New Rowan Yarns coming this Autumn

Blackberries are already ripening, and whilst we are still having some sunny days, there’s already a slight hint of Autumn in the air…which means that we’re getting very excited about the launch of some lovely new Rowan yarns and pattern books!

Rowan Design Collections 2017-18

First up we will be getting Valley Tweed in. Rowan are returning to their roots with this traditional 100% wool 4ply tweed, made in Yorkshire.

You really get a feel from it from this footage of the Valley Tweed photoshoot:

It will be accompanied by a book of 7 designs by Lisa Richardson, and we think this pretty moss-stitch jacket will be particularly popular.

Valley Tweed - Braden

Braden Jacket by Lisa Richardson

Next up is Cashmere Tweed, made with extrafine merino and a luxurious 20% cashmere. Very exciting – there’ll be a collection of 7 Scandinavian and Icelandic inspired knits by Martin Storey to accompany it. Isn’t this hat and scarf combo perfect!

Rowan Cashmere Tweed Wilkie Hat

Wilkie Hat and Scarf by Martin Storey

We think these yarns and their pattern collections are going to usher in a return to what we know and love Rowan best for – wonderful quality yarns, soft and flattering colours, and superb patterns.

Lastly, Rowan have released a new pattern book for Brushed Fleece and Joyce is ordering in lots of the new colours in this versatile yarn. Brushed Fleece Knits features 8 designs from Quail Studio – classics with a contemporary twist. Brushed Fleece is a yarn which looks heavy but is actually incredibly light and warm!

Rowan Brushed Fleece Knits

Rowan Brushed Fleece Knits

The new Rowan Magazine 62 has already arrived at the shop. There are too many lovely patterns to choose from but we love this eye-catching Alpaca Merino Jacket by Lisa Richardson.

Rowan Magazine 62 - Marr

Rowan Magazine 62 – Marr

And as usual there are cables and fair-isle galore!

Rowan Magazine 62 - Fumbar, Farnley and Sykes

Rowan Magazine 62 – Fumbar, Farnley and Sykes

To order Mag 62 or to put your name down for a copy of the others, just give us a call on 01626 836203 or email customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk.

September Workshops

Our Autumn 2017 workshop schedules have now landed with most customers and they’re booking up fast!

However here are some September workshops which still have space – to book just call 01626 836203.

Professional Finishing with Claire Crompton – 15th September.
Do you have half-finished garments languishing in your knitting bag, waiting to be sewn up? Have you attempted a few garments but been disappointed by the way they ended up looking because the finishing was so tricky? This is one of our all-time best selling workshops, and for very good reasons! Claire – author of The Knitter’s Bible and many other knitting technique books – draws on her huge wealth of knowledge and experience to help you overcome any fears about finishing and get a crisp, professional look to your garments. You will learn how easy it is to sew using mattress stitch, how to block and press your pieces, shaping to make sewing up easier, picking up stitches, buttonholes and more.
£50 including home-cooked lunch and tea-time treats.

Toe-Up Socks on Circular Needles using Magic Loop with Anniken Allis – 19th September.
Many knitters prefer to knit socks from the toe-up as this makes it easier to calculate yarn usage. You can also try your socks on as you go to ensure a perfect fit! This workshop will teach you how to work a closed cast on, knit the toe, increase for the gusset, turn the heel and work the heel flap, and how to do a stretchy cast off. In addition you’ll learn how to knit socks on circular needles using the magic loop technique – which in itself is a really useful technique to learn! You can also practice knitting two socks at a time – the perfect solution to the dreaded ‘second sock syndrome’…
£50 including home-cooked lunch and tea-time treats.

 

We also have spaces left on two crochet courses with Di Stewart:

Beginner’s Crochet – afternoons – 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th September
Crochet is a fantastic skill to have under your belt – not only is it perfect for beautiful colorwork blankets, modern garments and accessories, it can also be combined with knitting – for example for adding borders, joining pieces, or adding motifs. Di’s 4 week course will get you started with the techniques you need to know to tackle most crochet patterns.
£50 for the 4 week course.

