An exciting collaboration

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I’ve been dropping hints about a trip away that I’ve had this week.  Well, I can now reveal where I’ve been and why.  A drive of 3 1/2 hours found us deep in the Spey Valley here:


Knockando Mill – dating back to 1784 when it was known as the Wauk Mill, and recently renovated to a very high standard and the mill is once again in working order.  Besides blankets, scarves and other woven goods, Knockando recently added yarn to their list of products, carded and spun on some of the oldest machinery in use in the UK.

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The fibre they are using is from a Norwegian breed called the Dala sheep.  This yarn is available from their shop, both online and on site, in a variety of natural shades:


And my reason for visiting the Mill?  Well, they have very kindly asked me to dye some of their yarn for them which will be exclusive to Knockando Mill.  As you can imagine I was thrilled to be asked, and Moira and Emma (from the Mill) and I spent most of Monday talking about colours, techniques, and styles before they gave us an in-depth tour of the Mill.  It really is such a lovely place, and we were blessed with great weather which made photographing the Mill and the surrounding area a dream, and resulted in me having a head full of colours and ideas.

We were lucky enough to get to see parts of the mill that others never see, and parts of the mill that even Moira and Emma were a little surprised to find.  And colour was everywhere!

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So as you can imagine, my head is now buzzing with ideas, but now the hard work really begins – putting my ideas down onto the yarn in a way that will be pleasing to myself, Knockando Mill, and potential customers.  It will be a while before the hand dyed range appears in the Knockando shop, but hopefully by the Highland Wool Festival in May we will have some for you to see.

If you do manage to visit Knockando, make sure you have something to eat in the cafe while you’re there.  I had the hot smoked salmon pate, and it was absolutely delicious.   And if you have a partner grumbling about having to look at wool related things – well Cardhu Distillery is just up the hill from the mill – you can send them off for a visit while you enjoy the peace and quiet of the mill and its surroundings.  What I loved about how they are operating is that nothing goes to waste.  Moira was explaining to me that very little goes to the Shoddy Man.   Every scrap that can be used is used, be it from key rings to bunting to craft kits made up to inspire folk to have a go at working with yarn, textiles and fibre, and the proceeds from which all get put back into the running of the mill and the employment of staff.

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There were none left while I was there otherwise one would have come home with me, but they had some great rug kits using up the ends of bolts of tweed fabric – genius!  You can just spot them behind the basket at the front of the table:


I look forward to this collaboration, and I wanted to say a huge thank you to Emma and Moira for looking after us so well earlier this week.  Hopefully it won’t be too long before I am able to make a return visit.


Knitting – some of which may be purple

I have been busy knitting for some newcomers to the family.   First, a little dress.  I came across the pattern for this dress in Darlington when I was visiting A Fine Yarn for the trunk show.  The pattern pamphlet is great value, and has a range of both patterns and sizes, ranging from newborn to 6 years old.  Chris has a huge number of patterns for you to browse through in the shop, but this one really caught my eye.  I think it called to the hippy in me!  And although the pattern calls for double knitting, I decided to make it in my sport weight, and this will soon be winging its way across to Australia for little Felicity, who was born just before I arrived in Australia last year.  Australia is entering its autumn/winter season now, so hopefully this dress will come in useful.  It is knitted in Ripples Crafts Sport Weight and the colours I used were Syringa and Wild Violets.  I did the 6-9 month size, and I only needed one hank of each for this dress.  As usual, with purple, I struggled to get the correct shade in the pictures, but this is pretty close:


The eagle eyed among you will notice that there is a needle in the top …. this is because while I was in Darlington I didn’t think to buy buttons for this!  So I’ll have to do a button search before this gets into the post to Australia.

Then, we have a new family member who hasn’t quite arrived yet!  She is due to be born within the next few weeks, and I thought that this little Ravi Jnr would do for her for when winter comes in a few months time.  She will be living in New Orleans, and it never gets very cold there, but it is all relative, and this may just keep off any chills.  Again it is knitted in sport weight using the Damson colourway, and took under 200g.  I love this pattern, and still intend knitting an adult size version of it …. one day!


