White Gum Wool comes to London

One of the highlights of my recent trip back to Australia was taking the opportunity to meet up with Nan Bray at her farm, White Gum near Oatlands in the midlands of Tasmania.

I’d heard about Nan’s ethical superfine merino wool a few months prior, and so we arranged to meet up on my trip back to Tassie.  I thought we might have a little chat, I’d pick up a bulk order of yarn, and I’d be on my way.  However Nan was so incredibly welcoming and generous with her time, we got a fantastic tour of her farm in to the bargain.

the farm

Even though I grew up “in the bush” in Tassie, I didn’t grow up on a farm, so I don’t know a lot about the intricacies of wool farming.  I loved hearing all about Nan’s stories of how she is raising the sheep.  The sheep all have access to such a wide range of grasses and plants in the paddocks that they get all the nutrition they need, and the sheep know what plants to eat when they need particular nutrients or are feeling unwell.   The sheep are kept together in their natural family groups, allowing them to pass on such knowledge through the generations.  The sheep are raised on strong ethical lines.  Nan is able to avoid using all mulesing, and has been able to stop tail-docking.  It’s so lovely to see the sheep running around with their tails waggling!

White gum sheep

It was a warm day, so we found the sheep all huddled together in a coil to keep nice and cool.

on the farm

To find out more about Nan’s farm (and yarn), you can check out this episode of Landline.

So, now we know all about where the yarn comes from, this is what it looks like when it’s all dyed up in a few of my travelknitter colourways:

London Skies

London Skies White Gum Wool

Autumn Spice

Autumn Spice White Gum Wool

Double Happiness

Double Happiness travelknitter White Gum Wool

It really is the softest merino I’ve ever come across, and it’s very light and lofty.  There’s an amazing 470m per 100g, so it goes a long way.  I love it!  It’s been really interesting developing new techniques to dye the yarn as it isn’t superwash, which means it keeps its lovely natural woolly texture and smell.  I love seeing how it takes the colour in very subtle, muted ways.

These skeins are all available at Wild and Woolly in East London.  If you’re elsewhere in the world and would like some, just drop me a line or send me a message through my etsy shop to request a custom order.

sending yarn in to the world

The last few weeks have been even busier than usual, as I’ve been spending my weekends putting together a lovely stash of hand dyed yarn for a special wholesale order.  It has involved this:

  • Days spent over the dye pots, stirring up a mixture of new and tried-and-true colours
  • Keeping fingers crossed for some sunshine so I can get the yarn dry in between the spring rain
  • Re-skeining every single skein so they all look nice and neat and show the different tones of colour
  • Putting together a new logo and printing out brand new label wrappers
  • Playing with all the new lovely skeins, holding them up, shuffling them around, putting them in to piles, seeing what looks good together, and basically just admiring all the colours and textures (tell me I’m not the only one who does that…)

Once I’d finished playing, I put all the skeins in to a box,

 

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took one last look before closing the lid….

travelknitter yarns

 

and then hopped on a bus, and handed them over to their new caretaker, Anna at Wild and Woolly.  And I couldn’t think of a better home for them to go to!

The sun was streaming in the window, so we sat down with a glass of homemade lemonade and just enjoyed being surrounded by yarn.  The window display was just perfect for the occasion, complete with knitted deck chair and skein sundaes:

 

window display

There’s something about spending time in such a gorgeous yarn shop with someone who’s so passionate about the craft that has really inspired me to (gasp!) actually find the time to knit again.

Anna will be stocking my BFL Supersock, Tanami 4ply (supersoft baby camel and silk) and a brand new yarn, White Gum 4ply (it’s a UK exclusive!)  I’ll tell you more about that one in the next post…

London’s newest yarn shop: Wild and Woolly

Many of you visited your local yarn shops last weekend, as May 3rd was the national Yarn Shop Day.  And for those of you in London, there’s a brand new shop to visit – Wild and Woolly.

I made my first visit to Wild and Woolly in Clapton (Hackney) a few weekends ago.  I’ve been following the blog, where the lovely owner Anna had been posting some work-in-progress photos of the renovations, so had an idea of what it looked like.  I can assure you, it really is rather fantastic!