 

There’s also set of more advanced crochet workshops with Di due to popular demand!
Beyond The Basics of Crochet – afternoons – 5th, 12, 26 October and 2nd November
In these Di will teach you more complex crochet stitches and how to create a crochet garment. You might have taken Di’s beginner workshop, but you don’t have to have – if you’ve learned basic crochet in the past and are ready to take your skills to the next level, this is for you.
£50 for the 4 week course.

Lastly we know there are many of our customers who work full time or look after family during the week and so we are thrilled to announce that up and coming local designer Heather Firby will be running Saturday workshops at Spin A Yarn this autumn.
We have spaces left on:

Learn to Knit in the Round / Magic Loop – morning – Saturday 12th August
Learn the magical Magic Loop technique and never sew up a seam again! We get so many requests from customers wanting to master the Magic Loop technique, it is SO useful. You will learn how to knit in the round to make a hat or cowl with no seams, plus how you would use the techniques to make a whole garment with no seams. You will also be shown how to translate straight knitting patterns to be knitted in the round.
£30 including tea-time treats

Basic Crochet Techniques – morning – 12th August
Here you will learn a variety of different crochet stitches and some of the many ways in which you can use them. You’ll learn how to read crochet patterns step by step, and there will be the opportunity to learn how to crochet amigurimi to create 3D shapes and work in the round.
£30 including tea-time treats

Garment Construction – afternoon – 9th September
You will learn all of the techniques needed to knit and construct a garment, including: shaping, picking up stitches and sewing up invisibly. You will also have the opportunity to learn how to edit parts of a pattern to change the fit or style.
£30 including tea-time treats

There are still places on other workshops – we’ve only listed the September ones here – don’t forget you can always check our website at www.spinayarndevon.co.uk/workshops to check availability and as ever, call 01626 836203 to book.

 

 

Introducing…Sirdar Colourwheel

Sirdar Colourwheel

If you pass our shop window your eye might well be caught by our new yarn, Sirdar Colourwheel. This yarn is fantastic value at £11.00 for approx 520m per ball, which includes this free lacy scarf pattern printed on the ball band!

We can also provide the free pattern which is photographed on the ball band, for a pretty lacy shawlette – just ask when buying:

Sirdar have published a lovely collection of one-ball patterns for this yarn, including many in crochet – a real treat for our crochet fans who don’t usually have such a big choice! The yarn is a very practical 80% acrylic/20% wool blend and thanks to the gorgeous colourways will be absolutely perfect for kids knits and blankets as it is machine washable.

How pretty do the different shades look knitted up?

Sirdar COLOURWHEEL Shades

To buy this yarn just pop into the shop, give us a call on 01626 836203 or to read more online go here: Sirdar Colourwheel.

Free Patterns with Yarn!

Did you know here at Spin A Yarn we have a wide range of patterns that you can receive free when you buy the yarn? We’ve added a small selection here (Free Patterns with Yarn) but will add more in time, and have many more in the shop.

Just mention the name of which pattern you’re interested in when you use our ‘Enquire to Buy’ form and we can either send it to you as a PDF or print it out to send with your yarn.

Free Patterns

Bigbury Bay Cardigan Pattern – Exclusive to Spin A Yarn!

Bigbury Bay Cardi Pattern

We have a lovely new pattern to share with you today. After designing the Trendlebere Jumper for us, we asked Heather to come up with a cardi design that was classic and versatile. She came up with Bigbury Bay – a cardigan with a timeless look which can be knitted in bold contrasting colours for a contemporary look, or all in one colour for a more subtle effect. You can use any DK yarn to knit it – although it works beautifully in Adriafil Sierra Andina alpaca – you can feel how soft the sample garment is when you next pop into the shop! The pattern also features two different lengths as we know some of our customers prefer slightly shorter or longer cardis.

You can buy a copy of Bigbury Bay in the shop for £3.00, enquire to order it though our website here or it’s available to buy on Ravelry.com here. If you knit it we’d love to see your photos – either share them on Facebook or Instagram (@spinayarnshop).

You can also follow Heather’s exciting design work at her Facebook page: Woolly Minded Knitwear.

Tunisian Crochet – the best of both worlds!

We’re often asked…what exactly is Tunisian crochet?