And then I have made my version of the lovely Lexie, designed by Woolly Wormhead.  The pattern isn’t quite ready for release yet, but it will be soon.  The hat knitted up so quickly, really just over a few hours.  And while Woolly put two buttons on her version, I opted for one large wooden button which I bought from The Border Tart when we were alongside each other at the Knit and Stitch show in Rheged recently.  Lindsay, who is The Border Tart, will also be exhibiting at the Highland Wool Festival in May, so I’m hoping she brings more buttons with her.   The colour I used for my version of the hat is Winter Beech Leaves.


While photographing the hat I realised you could also add a jaunty fold in the moss stitch section of the hat which, to me, gives it a 1920′s feel:


A lovely, well written pattern, WoollyWormhead – thank you!

And finally ….. I’m having a Sudden Sunday Sale today, with 10% off all the Na Dannsairean 4ply in the shop. No code needed – it is already reduced.  For today only though, so be quick!  Please note that as I have to be away for a couple of days, any orders placed between now and Tuesday evening will only be posted out on Wednesday morning of this coming week.

And the winner is …………

Nameless Hat Five


I’m sorry it has been so long since Woolly Wormhead and I asked you to come up with a name for her hat which she has designed in Ripples Crafts Warm Hearted Aran yarn.  It has been a busy few weeks, and there were a couple of small delays on the finalising of the pattern, so we decided to hold off until closer to the pattern release time.

There were some wonderful suggestions!  We had to check that the names were not already being used by Woolly for another of her designs, and we also wanted a name that had not been used too often on Ravelry for other patterns.   So I sifted through all the suggestions which you made and drew up a short list of five or six names for Woolly to look at and from which she could make her choice of name.

And the winner is ……….. drumroll please

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Woolly selected the name “Lexie” as she likes short names for her designs, and she also liked the close connection of the name to me and to where we live.  There are no other patterns on Ravelry (that I could find!) with that spelling of Lexie, and so that suggestion became the winner.

Joanne as soon as the pattern is ready I’ll arrange for you to receive a copy, and in the mean time I’ll email you regarding your choice of colour for the yarn which I’ll post out to you.

Thank you, again, to everyone who took part.

The first quarter of The Post Office Run

3 months have passed and 3 parcels of The Post Office Run Club Yarn has been sent to knitterly homes around the world.  So I thought I’d do a round up of the scenes and photographs which inspired the monthly colourways, as I did when I devised The Orkney Collection which is still available.

February was the first month of the club, and in some ways it was easy as there wasn’t a lot of colour about.  We are still well in the middle of winter in February in this part of Scotland, and most of the flora is dormant.  But there were two images which stood out and which formed the basis for the February colourway.  The first was a photo Stevan took of the Church door in Lochinver:


But the second was perhaps the more important one – Lichen growing on birch trees:

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During February I took a lots of photographs to act as inspiration for the March colourway.  I couldn’t ignore the phenomenon which I highlighted in this blog entry, and so I tried to achieve the pinky/purply/reddish/brown that is found during late winter and early spring in the Highlands on the birch trees:

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I was really pleased with the colours of March’s yarn, and it went down well with club members.

Then came April!  In the run up to the dyeing session for the April yarn we had day after day after day of stormy, dark, rainy weather.  There seemed to be very little colour around to inspire me, so I went with the flow and opted to represent the black, stormy skies which seemed to be prevailing:

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So …… if you like how I’ve interpreted the scenes which I pass on my way to Lochinver Post Office a few times a week, and you’ve been looking to join a yarn club, then please consider joining the Ripples Crafts Post Office Run Yarn Club.  You can join for 3 or 6 months and you will find all the details here.   You can opt for either the Reliable Sock Yarn base or a High Twist 100% Bluefaced Leicester base.

Finally, can I say a big thank you to all of you who came to the Trunk Show at A Fine Yarn in Darlington and to the Kntting and Stitching show at Rheged Centre near Penrith.  It was lovely to see faces that were familiar, as well as new faces.  And a very special thank you to Chris at A Fine Yarn for hosting the trunk show.  You looked after Lizzi and I so very well, and it was lovely to see Libby and Roles too.  To Marianne who allowed me to use her driveway – thank you!