 

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The front window is a perfect mix of great design and fabulous Victoriana:

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And the yarns really are rather fancy.  Anna is stocking a great range of yarns, both international and locally sourced.  There’s a mixture of commercially dyed skeins, natural coloured yarns, and hand dyed loveliness.  Everything is displayed beautifully, and I love her system of moveable apple crates.  Anna is very generous with her time, and she’s provided a table so there’s space to sit and knit for a while.

shop interior

The space is light and bright.  I always think that natural light is an absolute must for a yarn shop – I’m always holding up skeins of yarn to get a better sense of the colour, or peering in to a mirror to check if a colour is wearable against my skintone. Or is that just me?

 

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If you’re anywhere near London, I highly recommend you pop in for a visit.  The nearest train stations are Hackney Downs, Hackney Central, or Clapton (depending which route you take) or there are lots of bus routes in the area.  The shop is open every day except Mondays.

Oh, I haven’t even mentioned the best bit… there will be travelknitter yarns in stock very soon!  Very exciting!

 

so many things!

The last post a while back about rainy weather was a bit of a ruse really, because I was on my way to Australia for three weeks.  Well I arrived back safely, and for those of you in the UK, aren’t you glad that I brought some sunshine back with me?  I’m so glad that spring has finally sprung!

It’s now time to come out of hibernation.  I’ve actually been really busy over the past few months with various bloggable things, and I’ve composed so many in my head, but that’s a very different thing to actually getting the posts online.  It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ve decided to make a list here so you can all hold me to account.

  • A quick trip to Paris, including visit to yarn shops and fabric shops galore (with updates to previous travelknitter’s guide).
  • A weekend in Berlin, where I attempted to visit the main yarn shops, with varying success.  Discovered some amazing markets though.
  • Three weeks in Australia.   Where do I even begin?
  • My quick trip to Melbourne, which included visits to the city’s two newest yarn shops, with lots to update on my Melbourne yarn shop list.
  • A trip to Suffolk, which included some happy yarny discoveries.
  • A new yarn event coming up in August.
  • And a new yarn shop opening in London.

Phew!

Time to start posting…

rainy day Cornwall: Falmouth

The current horrendous UK weather has prompted this post.  The wind and rain reminds me of what we experienced last year on a little week away in Cornwall.  It was in March, which can have quite lovely spring weather, but last year it was the second coldest on record.  The seaside isn’t really my location of choice for a week of wind, hail, sleet and snow!  Trying to make the most of a holiday around all that weather was quite a challenge at times.

Anyway, we booked a lovely little apartment called Puffins in the middle of Falmouth.  If you’re looking for a modern apartment in a perfect location, then it completely fits the bill.  A fondness of puffins really is recommended though, as the decor is very puffin-focused, right down to puffin salt and pepper shakers.  But who doesn’t love puffins, right?

Our apartment had a great view however, with double height windows:

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Due to The Amazing Molly having a work emergency to tend do, I was left to my own devices for a couple of days.  My Plan A for the holiday had fallen in a heap, as there was no way in the world that I was going to do any coastal walks.  Plan B was then to come up with ways to spend time in Falmouth during crap weather.

Here are my recommendations, in no particular order:

Go to a pub with a bookshop!    This place was such an unexpected find.  The entrance to Beerwolf Books looks like an interesting old boozer…

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then you go up the staircase, to discover a lovely pub with a bookshop at the back.  Sheer genius.  Seriously, why doesn’t every town have one of these?  I could spend a lot of time somewhere like that.

1-beerwolf stairs

When there is a short respite from the rain and the howling winds, go for a little walk to the next town over, Penryn.  Stock up on supplies at the Bailey’s Country Store Farm Shop (I got a slice of fantastic egg and bacon pie to eat on the go, and I got some frozen homity pies to eat later.  Seriously, the only two places in the world I’ve ever found homity pies are Cornwall and Tasmania.  There’s a huge gap in the market, hint hint.  I could live on the potato-and-cheese goodness forever).