Well, the short answer is that it is a craft that combines the best of knitting and crochet – you use a hook like crochet, but it’s as long as a knitting needle, and you keep a whole row of stitches on the hook, like knitting. You can achieve many different stitches and effects, and even combine it with regular crochet. It produces quite a dense and textured fabric, which is great for making warm and cozy cowls and mitts, or even fabric for bags, purses and cushions.

tunisian-hook

Why “Tunisian”? Well, the name is a bit misleading! It’s also been called over the years: Afghan Crochet, Shepherd’s Knitting, German Work, Railway Knitting (named after the girls on the trains going to work in English factories in the 1800s), Russian Work, Tricot Work, and many more. Some believe that the technique evolved from the ‘hook knitting’ of Egypt, Afghanistan, and Tunisia, which uses two long needles with hooked ends. We might guess from the terms ‘Afghan’ and ‘Tunisian’ that it originated in the Near East or northern Africa, but there’s not a lot of evidence to substantiate that. In fact, most believe that the term ‘Tunisian crochet’ was coined by the French. By the early 1800s directions for Tunisian stitches began appearing in publications for crocheters. It was used at the time primarily for blankets, as the dense stitches Tunisian lends itself so well to are ideal for creating warm layers. By the mid-19th century it was practiced in Western Europe and the British Isles (where, some claim, it was known as “Royal Princess Knitting” in honor of Victoria’s use of it). (Thanks to Crochetvolution blog for this fascinating info!).

If you fancy learning being part of the great resurgence of interest in this wonderful craft, our lovely crochet teacher Di Stewart is running a workshop on Wednesday 2nd November. There are still some place available so get in touch to book! 01626 836203.

The workshop will teach you the basic stitches and techniques, working towards making a pair of unique Tunisian handwarmers (see below)

p18-tunisian-gloves

Once you’ve mastered the skills, the world is your oyster – here is just a small selection of the type of things you can make using Tunisian Crochet (images from Ravelry.com)

learntunisiancrochet

 

Learn a New Skill this Autumn

The leaves are turning colour, the days are getting shorter…what better way to prepare for winter than learning a few new skills with renowned designer and teacher Anniken Allis at one of our workshops?

anniken-workshop

Firstly on Tuesday 11th October we have Easy Lace Knitting.

A quick glance at the latest designs in the knitting magazines and online shows that Lace Knitting is more than just a skill – it’s an art form! Whilst it may look complicated, most lace patterns are made up of a handful of stitches which you probably already know. It’s not just for fancy shawls either – you can use lace to add a pretty border on some mitts, as a panel on a summery top, or even on socks and hats!

The workshop will teach you how to read the charts (which provide a visual aid to the written instructions), how to work the stitches and decreases required for lace knitting, how to add beads with a crochet hook, and how to shape within a lace pattern. It’s suitable for adventurous novice and intermediate knitters.

lace-knitting

Next up we have an exciting workshop teaching you how to knit Two Socks at a Time, on Tuesday 15th November.

Why would I want to do that, you might ask? Well, did you know that Second Sock Syndrome is rife among sock knitters? The joy of finishing the first sock is replaced by the weary feeling of having to repeat the whole process again. As a result, single socks linger sadly in the knitting bags of many a sock knitter! Beat it by learning how to knit two socks at a time, top-down, using circular needles. You can either use magic loop method or the two circulars method, whichever you are most comfortable with. We stock a dazzling array of sock yarns in the shop – from self striping, colour-shifting, to self-patterning!

Learn how to cast on and arrange your stitches onto the needles, how to work the heel flap, heel turn, and gusset, and all the other skills needed to knit a pair of socks in one go. (Please note, this workshop is suitable for adventurous and intermediate knitters who have knitted at least one pair of basic socks from the top down.)

socks

Both workshops cost £49 for the day, which includes Joyce’s delicious home-cooked lunch and teatime treats. For more information and to book please call 01626 836203, or email us at customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk

A little information about Anniken Allis…one of our most long standing teachers at Spin A Yarn, top knitwear designer Anniken specialises in lace knitting, which she loves to add beads to. Growing up in Norway, she learned to knit before she left primary school, knitting continental style. When she moved back to the UK, she resumed knitting, found a love for blogging (follow her adventures at Annis Knitting Blog), and started writing up her own patterns (we still have some of her earliest patterns here in the shop!).

