Plant Conservation

Plant conservation is very important at Woolly Originals. Many of my bag designs are based on Scottish plants. The Save the Willow range, first in a series on climate change and plant conservation, was designed with the help of the Herbarium staff at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and launched in late March 2019. Sales from these bags at Edinburgh Yarn Festival totalled £1355. Thank you so much for all your support.

Woolly Originals has donated ten percent of this today to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to help fund their vital research into plant conservation. This will continue for all future sales of Woolly bags in the climate change series.


Thank you, Edinburgh!

Thank you so much to everyone who visited my stand this week at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. To everyone who bought or admired my bags. To Jo, Angel of the Forth, for helping and supporting me. And finally to Jo, Mica and their fabulous volunteers for another amazing event!

To anyone who missed out or was unable to come along, I had hoped to update my online shop this week but I sold out of bags despite making almost one hundred more than last year! So, Jo and I will be back on our knitting machines and KalopsiaC will be standing ready to receive a batch of Woolly fabric, so that I can fill up my EStore with Woolly bags towards the end of April.

Sarah x

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2019

Me and Jo, @angeloftheforth on Instagram & Facebook, are so looking forward to attending Edinburgh Yarn Festival from 21st to 23rd March. We’ll be bringing a range of Woolly project & notions bags, and Woolly badges made from offcuts. We’ll also be launching the new Save the Willow design, highlighting the effects of climate change on Scottish alpine plants.

If you’re coming along, please pop by, say hello and show us what you’ve bought, wearing, knitting or crocheting. We love chatting about all things woolly!

Finally and most importantly, everyone is welcome at Woolly Originals as long as you welcome everyone.

Thank you. x




Knitters Flocking to Edinburgh

By our Arts correspondent

Today we interviewed Sarah Clarkson of Woolly Originals about her plans for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March 2019.

“It’s so exciting,” Sarah shrieked loudly. “I can’t wait to meet all the amazing knitters and crocheters from all over the world.”

Once our reporter’s ears had recovered, she asked about any specific plans Sarah had for the Festival which takes place in her home city.

“Well, I’ll be bringing a range of project & notions bags in my current Woolly designs, including the Icelandic-inspired Lava Landscape, the recent Scott Monument, and a very exciting new colourway for my Heritage Orchard design. But, most excitingly of all, I’ll be launching a new design that highlights the impact of climate change on Scottish alpine plants.”

Sarah finished the interview by expressing her thanks to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh for their help with researching her latest design.

Good luck, Sarah and EYF!

Save the Willow



In May 2018, I was intrigued when I learnt that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh had been running a project for almost twenty years to save endangered native alpine plants. On further investigation, I discovered that one of these plants was the woolly willow (Salix lanata). I instantly knew that I had to create a design that highlighted not only the species itself, but also its vulnerability to climate change. The synergy between the woolly willow and Woolly Originals could not be ignored!


The woolly willow is a native, low growing, alpine shrub found in the remote glens of Scotland. It has beautiful pale green leaves with a “woolly” surface, and distinctive orange-yellow catkins. It is classified as a montane, subarctic willow shrub. As a dioecious plant, the male and female catkins occur on separate plants and it needs many of both to produce seeds.

But, the woolly willow is at risk of extinction due to climate change. Less snow cover leads to greater exposure which means that the plant may be eaten by grazing deer and sheep during the winter.



To get a feel for the plant, I first visited RGBE’s Herbarium. Lesley Scott, the Assistant Herbarium Curator, was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about this plant. With her assistance, I was able to view many of the pressed specimens. I also observed a number of living plants close by the East Gate at the Botanic Garden.

Dr Heather McHaffie, who helped lead the plant’s regeneration plan, was also very helpful. She explained to me the details of the project and very kindly showed me the nursery where the willow and a number of other native plants are being propagated and grown from seed for reintroduction into the wild, as part of the Scottish Plant Project. Details of the plant’s regeneration action plan are detailed at the foot of this article.


I wanted my design to detail both the willow itself but also to impart the message that climate change and grazing could potentially lead to the plant’s extinction.

I first chose representative colours from Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift collection. I decided on two colours for the background, Conifer or Pine Forest, and Laurel for the leaves. For the catkins, I selected Orkney Wool DK in Mandarin from Be Inspired Fibres in Edinburgh. Thank you, Mei, who owns and runs this lovely yarn shop in Edinburgh, for helping me select a suitable Scottish wool in a suitable colour.