And another special thank you to Lizzi and Dorothy for helping with the two events.  As ever you were the two glamorous assistants!  Dorothy was wearing her version of Catkin on Sunday at Rheged, but unfortunately it was hidden a bit under her pinnie, but here is the link to her Raverly project page for those of you who use Ravelry.    It was lovely, and really suited her.  As usual, we were so busy I didn’t get any good photographs.  Thank you ladies.  I look forward to the team being reunited at the Highland Wool Festival in May.



All set!

The Wool-mobile has been collected from Inverness:


and is packed with barely room for my suitcase:


Tomorrow will find me heading south down the A9 to pick up my friend Lizzi, before heading further south to Darlington to prepare for the Trunk Show at A Fine Yarn on Skinnergate in Darlington on Friday and Saturday.  Then we’ll be packing the van with what we have left and heading across the Pennines to the Rheged Centre near Penrith, where Dorothy will meet us, and we’ll be ready to open for business at the Knit and Stitch show at Rheged by 10.00am on Sunday morning.

Do you think I have packed enough yarn?:


There are packs of Shetland, Orkney Collection packs, along with all the normal yarns, and a few colour surprises too.  Those of you who have put in special requests – I think I have it all packed in too.  So do try and come to either (or both) events.  It will be lovely to see you.

Stevan is becoming a wool widow for the week while I’m away, so he will be keeping an eye on the shop while I’m gone, but orders won’t be posted, or in the case of pre-orders, dyed, until I’m back next week.  The yarn clubs remain open for membership all the time I’m away.  The April club yarn packages went to the Post Office yesterday, so they should be hitting doorsteps in the UK soon.

I haven’t forgotten about the “name that hat” competition.  The winner will be selected and announced on my return next week.

Assynt Walks

Lexie’s long term paw problems have meant that we’ve had to explore areas of Assynt that offer easier walking, and in many ways this has been a really good thing.  We’ve finally got around to exploring bits we’ve been meaning to explore ever since we moved here permanently 6 years ago!

There is a fantastic network of paths which I’ve mentioned before called the All Abilities Path Network in Little Assynt, but close to that path network there is another circuit which, while not really suitable for wheelchairs, does have an excellent path surface and is easy walking, especially if you have sore paws, called Loch an t-Sabhail.  It is a circular route of approximately 4.5km, and takes about an hour and a half to walk.


Although there are some inclines (and some are quite steep) the walking is pretty easy.  The path takes you through young, small woodland areas and across open plains



And although you are really not far from the main road at all at any time, it feels like you’re a million miles away:


And all of the time your views are overseen either by the iconic Suilven, as in the second photograph, or the magnificent Quinag, a mountain which absolutely dominates the landscape, and which once overlooked a village, now sadly cleared:


Imagine waking up to that view every morning.  As you drop down from the village to Loch an Ruighean, your eyes are once again drawn to the series of peaks which make up Quinag:


And there is plenty to look out for along the way.  We saw quite a few of these last week:


Fortunately, for a change, Peggy did not try to kiss it – and believe me, she has tried in the past.  And right at the end of our walk, I was rewarded with a glimpse of my first primrose of the year:


Just a reminder that I will be heading to England this week, firstly to Darlington where I will have a trunk show at A Fine Yarn, the lovely shop on Skinnergate, on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th April.  Then on Sunday you’ll find me at the Rheged Centre near Penrith for the Knit and Stitch show being held there on Sunday 6th April from 10 until 4.  The shop will be pretty empty while I’m away, but I promise to restock it as soon as I’m back – assuming I bring anything back with me of course!



March can sometimes feel like it is Monochrome Month in the Highlands.  Colour hasn’t returned to the hills yet, and they still look grey and brown.  Photographs taken during March sometimes reinforce that sense of monochrome-ness:



Skies tend to be leaden and the sea grey:


and even the splashes of green on the hills have to work hard to draw your eyes away from the dark skies:


And then out of the blue March can surprise you:


and if you look closely you can see the promise of spring:



We have had snow flurries here in Assynt this morning, so winter hasn’t quite finished with us yet.

