland covering fashion and crafts, publishing, screen and broadcast as well as music.

Here is what the organisers of the event have to say:

“We are delighted to present a showcase the work of 11 of the top Highlands and Islands designer makers at XpoNorth in Inverness on the 10th & 11th June 2015.​​ 

The XpoNorth Cr&FT platform will be both a showcase and a celebration of the most talented designers & makers in craft, fashion & textiles who are currently developing successful businesses in the Highlands & Islands region. The focus of the showcase will be to promote the quality and creativity of the businesses involved and the international geographical reach of their products from their base in the area.

​The work will also be available to purchase and commission at a retail showcase on the 11th June.”

The other designers being featured are:

Paulette Brough
Eileeen Gatt
Hilary Grant
Gilly Langton
Heather McDermott
Melanie Muir
Niela Nell Kalra
Gavin Robertson
Julia Smith
Kirsteen Stewart

If you click on the links above you’ll see that those businesses being featured are varied in their crafts and skills.  It will be an interesting mix and I’m very proud to have been selected from those who applied to take part.

If you are going to be close to Inverness next week, there is so much happening over the 2 days of XpoNorth.  The programme really is extensive.  However you will need to register online before coming to any of the events, but once you’ve registered all the events are free.   You will be able to see my contribution to the event on the MG Alba Stage at The Ironworks during the Showcase Party from 6.00 to 8.00pm on the 10th June, and again on Thursday 11th June at the Old Church Hall, Academy Street, Inverness from 11.00am to 5.00pm.

So forgive me if the blog is quiet for a little longer – there is lots happening, but all behind the scenes at the moment.

However, up in the shop are two old favourite colourways, but on the new Suilven yarn base:

Heather Peat and Rock,

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and Assynt Hill Tartan

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Preparing for the Highland Wool Festival 2015

The second Highland Wool Festival takes place at Dingwall Auction Mart on Saturday 23rd May – not long to go now!  I have been working towards building up stock for this event, and I’m looking forward to showing off the new yarn base, Suilven, to those who come to the event.

It was a lovely event last year, and it was good to have Dorothy and Lizzi helping out on the stand.

The Glam Assistants - is Lizzi doing the Highland Fling?

The Glam Assistants – is Lizzi doing the Highland Fling?

I’m pleased to say they will be there again this year.   We’ve got knitting needles crossed that it will be a fine, WARM day.  Last year was a little on the nippy side.  I understand that all the vendor stalls will be in the Pens this year, rather than being split between the Auction room and the Pens as they were last year.    I know of quite a few folk who are coming, and I look forward to meeting you there.  There was a great mix of stalls last year, and you can see some of them in the photographs on the HWF website.  Pleased to say my friend, Lindsay, aka The Border Tart, will be back at Dingwall this year too.

As I mentioned, I’ll have the new yarn base, Suilven, at this event.  I’m building up the number of different colours on this base, and the latest one I have added to the website is “Sea Hare” which is a colourful slug like creature found in rock pools around Assynt’s coast.  It is a bit like a slug, but as long “hairs” on its back.  It is a bit of a chameleon beastie, as it changes colour depending on the colour of the rock or seaweed you see it on, but the one I have seen was a beautiful chestnutty orange shade, hence the name for this colour:

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I am currently using this yarn base in “Slice of Lime” to knit some socks.  And I have to admit to loving every single stitch – the yarn is lovely to work with and has great stitch definition.

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Thank you to all the newsletter subscribers who made use of the discount voucher when buying their hanks of Suilven.  This offer is now closed.  If you want to be the first to hear about special newsletter subscriber only offers, make sure your account details on the Ripples Crafts website show you wish to receive the newsletter.  If you’re not sure how to do this please get in touch with me and I’ll give you a hand.

I have also restocked the BFL/Silk 4ply shelf with Copper Beech and Assynt Peat

It may not be perfect ….

This past weekend I went and did a Basket Weaving workshop with Tim Palmer, from Inverness.  I have done a workshop with Tim in the past, and so was keen to return and do a workshop making square baskets rather than round ones which I made in the last workshop back in 2010.

