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.]

2019. A New Year.

In Scotland, a first-footer is the first person who crosses your threshold in the New Year. They are supposed to bring good luck. So, here is a photo of my first-footer, a Scots Pine design shopper-style bag that was the prize in my #yarnlarder Instagram competition. Hopefully, it will bring good fortune to the winner, Amelia Hodsdon, known as @woollenwords on social media!

I’ve now started preparing for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival which takes place from 20th-24th March. I hope to update my EStore afterwards, possibly in April.

Thereafter, I’m applying to attend the Perth Festival of Yarn which is held in September; and hopefully I’ll be at GLOW at the Dovecot Tapestry Studios in December again.

Hope you’re having a good start to 2019. If you have any questions about Woolly Originals or my project bags, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2019

Woolly Originals is delighted to be attending the Edinburgh Yarn Festival again! This will be my third year at what I like to consider is my local festival; I live in Edinburgh, just 10 minutes away from the Corn Exchange!

I’ll be bringing a range of my Woolly project bags, including those in the photos above. There’ll be the new Mediums with their swivel D-ring detachable handle. There’ll be a range of the new “Scott Monument with Birds” design. There’ll be Lava Landscape bags in abundance.

There will also be a bag design that I’ve been working on since July! I’m so excited by this new design, and I’m very grateful for the assistance I’ve received from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Finally, and most importantly, Jo (@angeloftheforth) will also be coming along. I couldn’t manage without her!

So, hopefully we’ll see you in March. Please pop by our stand. Show us what you’re wearing; what you’re planning to knit or crochet; and what you’ve bought. We love talking about all things woolly!

Scott Monument with Birds

The Scott Monument in Edinburgh was constructed in 1844 as a tribute to Sir Walter Scott, the famed poet, writer, historian and lawyer. Reaching more than sixty-one metres above Princes Street, this distinctive landmark sits between the Balmoral Hotel, Jenners department store and the Royal Scottish Academy.

When visiting the recently opened V&A Museum in Dundee, I came across a model of the Monument in the Scottish Design Gallery.

I instantly knew that such an iconic piece of Edinburgh architecture needed its own design using an iconic Edinburgh yarn, namely Ginger Twist Studio‘s Sheepish Sock yarn in Hocus Pocus.

The result is a new bag design called Scott Monument as shown below. The design interprets the outline of the memorial with a flock of circling birds. The base fabric is machine knit using Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift wool with the monument itself knit in the GTS yarn. Fabrics from Scottish Linen have been used to line the bags and make the handles.

These bags will be for sale at the GLOW Scottish Design Fair at the Dovecot Tapestry Studios, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh on Saturday 8th December.