Anniken taught herself lace knitting (and cables) by using online videos, books and magazines, and quickly realised that it was much easier to knit from charts. Her patterns are regularly published in national magazines such as Debbie Bliss, Knitscene, Interweave Knits, and she even achieved her goal of having a pattern published in Vogue Knitting!

vogue-knitting-anniken-cover

Teacher Focus – Alison Crowther Smith

Alison is well known and loved by many of our customers, but for those new to her designs and workshops, we thought we’d share some information about her inspirations, design process and some of her latest workshops.

Alison Crowther Smith

Having previously worked for Rowan Yarns as a Design Consultant, Joyce met Alison through the Rowan Rep at the time back in 2008. A passionate and committed knitting teacher, she has taught regular workshops at Spin A Yarn, with her wonderful moebius cowl workshops often selling out within days!

(What’s a moebius cowl you ask? It uses a specially adapted cast-on to knit a continuous loop cowl with one half twist – which sits beautifully and shows off both sides of the knitting.)

moebius-cowl

Her knitting focuses on detailed, often delicate designs with the emphasis on accessories and the occasional foray into home-ware knitting such as cushion covers and wonderfully snuggly throws.

_msc9726

She is perhaps best known for a career-long love affair with one of our favourite yarns, Rowan’s best selling Kidsilk Haze, along with beads – exploring texture, subtle colour-ways and elegant knits.

When asked about her design process she said

“I am a very literal designer. When I see pleasing images, especially shapes, my mind instantly begins to try and recreate something of that imagery, in a knitted design. Once I know what I want to knit, I work backwards and layer the design elements into it. My focus tends to be on detailed features, such as a tailored cuff or a decorative texture, which I hope add elegance and a sense of the ‘whole’, as well as being really pleasing to knit.

Because I break my design process down into these layers, often the overall impression may be of an intricate, even difficult knit; but in fact, if I have a trade-mark I think it would be that each element of my designs is not very difficult to knit, but added together, they look as if they were. One of my aims is to make you, the knitter, feel amazing. 

I also like fairly small or medium-sized projects, because I am a big fan of completing my knitting within a reasonable timescale, or at least within my tolerance for boredom, which is fairly generous – but not boundless.”

Alison lives and works in Somerset where she draws inspiration from the local landscapes, saying “this large and beautiful county is full of vivid contrasts and atmospheric landscapes”.

We are featuring several new workshops from Alison in our Autumn Programme this year. More Moebius Designs is already fully booked, but here are two which you still have time to secure a place on!

Rise Scarf – Thursday 3rd November 2016 – £49 including home-cooked lunch and teatime treats.

Rise Scarf

Rise is a mirror image scarf – almost. On one side, the silver thread dominates, whilst on the other side, soft green woolen yarn eclipses the frost. Each year I am amazed by the sturdiness of snow-drops as they push through the crusted snow or frosted earth, granular from the repeated freeze and thaw. That is what I saw when I designed this scarf.

spring-1166564_640

This slender tubular scarf is knitted in the round – on DPNs, by magic loop method, or on two short circulars – whichever method you are more comfortable with! You will need 2-3 balls of DK yarn, plus 1-2 balls of Kidsilk Haze, and 3.75mm plus 4mm needles suitable for knitting in the round – and one stitch marker. Don’t forget you get a 10% discount voucher (15% off for Loyalty Card holders) on the day if you prefer to choose when you get here.

Owl Mitts – Friday 11th November 2016 – £49 including home-cooked lunch and teatime treats.

Owl Mitts

Who can resist these sweet tiny owls adorning the wrist of these cute mitts? They are quick, economical, and a great Christmas gift too, particularly for any bird-lovers or teens (owls are still very trendy!). The owls are formed using cable techniques – you’ll be amazed to see them forming up before your eyes. The course is suitable for knitters who are reasonably experienced but if you cannot already knit in the round, Alison will teach you to do this on DPNs so please bring some.

You will need 2 balls of DK yarn with a high wool content, plus 3mm needles to knit in the round. Also 3 stitch markers, a cable needle, 20 beads (size 5 or 6), or 20 tiny buttons (we stock some!). If you are a very tight knitter please also consider bringing 3.25mm needles. Don’t forget you get a 10% discount voucher (15% off for Loyalty Card holders) on the day if you prefer to choose when you get here.