After several attempts, I was finally happy with an interpretation of the woolly willow. I then considered how to detail the effects of climate change which was more challenging. Eventually, I knew what I wanted. The resulting pattern shows a spread of the leaves which begin densely but are abruptly halted in a stark linear manner. This is the “grazing line” where a lack of snow cover in the winter means the plants are being eaten by deer and sheep. This is the front pattern. The back pattern of the bag is simply the background colour of Pine Forest or Conifer, representing what will happen if climate change is allowed to continue and escalate.

Finally, I decided that Woolly bags made in this pattern, would be lined with a complimentary, beautiful ivory and orange leaf print linen from Scottish Linen in Kirkcaldy, Fife. This would represent the diminishing winter snow.


Woolly Originals bags in the Save the Willow design will be launched at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh on Thursday 21st March 2019. Thereafter, they will be available at the Woolly Originals EStore. They will be available in Tool/Pencil Case, Small, Medium and Shopper sizes.


Scottish Natural Heritage (2016). The Species Action Framework Handbook

Action Plan

Woolly Willow Species Action Plan

Due to climate change and changes in land use, many species of Scottish alpine plants are threatened with extinction. One of these plants is the woolly willow (Salix lanata), part of the subarctic willow scrub. It has been listed under both the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) and Annex I of the EC Habitats Directive.

In May 1999, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) implemented a Species Action Plan to halt the plant’s decline. The first step was to survey all known locations of the plant. It was found to be growing in only thirteen sites across Scotland, three of which were considered to be functionally extinct. It had become vulnerable to grazing by deer and sheep due to the reduced snow-lie caused by climate change.

An action plan was drafted and implemented over 2007-12, led by NTS. Seeds and cuttings were taken from specific sites and placed in nurseries at The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) as the Scottish Plant Project, and at the NTS Killin plant nursery.  The resulting 13-14 month old willows were subsequently planted in their area of collection. From 1999, more than 1580 plants were re-introduced by staff and volunteers from NTS, RGBE and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), though mainly during the summers of 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Follow-up surveys appear to suggest that in five of the replanted areas, the population has held at a minimum of 50 plants, the number needed to ensure the viability of the willow at any one site.

This work continues as part of the Montane Scrub Action Group.

Images courtesy of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Edinburgh – where to eat, drink, shop & go for free!

Visiting Edinburgh? Maybe for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival ? Having lived in Edinburgh since 1981, apart from a few years here and there abroad, I thought I’d write a list of some of me and my family’s favourite places.













Fu’s Orchard

On 2nd December 2016, at the Wool Tribe Christmas party organised by Edinburgh Yarn Festival , I launched my Heritage Orchard design. It was inspired by my friend, Fu’s orchard of heritage and modern varieties of British apple, plum and pear trees that she planted over the winter of 2011/12 in East Lothian just outside Edinburgh. Fu, known as @bearford on social media, is one of my closest and best friends. We’ve weaved our way through life since meeting as students in 1983. She was studying art and me earth science. How strange that she should now be an organic farmer and I’m a textile designer!

Last autumn, with EYF2019 approaching, Sylvie Jerez of Phileas Yarns asked me if I’d like to collaborate on a new Edinburgh-inspired yarn colour scheme as a one-off for my bags for EYF in March. I’ve been using Sylvie’s amazing Rambler yarn for my bags since I first met her at EYF2017, firstly for my Bandit Brioche and more recently Scots Pine designs. The Rambler yarn colours are inspired by Sylvie’s fascinating trips abroad.

“Yes!” I responded immediately and instantly thought of this design. To date, I have used only three colour combinations of Jamieson’s of Shetland stunning wools for the Heritage Orchard design: Cardinal red for the plum trees; Moss green for the apples; and Yellow Ochre for the pears. I sent Sylvie a photo that I took in September of Fu standing in her orchard in the sunshine; her happy place! Sylvie then brilliantly transposed the colours in the photo into a fruit tree-inspired yarn calling it, Fu’s Orchard! I then took a quick trip up to Scottish Linen in Kirkcaldy to purchase a complimentary fabric to make the handles and lining.

As an exclusive one-off for EYF, I’ll be making a limited number of bags using this beautiful new yarn and bringing them along to the Corn Exchange in March. Pick one whilst you can!

[Please note that Sylvie will not be selling this yarn to purchase at EYF. Thank you.]