What can I say?

 

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I’m sorry to have been neglecting my blog for so long.  What can I say other than I’ve been busy!   Next weekend finds me in Dundee visiting Fluph wool shop for a trunk show.  If you are within striking distance of Fluph please come along.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there, and visiting Dundee which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is where my Mum used to live.

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A very formal photograph!

Mum still has vivid memories of the city.  My great grandmother lived just off Perth road, and Mum remembers walking up Blackness Road, where Fluph is located, to visit her.  I hope to get a chance to take some photographs to send Mum during my visit.  I’m sure there will have been big changes since she was there, but some things may still look familiar.

Here is Mum walking 2 of her own children at Broughty Ferry – it looks FREEZING!  Here’s hoping Dundee is a little warmer next weekend:

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And here’s a taste of some of the yarn which will be going along with me to Fluph

 

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I look forward to seeing many of you next weekend.

 

 

A Bit of Shop News

I am very pleased to tell you that I am planning another Trunk Show.  It is a while since I did one, but when Leona of Fluph said she’d be willing to host me I said “YES PLEASE!”.  So on Saturday, 8th August, you will find me here:

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Fluph is in Dundee, which is another reason I’m looking forward to going as my Mum grew up in Dundee, and I have no clear memories of the place at all.  It is a city which is experiencing exciting creative developments too, such as the new V&A Museum of Design.

For those of you unfamiliar with Trunk Shows, what it means is I turn up at Fluph with quite a few boxes of my yarn, and those of you who want to see it come along and have fun looking at the yarn, and hopefully buying some.  Leona has promised there will be cake!  I have heard reports of her legendary cake, so believe me when I say this is a real incentive.

I hope to see many of you at Fluph on the 8th.  You can find the address on Leona’s website.

And perhaps to entice you to Fluph, I am also pleased to tell you that by then I hope to have a new base in stock.  I have, for some time, been wanting to offer my Reliable Sock Yarn base as a Double Knitting weight.  And it looks very likely that this will now be happening.  I hope to have a small stock arriving next week, and once it is dyed I will let you know.  Stevan suggested the name Doubly Reliable Sock Yarn, which I think may well be appropriate.  This will be ideal for a quick project, or for boot/welly socks.  The yarn will come in 150g hanks and each hank will have approximately 420m.

In the meantime, I have added a few hanks of  Assynt Storms to the Reliable Sock Yarn shelf.

Finally, I think I have forgotten to mention on the blog that the Yarn Notes from Assynt yarn club is now available on the beautiful Suilven base.  If you are a current member and wish to swap to this base, please get in touch and we can sort that out.  If you wish to join the club then you will find all the details here.  Members have really been enjoying their membership, and I can hardly believe we only have 5 more months of the club to run.

 

Glorious Weather

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I really try very hard not to complain about the weather – after all you don’t live this far north for the weather.  But I would be the first to admit that our spring and summer this year has not been the best.  Wet, cold and windy just about covers it.

But something you learn to do when you live here is to make the most of the days that are good.  And Friday was glorious.  So I downed tools and off we went for a walk.  It was partly work (we were doing a bit of research for the Yarn Notes from Assynt Yarn Club), but mostly it was purely for pleasure.  And what a pleasure.

We set off along the cliffs above Stoer Bay, remonstrating with ourselves for not doing this walk more often as not only is it a lovely walk, but the views are spectacular.  Initially the climb is gentle, and with the tide out you can see how Stoer beach is a mix of white sand and pebbles:

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The orchids are at their best at the moment, although there were none of my favourite deep purple ones.  I had to settle for the pink orchids

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We kept climbing, stopping only to look back towards Clachtoll and, with a very long lens, capture home in its beautiful setting.  It can be quite hard to spot at first, as the house  blends in so well with the rocks behind it:

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Eventually we climbed to the top of Stac Fada.  And from here it is where you get the best view of Stoer, Clachtoll, and the iconic hills of Assynt beyond – Canisp, Suilven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh.

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We’ve promised ourselves we’ll not leave it so long before we head up onto the cliffs again.

For those of you who use Twitter, I’ll be tweeting with 2 accounts this week.  My usual account, @RipplesCrafts, but also for an account called @HI_Voices, a twitter account which has different people from the Highlands and Islands tweeting each week about about their life in the Highlands and Islands.

 

 

 

My Workspace

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It is a long time since I showed you “The Shed” aka “The Workshop” aka “The Studio” (when I’m feeling posh!).  It is such a lovely sunny day today, and the shed is looking particularly neat and tidy, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to show you where all the yarn dyeing is done.

Normally, all the yarn is stored in plastic boxes as you can see to the left of this photograph, but I’ve been stock taking this week so it is all on display, waiting to be counted and then packed away again.

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All the dyeing takes place in this workspace.  And I mean ALL of it.  Visitors are often amazed that I can turn out the quantities I do in this small space, but if you work systematically and methodically it all works well.

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As many of you know we live off the mains electricity grid, and so all the dyeing is done using propane gas.  Microwaves don’t feature in my method of dyeing – ever!   Everything is steamed or, more frequently, immersion dyed (aka kettle dyed).   I’m often asked if I’ll offer lessons in the shed, but as you can see space is at a premium and not ideal for classes.  As to power for my shed (I do a lot of laptop work while I’m in the shed), I have 2 solar panels offering to charge up the battery which keeps me powered up

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I use a range of producers for my dyes as some companies offer slightly different shades which means I get a wider choice of shades to use when dyeing.  The smaller pots on the left are colours which I am either testing, or rarely use, whereas the bigger pots are for colours which I use frequently.

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And, of course, the face mask is never far away – an essential piece of equipment when mixing dye powders.

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It is the one piece of equipment with which I have a love/hate relationship.  It makes me feel terribly claustrophobic, but the alternative of breathing in fine powders doesn’t bear thinking about.  Fortunately I only wear it when mixing the dry powders – once in liquid form the dyes are safer to use, although some would recommend wearing a mask all the time when dyeing.

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My recipes are all stored in notebooks (Mr RC keeps trying to persuade me to transfer them all to digital format but there is something satisfying about writing them down as you test, and being able to scratch out, and rewrite)

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and the whiteboard is perfect for quickly scribbling ideas or recipes, later to be transcribed into the “official” recipe book.

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And while pots are bubbling away the view from the shed can act as a lovely distraction:

RC-135351-03072015From my doorway I see all of life pass by.  Buzzards being worried by Hoodies, lambs in the spring, walkers making their way for a bit of fishing at Lexie’s Loch, field mice looking for titbits to eat, stoats hiding in amongst the rocks waiting for an opportunity to steal one of the hen’s eggs, and sometimes (not often) a yorkie happy to sit in the sun while boss is working:

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I consider myself pretty fortunate to have this as my office.

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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