To book just call 01626 836203 or email us with your contact details and which workshop you’re interested in on customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk and we’ll call you back. You can view all our workshops at http://www.spinayarndevon.co.uk/workshops/

We also sell Alison’s latest and VERY gorgeous pattern book, Elements, in the shop. You can read more about it here.

Smith and Jones Elements Cover

 

Spin A Yarn talks to….Lorna’s Laces

Lorna’s Laces are the newest addition to the shelves of Spin A Yarn. Joyce chose their hand-dyed Shepherd’s Sock range as she loved how their fresh, bright and contemporary range of colourways shine on their beautiful quality sock yarn.

LORNA'S LACES

We know this company is new to many of you, so we asked owner Beth a few questions – and hope you enjoy her replies!

1) How did Lorna’s Laces come about – how did you get into yarn dyeing? How many people now work with you?
Lorna’s Laces began life on a small hobby farm in California in the 1990’s. The original owner had a couple of sheep and a few angora rabbits whose wool she spun and dyed.

As time went on, she began buying commercially available yarn and dyeing it for her local market. And people loved it! Slowly but surely, the yarn became more well known and the company grew. But, her true love was designing patterns rather than dyeing yarn, so she decided to sell the company. That’s where I come in.

I worked for many years in publishing. It was a great job, but I knew there was something missing, passion. I left that job in 2000 and went on a search for it. I studied bread baking at the French Culinary School in Manhattan and worked some odd jobs here and there, but nothing was quite right.

Maybe I should back up a little here and tell you how I came to become a knitter. I don’t have the classic story of learning from my mother or grandmother. When I first started that job in publishing, I had just moved to a new city and didn’t know a single person. I worked from home, so things were very lonely. One day, I met with two of my colleagues and they were both wearing hand knit sweaters. I was intrigued. So, the next day, I went to my local yarn store and signed up for a class. I was immediately hooked. Not only did I love to knit, but I had found my community. I wasn’t lonely anymore. I was home.

Lorna's Laces owner, Beth

Lorna’s Laces owner, Beth

So, we’re back to the part of the story where I’m tying to figure out what was going to be next for me in terms of work. It is the fall of 2002. One evening I was thumbing through a knitting magazine and ran across one of those small classifieds in the back. There was a yarn company for sale and I replied to the ad. We spent the next couple of months negotiating the contract and in January of 2003, I became the owner of Lorna’s Laces.
We are not a big company, just seven of us. We all wear many hats. You likely to find me answering the phone or up to my elbows in dye. It’s all in a days work.

Lornas Laces stand

Lornas Laces stand

2) We love all the unusual colourways and their equally fun names. Where do you find the inspiration (for both!)
Colorways come from many places, but mostly from keeping my eyes open and paying attention to the world around me. Let me give you a couple of examples.

– One Fall evening I was walking home and noticed a big terra cotta pot of yellow and orange mums on a neighbors porch. The next morning I went into work and put dye to yarn and created Glenwood. It’s a lovely multicolor with orange and yellow for the flowers, a sage green for the leaves and brick for the pot.

Glenwood

–  Another time I was shopping for bath towels. Instead of walking in and just grabbing the color I needed, I stopped and really looked around at the way the different colors played against one another. Some of them spoke to me and a 10 minute trip turned in an hour. I moved things around, made piles and more piles, took some pictures and put everything back. That trip gave me inspiration for a few different colors.

– The last thing I want to share with you is the power of serendipity. We had a batch of a color that turned out badly. Some yellows and purples got mixed up and looked just awful. They were so bad that I didn’t even want to throw them in the millends box. I had some leftover dye from another color I was working on. I just poured them all together and tossed in the ugly yarn. Lo and behold, Lakeview was born. I had to do a little reverse engineering to figure out how to recreate it, but it was worth it. Lakeview is always one of our top 10 best selling colors.

lakeview

We really try and have fun with the names. We generally pick a scheme for the season and go around the table and everyone gets to pick a color and match it to a name that fits the scheme. We’ve done Gentleman’s Haberdashery, Favorite Chicago Landmark, Chicago Mayors, Silly Monsters….