The round basket I made back in 2010

The round basket I made back in 2010

The techniques used are quite different, and from a starting point of this:

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you slowly build up and up, using various different techniques (and yes, the rocks are crucial!):

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Tim had bought some of his own baskets to inspire us, and they were beautiful.  This particular one was made out of willow bark and was so delicate:

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and the colour on this basket really caught my eye

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While Tim’s baskets were inspiring, they were perhaps a little beyond some of our capabilities!  I could see the despair in Tim’s eyes each time he came to check on my progress.

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Watching Tim weave smoothly and quickly was quite hypnotic at times.  And the eagle eyed knitters among you may well recognise his sweater as Colinette – colour Peacock!!

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By the end of two days, I was rather chuffed to have a completed basket.  Not quite flat, not quite symmetrical,  and quite a bit larger than I’d planned, but hey, perfection is overrated.  And besides, it makes the perfect basket for storing our veggies.

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And I love looking at the different shades of the different willows we used.

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A good weekend’s work I think.

 

 

 

Monday Walks

I know I’ve said this before, but being self employed means that if the weather is absolutely glorious it is a crime not to take advantage of it, sneak off for a good walk, and then catch up with work when the weather isn’t too good.  And, with snow and cold weather forecast for next week, we decided to do precisely that yesterday.

We headed off to the path that leads up to the Bone Caves.  To reach the caves you have to climb to a height of about 210m, but initially the climb is a gradual one up alongside the river, the Allt nan Uamh (Burn of the Caves).  You walk alongside this beautifully clear burn and a few mini-waterfalls

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until you reach the source – a spring which comes up out of the limestone.  It is hard to imagine that just half a mile or so away there is enough water to form such refreshing waterfalls, and it all comes from here:

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Continuing up the path to the bone caves, the refreshing water disappears completely, leaving a dry, rock filled river bed which I assume only flows when there is very heavy rain or snow melt.

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Eventually the steep climb begins, and it looks innocent enough with these tiny stone steps.

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and the start of the steep incline is watched over by what looks like a rather stern lion

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From this point on you need to gather your nerves and watch where you put your feet.  While we usually allow Peggy and Lexie to roam free in the hills, there are instances when they are kept very much on the lead!  And steep drops alongside the path is one of those instances.

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This part of the walk really isn’t for the feint hearted, but if you do make it to the caves the views are rather special.

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Winding down the narrow path again, you soon find yourself back alongside the clear burn where the dogs can have a welcome drink and dip.  And with the help of one’s boss, get the accidental peat bog incident washed away.

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There is so much to spot and notice along this walk.  There are many birds (and bird watchers) to be seen and listen to, and the violets and primroses are just starting to make their appearance now, changing the somewhat brown landscape into something a bit more interesting.  And if the landscape isn’t colourful enough, then there are always the rocks to look at.

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and lichen to admire

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and there is nothing quite like a good walk (and a bit of fear!) to put things into perspective again.

Suilven – a new yarn

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Ripe Rowan Berry

I’m very happy to introduce you to a new yarn that is joining the Ripples Crafts portfolio of yarns.  I have called this yarn Suilven (pronounced “Sool-vin”) after the iconic peak that dominates parts of Assynt.

Suilven is a blend of merino, silk and yak.  You can read about Yak fire here.  The yarn comes to me in a pale grey/brown shade, which is a wonderful base colour to dye as it adds a real richness to the resulting shades.

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A Slice of Lime

 

The 20% silk content means the yarn has a lustrous sheen, but also strength.  This 4ply/fingering weight yarn also has a very distinctive twist to it – it isn’t a very tight twist, but it does give the a textured surface.

Each 100g hank gives you 366m (approx 400 yards) of yarn, and I can see it being used for a range of projects from beautifully luscious shawls to cardigans for everyday wear.

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Dragonfly

The yarn only arrived with me yesterday, so there are currently only 3 shades available in the shop, but I have plenty more for dyeing so expect to see further colours added to the range over the coming weeks.  In the meantime you’ll find this unashamedly luxurious yarn in colours Ripe Rowan Berry, A Slice of Lime and Dragonfly up in the shop.