Scribblings ….

It was my brother in law’s birthday today – Russell is, ummmmm, older than me!  And my sister sent through some photo’s taken of him on the day.  I think this one was the most flattering:

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I’ve been working on Ravi Junior (designed by Carol Feller) for another great niece expected in April.


I’ve chosen to do it in the deep, rich Damson shade and the pattern calls for my much loved sport weight of yarn.  I was knitting this in the dye shed while the dye pots were bubbling, and I realised why I was so grateful for patterns being available as pdf’s rather than only in book format.  I scribble all over my patterns!


Surely I am not the only person who does this?  I did try keeping a notebook with all the notes about patterns in it, but I just kept losing the notebook.  How do you notate your patterns when keeping track of rows?  I’ve never got the hang of row counters, and so I find crossing off numbers far more reliable.

On to shop news – the Bluefaced Leicester Surprise! Surprise! packages went down so well I decided to do some in the 100% Shetland 4ply.  They are up in the shop now, along with all the details regarding choices in colour palette.


Surprise! Surprise!

If you’re old enough you’ll remember the days of Our Cilla hosting Surprise Surprise on ITV.   Well the surprises won’t be quite as overwhelming as the ones Cilla used to spring on folk, but hopefully the surprise you get if you order one of my Surprise! Surprise! packages will be a good one.


It’ll come wrapped up in a purple bag rather than a brown paper package, but there are a limited number available, so order soon.  Each bag contains 3 100g hanks of 100% Bluefaced Leicester 4ply yarn.  There may be 3 different colours in a bag, or they may all be the same colour – it’ll be a surprise (getting the idea now?).  The packages offer a 20% reduction over the full price of the yarn in the shop,  so as well as a surprise it is also a bargain.

Please note that the next time I am able to get to the Post Office is Tuesday this week, so any orders placed today or tomorrow will be posted on Tuesday morning.

Also, keep your suggestions coming for Woolly Wormhead’s new, but as yet unnamed, pattern.  Just post a comment on this blog entry.  You have until the 24th March to make a suggestion.  There have already been some great suggestions, but keep them coming.

Name That Hat!

Nameless Hat Five

Photograph courtesy and copyright of Woolly Wormhead

Not very long along ago I was talking to Woolly Wormhead on Twitter, and we got chatting about yarn.  And (to cut a long story short) I sent her some of the Warm Hearted Aran which had only just come in and joined the Ripples Crafts family of yarn bases.  Then, after one very long and trying day over on the east coast for yet another visit to the vet with Lexie, I came home to a message from Woolly Wormhead to say that she had finished  a hat design  using the yarn.  It was such a lovely surprise, and I was delighted at the finished hat.  Elegant, stylish, but also understated.

Nameless Hat Two

Photograph courtesy and copyright of Woolly Wormhead

The colour which was used for the hat in the photographs was Assynt Moon – a silvery grey shade.  The hat is currently being tech edited, and Woolly hopes to have it ready for release some time in April.  The only problem remaining is that the hat needs a name.  So can you Name That Hat?  If you can think of an imaginative name to give this beautifully detailed hat, leave a comment here.  Between us, Woolly and I will choose our favourite suggestion, and the person whose name is chosen will receive both the pattern and a hank of yarn with which to make the hat for themselves.

So get thinking!  We want something original, fun and stylish – not a lot to ask really!

Nameless Hat Four

Photograph courtesy and copyright of Woolly Wormhead

You have until the 24th March to send in your suggestions.  Just leave a comment at the end of this blog entry to have your suggestion entered into the naming pot.  Good luck!

Oh, and when you’ve finished thinking of a name, make sure you visit Woolly Wormhead’s pattern page to see all her other beautiful designs, and make sure the name you’ve thought of hasn’t already been used.  She always manages to come up with a design which is timeless and stylish, but which is unmistakably a Woolly Wormhead design.