3) What’s your favourite base yarn to dye, and how do you go about selecting unusual new yarns and fibres to add to your collection?
That’s a bit like asking “which is your favorite child”? Can I pick two? I love dyeing Shepherd Sock because it behaves very well. It’s the child who does what it is supposed to and is a bit predictable. It drinks up dye and almost always turns out the way it is supposed to. Haymarket [single ply 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool] is a bit more feisty. Colors are bolder and even though we sometimes get a surprise that extra depth of color is always worth it.

630 Bittersweet

Shepherds Sock

4) Is there a style of dyeing you most enjoy? We love your speckle and splatter shades and think they must be great fun to create!
Right now, I really enjoy dyeing SplatterShot!. I think that’s because it is new and a bit of a challenge. I have been doing the traditional multis and nearly solids for over a decade and this brings something fresh and fun to the day.

Lorna's Laces Splattershot style yarn

Lorna’s Laces Splattershot style yarn

5) For a customer new to Lorna’s Laces and wanting to try them out, what would you recommend as a great project to showcase one or two skeins of your yarn?
There are a few things that have caught my eye lately. Reyna from Noora Laivola is a lovely shawl that makes multicolors sing. Sarah Abram’s Sigrim is a great one skein project as well.
Fine Kettle by Jeanette Cross requires a third skein, but I wear mine all season long.

Fine Kettle shawl by Jennette Cross

Fine Kettle shawl by Jennette Cross

Vashti Braha’s Bare Bones Scarf is nice for crocheters. It’s so hard to narrow things down when it comes to socks. You can’t go wrong with classics like Cookie A’s Monkey Socks or Grumperina’s Jaywalker. I also like to check out Hunter Hammerstein’s offerings. Her Pelagia Noctiluca and Singularly Disenchanting are both really nice. [Note from Spin A Yarn – click on the pattern names to go and check them out on Ravelry! And if you have any trouble accessing Ravelry, we’re always happy to help you get set up.]

Jaywalker Socks

Jaywalker Socks

6) We currently stock Shepherd Sock… increasingly, many of our customers use sock yarn for knitting shawls and other accessories. What type of project do you particularly enjoy making yourself, and love seeing your yarns knitted up as?
I always have several projects going at once. Usually one that is simple that I can toss in my bag and go and another that requires a little more attention. I’ve been on a small project jag lately making lots of shawls and socks. But I’m hearing the siren song of the sweater lately. Maybe it’s because fall is right around the corner. Sweaters are substantial and there’s nothing quite having someone admire one and being able to answer “Thanks, I made it myself”.

Ripplerock Wrap

Ripplerock Wrap by Allison LoCicero – knitted in Shepherds Sock, from the latest Twist Collective pattern collection.

7) What was the inspiration behind the brand name Lorna’s Laces?
Sorry, I don’t have a good story here… The company was named by the previous owner. When I bought it, it was an established brand and I decided to leave it alone.

8) And finally, we’re great animal lovers here at Spin A Yarn. Tell us a little bit about Sam!
When I bought Lorna’s Laces, my husband and I had two Great Danes, Hank and Pearl. Isn’t if funny that I ended up working in yarn? Anyway, after we lost Pearl, we took a couple of years off. When we decided we were ready for another dog, we decided that we wanted something that would live longer than 7 or 8 years. We also talked about getting a mature dog. One that would be house trained and quiet. We even tossed around the phrase “old and fat”. Well, let me just say that plan didn’t quite work out. We went down to the animal shelter and immediately fell in love with the five month old bundle of crazy we named Sam.

lornas laces Sam

I had his DNA tested and it turns out he’s 1/2 Boxer, 1/4 German Shorthaired Pointer and 1/4 American Staffordshire Terrier. We love him to pieces and wouldn’t trade him for all the yarn in the world.

Thank you for answering our questions, Beth!

You can view the yarns on our website here or pop into the shop and ask to pet them 😉

Shilasdair Yarns – Highland Inspirations from the Isle of Skye

 

all about shilasdair

Shilasdair Yarns were one of the first unusual British brands which Joyce stocked, introducing their beautiful yarns to us back in 2011.

We’ve enjoyed following the evolution of this very special company, and thought you might like to learn a bit more about their work.

