Woolly Originals – The Next Step

I started Woolly Originals in June 2015. Never in my sanest dreams, let alone the wild ones, did I expect the success that has materialised. After the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March, I realised that I was struggling to meet demand. I love making my Woolly bags, from machine knitting the outer fabric, to sewing the wool and linen components together, to labelling the bag with its Woolly swing-tag. I make every bag as though it was for my own use. But, in order to make my bags, I was close to making myself ill.

So, I decided in April that I needed more help. Many of you have met, either personally or through social media, Jo @angleoftheforth. She knits up some of my Woolly fabric and attends yarn festivals either with me or more recently on her own! We both love our knitting machines and I wanted us to continue to make the outer fabric. So, that left the sewing up. Could I find someone who valued the environment, who felt the importance of community, who understood that people were more important than profit? And, the answer is yes!

The Kalopsia Collective is an amazing company. Established in 2012 by British/Swedish duo, Robertson & Falk, Kalopsia began as a textiles and design organisation to challenge the way textiles were seen. Today, Kalopsia operates as a Social Enterprise in Edinburgh’s busy creative and cultural port, Leith, with the aim to batch manufacture textiles products in Britain. Waste management, micro manufacturing, ethical production, sustainability, the love of textiles, and combining innovation with tradition all play an important part in Kalopsia’s business ethos.

So, Jo and I will continue to knit up our Woolly fabric and Kalopsia will now sew this in Edinburgh into a Woolly Originals bag with a beautiful linen or cotton lining from Scottish Linen with the same Opti zips. And, with the free time that I’ll now have, I can design new patterns and make my hand-decorated larger bags.

The only remaining question is, why didn’t I do this sooner!

EShop Update

ESHOP UPDATE on Monday 16th April 2018 at 10pm (Edinburgh time). Apologies for the delay: a post-EYF cold and an injured hand have curtailed my productivity! There will be a number of bags for sale, including these two in my Scottish Wildflowers design.

Thank you, Edinburgh Yarn Festival!

Well, another Edinburgh Yarn Festival is over! And, what a festival it was! Three whole days of wonderful wool, knitters, crocheters and spinners from all over the world. It was fantastic to chat to so many people from so many nations. Thank you to everyone who popped by our stand; who bought a bag, pattern or badge; or who looked at or liked our photos on social media. And, a huge Thank You to Jo & Mica who run the Festival. They put together another amazing show! Finally, thank you to Jo (@angeloftheforth) who not only knits up the Heritage Orchard fabric for me, but also helps run my stand.

Here’s a small selection of photos of some of the lovely people we met; of my Woolly stand; and of my own purchases. I’ll be taking a short break, and then plan to update my Eshop in early April.

Iona: Wool & Art

“Warmed by the sun, blown by the wind…” are the opening words of an unfinished poem by F.C.B. Cadell, one of the four Scottish Colourists known for their bright, distinctive works. These early 20th Century Scottish artists which included S.J. Peploe, J.D. Ferguson & G.L. Hunter, though never an actual group at that time, individually visited and trained in France to continue learning their craft. Cadell returned to Scotland in 1908.

I have always admired Edinburgh-born Cadell’s work, visiting the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art whenever possible. So, when I came across the Iona Craft Shop wools at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March last year I knew that I wanted to use their very special single origin wool to interpret one of Cadell’s paintings, “Iona Sound and Ben More” as shown above. Their yarn comes in a range of natural and beautifully dyed colours, with thicknesses varying from weaving yarn to DK to Super Chunky.

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Cadell visited the Hebridean island of Iona, which lies off the southwest of Mull, almost every year from 1912 until 1933, except when he served as a private in the Royals Scots during WWI. During his annual summer trips, he would paint the land and seascapes of Iona and Mull. My first trip to Iona was during a geology field trip in the eighties. I subsequently visited with Neil, and then in 2008 with our sons and of course, Badger! It’s a very special place that I can’t wait to revisit.

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I first designed an interpretation of the background seascape and worked out the wool gauge. After machine knitting the base fabric using both the Iona DK dyed wool and natural-coloured weaving wools, I washed and blocked the material. Once dried and attached to a tapestry frame, I was able to hand embroider the bag using these same yarns to highlight specific details. Buttons were then added to depict the rocks in the painting. The clouds, handles and lining were made out of a beautiful linen fabric from Scottish Linen in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

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Once the front and a simple back had been completed, I took my sewing scissors to cut out the bag using my own template. Always an anxious moment! I then simply had to sew the various components together to make the finished article.

This shopper-sized bag will be for sale at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh in March 2018.

Bibliography

A. Strang, F.C.B.Cadell, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2011

National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish Colourists, Pomegranate, Warwick, 2008

A Working Holiday in Shetland

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Last week, Neil and I headed up to Shetland, travelling by Northlink Ferries from Aberdeen to Lerwick for a week’s working holiday. The overnight 12-hour crossing was rough as predicted though enjoyable as the cabin was comfortable, the staff were really friendly and helpful, and there was an onboard cinema! We were the only two people in there and they served Orkney Ice Cream. It was a fantastic start to our trip!