Then have a nice cup of tea and a bit of cake at Miss Peapod’s Cafe.  The focus is on local and organic food, and I managed to snaffle a comfy couch just when there was a rare patch of sunshine coming in.

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The cafe is part of Jubilee Wharf, a great multi-use eco-development in Penryn.  Jubilee Wharf is also home to various workshops, studios, alongside flats on the top floor.  I had a look around some lovely clothing and jewellery studios.

When you have some company again (The Amazing Molly eventually returned), stop by Dolly’s Tea Rooms for a delicious cocktail served in a teapot and teacups.  Tasty!  They’re also now hosting a knitting evening once a month, but I only discovered this a day too late to attend myself.

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On the topic of knitting, there’s a traditional “wool shop” in town, The Wool Basket.  I thought it would be just the place for something more on the novelty yarn end of the spectrum, and indeed it was, so I picked up something suitable for knitting an easter bunny.  Worked a treat, and the staff were very lovely actually,

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Falmouth actually has a great selection of little independent shops, with a good range of interesting, handmade products, as well as a good smattering of vintage furniture shops.  There are also lots of art galleries to spend time browsing in, but I didn’t take any photos of those to show you.

In a nutshell, Falmouth is a lovely little place, that somehow manages to combine Cornish fishing history with tourism and university students.  I’m sure it’s at its best in summer, but even in the depths of an unexpected winter, it’s a great spot.

2014 UK knitting events

It’s that time of year again where we pull out our trusty diaries and plan for the year ahead of knitting and fibre events, right?  Or is that just me?

I’ve pulled together a list of all the major knitting events in the UK for 2014, and some of these dates are hot off the press.  Calendars at the ready..

19 Jan                Waltham Abbey Wool Show  Marriott Hotel, Waltham Abbey (new event!)

21-23 Feb          Unravel Farnham Maltings, Farnham, Surrey

13-16 March     Knitting and Stitching Show  Olympia, London

26-27 April       Wonderwool Wales Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys, Wales

24 May              Highland Wool Festival Dingwall Mart, Scotland (new event!)

27-28 June       Woolfest Mitchells Lakeland Livestock Centre, near Cockermouth, Cumbria

12-13 July         Unwind Brighton Dome Corn Exchange Brighton (new event!)

26-27 July        Fibre-East Redborne Community College, Ampthill, Bedfordshire

5-7 Sept            Bristol Wool Fair exact location in Bristol tbc.  (new event!)

6-7 Sept            British Wool Weekend The Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate

27-28 Sept       Yarndale Skipton Auction Mart, Skipton, Yorkshire

16 Aug             Popup Wool Show  The Oval Leisure Centre, Bebington, Cheshire  (new event!)

9-12 Oct           Knitting and Stitching Show Ally Pally, London

6-12 Oct           Shetland Wool Week Shetland

18-19 Oct         Bakewell Wool Gathering Bakewell Agricultural Centre, Bakewell

2 Nov               Festiwool North Herts College, Hithin, Hertfordshire (new event!)

20-23 Nov       Knitting and Stitching Show Harrogate

Please note that the Edinburgh Yarn Festival will be taking a wee break this year, and are planning a bigger event for March 2015.

I’m amazed at how many new yarn and fibre based events keep springing up all over the country.  And every one is different, with a different theme, focus, atmosphere, and fabulous vendors.  I’m trying to work my way round them all, but there’s just so many to choose from!  I might visit the new Unwind event in Brighton this year (good excuse for a weekend away) and my dream is to get to Shetland Wool Week one day.  Maybe this year?  Because we all know that knitters DO travel.

giveaway winner

Hi there knitters!  For those of you in the UK, I hope you’re managing to stay dry and out of the floods this week.
Thanks to those of you who left comments in response to my last blog post.    You had some great stories to tell about gifts you’d received.  I certainly got lots of giggles!
I put the number of commenters in to the handy random number generator, and came up with the following:

random number

That means that the prize goes to commenter number two, that is Linda!  Please do get in touch with your details, and I’ll get your prize in the post to you.  Happy new year!