Eva dyeing in the 90s

Eva dyeing in the 90s

Eva Lambert started her textile career as a tapestry weaver in the 1970s. Inspired herself by the intense but subtle colours of the Highland landscape and by a historic legacy of Scottish natural dyeing which once utilized such locally available plants as tansy, woad, lichens and lady’s bedstraw Eva began natural dyeing by hand for her own use in weaving.

Collecting plants for dyeing

Collecting plants for dyeing

Eva bypassed the old, smelly woad recipes – which required liberal macerations (soaking) with urine – and fragile lichen and other local plant ecosystems, for cultivated natural dyes, though common and easily grown tansy remained a favourite. She had no thought beyond her weaving requirements, but knitter friends saw this subtle variation and the vibrant beauty of natural dyed yarns, and began asking her to dye for them. By the 90’s Eva was hand dyeing full time and had her own shop on the magical Isle of Skye.

Owners of other shops had meantime visited the shop on Skye and begun to ask for the yarns. The final, logical step was to upgrade the dyeing facility and dye to trade, adding weaving yarns to the range. Shilasdair uses as much local, natural dye sourcing as possible, but the inspiration for the colour range comes from the intense palette provided by another nature source – the colours of wild Scotland and the Scottish Highlands.

Yarn being wound into skeins

Yarn being wound into skeins

Natural dyeing is an art, and Shilasdair’s skill lies in evoking those colours. Besides what they can glean locally, they build their palette with the tried and tested natural dye sources – indigo, madder, logwood, lac and cochineal. Shilasdair uses as much local, natural dye sourcing as possible, but the inspiration for the colour range comes from the intense palette provided by another nature source – the colours of wild Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. You can view their spectacular range of colours next to their inspirations on their website here: Shilasdair’s Colour Palette

A rainbow of Shilasdair

A rainbow of Shilasdair

Meanwhile Eva’s story took on its own impetus as she appeared several times on UK television programmes, lectured in UK and United States, and undertook historical dye commissions for public exhibitions such as that of the Great Bed of Ware coverlet in the Millenium Exhibition, Victoria and Albert museum.

Great Bed of Ware

Great Bed of Ware – Eva served as the natural dyer to the Scottish Firm of Angus Weavers commissioned to reproduce the linens and bed hangings of this historical bed.

Nowadays the principle remains the same, for natural dyes are still extracted by hand as can be seen in the tansy pics below, but now they are pumped through to yarns waiting in steam heated dye cabinets, allowing for 20 kg instead of 2 kg to be dyed at once. Compared to industrial scale production, this is still a small, hands-on, creative dye method. Colours can be changed and modified and subtle new colours produced when required – here at Spin A Yarn, we look forward to seeing the subtle changes in colour season to season with each new batch of yarn. Most importantly, the characteristic intense and beautiful variation is the same as it was in the 1970’s.

Using tansy for dyeing the yarn a beautiful sunshine yellow

Using tansy for dyeing the yarn a beautiful sunshine yellow

Shilasdair dye a range of different fibers, but Joyce chose their Luxury DK and 4ply for her customers –  a typically luxurious blend of 10% cashmere, 10% baby camel, 40% angora and 40% fine merino lambswool, which gets softer and softer the longer it is worn and has a lovely gentle ‘halo’. The colour is beautifully semi-solid, giving a gently variegated effect often only found in other high-end hand-dyed yarns such as malabrigo and madelinetosh. A quick look on Ravelry brings up some beautiful patterns knitted in Shilasdair – Manu by Kate Davies is one of our favourites (Jane from the shop has knitted it!) – you can find many more ideas here – or click on the pattern names below the images below to go directly to the patterns.

 

big star

Big Star by Julia Billings

windswept rav

Windswept by tincanknits

manu ravManu by Kate Davies

We’ve just had a fresh delivery of these gorgeous yarns in the shop, so do pop in and have a look, or view them online here. We’d also love to see any projects you’ve knitted using Shilasdair yarn – just share your photo on our Facebook page or email it to us at customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk and we’ll add it to our gallery.

Shilasdair Luxury DK

Shilasdair Luxury DK

With thanks to Shilasdair Yarns for their beautiful and informative website.