YDRBE8090Arriving on the Wednesday, the first stop was the Shetland Museum & Archives in Lerwick on the water front. The striking museum houses a permanent collection covering the local geology, the archeology, fishing industry and textile history. There’s also an amazing cafe, Hays Dock. The wool exhibits were fascinating, including an old knitting machine from the 1950s, woven textiles and fair isle garments from the 1920s. Both lunch at the Peerie Shop Cafe and then dinner at Fjara were excellent.

The following day, I drove out to Sandness in the west of mainland Shetland, to visit the Jamieson’s of Shetland mill and to collect an order of Spindrift to make my Heritage Orchard project bags. Louise kindly gave me a tour round the mill, explaining each of the various steps in producing their yarns, woven fabrics, and machine knit garments. They certainly have an interesting way to pack their dyeing vat!

As the weather was so good, I walked out to the restored Huxter watermills in the afternoon. These Norse or horizontal mills were once common in Shetland, and were used to grind oats or barley from the surrounding fields. Each mill was owned by a group or a single family. The simple design allowed a number of mills to be built along a single stretch of stream. It was such a treat to visit under windless, blues skies.

The scenery on the drive to and from Lerwick was stunning. Luckily, I came across a couple of friendly Shetland ponies who were quite happy to be photographed as they enjoyed the rare January sunshine! And, a very late lunch stop at the Bonhoga Gallery was excellent.

SLC_0176On Friday, I decided to head north to the island of Unst. This involved an early start and firstly a 40 minute drive northwards from Lerwick to Tolt, then taking a 25 minute ferry to Ulsta on the island of Yell. A 20 minute drive in convoy across Yell followed, to reach the ferry terminal of Gutcher.  After a short wait, the last 10 minute ferry took me to Belmont on the isle of Unst as the sun was rising.

Unst was fascinating even in January or maybe especially in January as I felt as though I was the only tourist visiting.  I first drove to the far north of the island, to visit the Norwich beach ophiolite.  The main photo below shows the continental zone on the left, the shear zone in the middle, and the oceanic zone on the right. The smaller photos show a selection of the exposed rocks, e.g. serpentinite, phyllite, and talc steatite.

The main reason for travelling to Britain’s most northerly inhabited island was to visit the Unst Heritage Centre and their lace collection. Sharon, one of the Centre’s volunteers, very kindly opened up the building to let me see their wonderful collection. What a treat! As visitors are requested not to photograph the exhibits, here are some photos of my purchases, the building and my travel info!

Before heading back to Lerwick, I just had time to visit Britain’s most northerly church, the most northerly post office and that famous bus stop near Baltasound which was still decked out in its Christmas finery.

After a quick turnaround when I got back to Lerwick on Friday evening, we headed west for the Scalloway Fire Festival. The event though smaller than Up Helly Aa in Lerwick was an incredible spectacle and everyone participating or watching was very friendly and welcoming. It was also amazing being able to walk at the back of the procession and then watch the viking ship be set alight and launched into the harbour. The bar at the Scalloway Hotel beckoned afterwards!

The weather started to deteriorate over the weekend. I did however manage a quick trip to the southern tip of Shetland to see the Sumburgh Lighthouse, driving over Sumburgh’s Airport runway to get there!

The rest of the weekend and Monday was taken up with shopping in Lerwick for knitwear, wool, chocolate and Shetland Reel gin; visiting the Up Helly Aa exhibition at the Shetland Museum with a friend, James; and also a fantastic dinner at the Scalloway Hotel. By 5pm on Monday, it was time to board the ferry to head home. Despite the very rough crossing on the way back, Neil and I managed to visit the cinema again, this time for two films. With Orkney Ice Cream of course!

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2017 Becomes 2018

As 2017 transforms into 2018, I’m scanning the horizon with all my needles by my side: machine; interchangeables; and tapestry!

2017 brought: the Edinburgh Yarn Festival; the Indieburgh Craft Crawl in Edinburgh; the Perth Festival of Yarn; Yarndale in Skipton, Yorkshire; Meet the Maker at the Dovecot Tapestry Studio in Edinburgh; and the EYF Wool Tribe’s Christmas Knitters’ Party. There were visits to Glen Affric in the Highlands, the Serra da Estrela National Park in central Portugal, Lisbon, London, Iceland, the Faroes and Catalonia. I also further developed my tapestry skills with visits to the Wemyss School of Needlework in Fife and Lorna at Stitchbirdie in West Kilbride.

2018 is going to be just as busy if not more so. The Edinburgh Yarn Festival will kick off proceedings in March. The prospect of this now three-day event is both exciting and yet terrifying! Travels planned so far involve Shetland next week and a hiking & knitting tour to Iceland in June. Not sure which is going to need more woollies!

Thank you very much for following Woolly Originals over the last twelve months. Your support and your encouragement are very much appreciated.

Here’s to 2018, and whatever it may bring!