The new dyeworks April 02 2017
If I've been quiet on here lately, it's because I have some very exciting news. We've moved into a new dyeworks at World's End in deepest Berkshire. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll already have seen some sneak peeks, but here it is in its full glory.
Firstly, the wonderfully talented graphic designer, Pat Lewis of Lewis Creative (also an avid knitter and good friend) has redesigned the Skein Queen logo to freshen it up, bring it up-to-date and make it easier for reproducing in print. I think she's done a fabulous job, it was great working with her and we'll gradually be introducing it to the whole range of yarn labels, stickers, thank you cards and bags, but the original one will still be around for a while.
So, when you walk into the new studio, the first area is the main packing area with Eliza's desk. This is where we print out orders, wrap them carefully in tissue and send them out.
On the right, is my office. Really not convinced that the Welsh dresser sits as well in here as it did at the old studio - much too country cottage. If I get a chance, the white paint will be coming out or maybe some Annie Sloan.
But this is where all the admin gets done - bookkeeping, PAYE, organising security, bins, fire safety, health and safety policy, signage, paying bills, plumbers and all the equally dull stuff. But also some nice stuff - writing blogposts, photography and writing the inspiration sheets.
Next to my office is the drying room. The yarn is spun once it has been rinsed, so by the time it gets here, it's almost dry - usually just needs one more night to dry completely. Having a space to do this is invaluable. Previously I used my dining room - so this is one of the biggest improvements that the rest of my family will appreciate the most!
Opposite my office is the kitchen, shower room and loo.
And behind the packing desks is the door to the workshop area, with a handy dandy mezzanine level.
Eliza and I laid a rubber floor last week to protect the concrete floor from the occasional splash. Just got the tricky bits to cut with a Stanley knife but that's a job for next week.
The existing workbench and sockets (with 3-phase power) are ideal for the dye pots and the cupboards above house the dyes.
There was no water or waste source into the warehouse, so I arranged for the plumbers to come and install two double pot wash sinks. Who knew there were so many tap options! You wouldn't believe the toing and froing of emails I had with the "taps expert" but so pleased with the final result.
They brought the water over the mezzanine level, installed a Saniflo pump between the sinks to pump the waste back up to the mezzanine. It works perfectly and is super quiet. I also had them install a hose tap on the water pipe itself, so we can fill more buckets to soak the yarn.
Up on the mezzanine, we built some racking for undyed yarn storage. We'll also use the industrial winders up here to skein up the semi-solid colourways. I invested in a yarn twisting machine from Marcin Lorkowski of Martin's Labs who brought it all the way over from Poland to give to me at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Can't wait to get it up and running to give it a try (and Eliza's very excited about this too).
We built three industrial tables which have proved invaluable for setting out trays of cooling yarn.
The plan is to create a range of 16-20 staple, reproducible colourways (which you'll know if you've been following Skein Queen for a while, is not something we've done before). Eliza will take responsibility for dyeing some, if not all, of these once we've finalised the recipes in the Big Dye Recipe Book, so she's currently in intensive training to expand her skills into dyeing. Once the range has been developed and finalised, we'll be able to start offering it for wholesale to retail shops on a couple of yarn bases.
I'll still be creating the unique, much loved, different-every-time variegated and semi-solids, so nothing will change there - shop updates may be a little more regular and contain maybe 10 of the same colourway instead of five. There'll still just be the two of us doing all the admin, dyeing, winding, labelling, packing and customer service between us. So although we've moved to a more light industrial setting, we're still very much a tiny indie dyeing company.
One thing that has changed along with this growth is that I've had to register for VAT. This means an accompanying rise in yarn prices - I haven't whacked on the whole 20%, but hand-dyed yarn prices have had to increase. I've kept all other prices the same - so no increase on Koigu, Jamieson's, stitch markers or anything else in the shop for the time being. And if you pre-ordered yarn at EYF for the Traquair set, I will hold it at the pre-VAT prices and cover the VAT for you.
Finally, I thought you might like to see where I've been working these last few years (eight, I think - before that, used the kitchen for a couple of years). This was our converted garage where I had one pot - ONE POT - for variegated colourways! As you can see, these changes were long overdue, but slightly delayed until the children were old enough.
And this was the beloved attic studio over at Lower Henwick Farm. I may have shed a little tear as I locked up for the last time - it looked a little bare and forlorn without all the woolly haven-making paraphernalia. It served us well and I loved going to work there.
But ultimately, it's time to move onwards and upwards and thank you for sharing this journey with us and for making it possible. Here's to MUCH MORE YARN!
Edinburgh Yarn Festival in pictures March 13 2017
I am so tired I can't speak, so I'm leaving you with some images of the SQ stand at EYF. I had been dyeing since January in preparation, contending with the lack of a studio roof in the height of winter storms and two weeks off with a bad back!
Suffice to say, it was an AMAZING event. Thank you to each and every one of you who stopped by, to the international visitors and to the other vendors and organisers (Jo and Mica) for making it such a fun (and exhausting) event. See if you can notice a difference between the stand at the start of the event and at the end...
If you didn't manage to snag a Selkino/Enchant set for the Traquair hat and mitts in Wool Tribe magazine, we're taking pre-orders. You just have to register your interest by emailing me via the website, and I'll be in touch when they're ready. It might be a few weeks as we're currently in the process of moving premises. I've also come home with some copies of Wool Tribe to go in the shop along with the update on Wednesday.
Eliza looking a bit shell-shocked with just a few hours to go. Thanks to her for all her help over the weekend.
We hope that you enjoyed the event as much as we did.
New arrival - Otto the miniature Dachshund January 10 2017
This little guy came to live with us a week ago. He's such a good boy and such a character! He plays for hours with our older dog, Cookie, and then sleeps right the way through the night. I'm already totally in love.
To celebrate our new arrival, we're stocking these cute little Colin the Dachshund needle gauge keyrings in Fluoro Pink, Fluoro Yellow, Glitter Gold, Glitter Silver and Fluoro Blue.
This is what Cookie thinks!
Showcase 2016 December 21 2016
What better way to round off the year than by celebrating some of the projects that SQ yarn purchasers have knitted during 2016. It's been three whole years since the last showcase, so it's certainly time to show off some of your work and creativity. It's always such a pleasure to browse through all your projects and I'm always blown away by your attention to detail and finishing touches, so this year, I'm sharing some of my favourites.
Working with Ysolda December 09 2016
Just over a year ago, Ysolda Teague, Scottish knitwear designer extraordinaire (as if she needs any introductions) got in touch to see if I wanted to take part as a British dyer for her club.
Sounds like fun, was my answer. So, I thought you'd like to see a bit of the process involved.
We agreed on Ullvärme as the best option - it's 100% Swedish wool and is collected by a company who can't bear to see this beautiful natural material go to waste as a by-product. The wool is gathered from their local farms on the island of Öland and some on the neighbouring mainland and turn it into yarn which can contain a blend of Dorsets, Suffolks, Dalasau and some Friesian milk ewes. Very woolly and perfect for colourwork.
We met up in Edinburgh in Ysolda's studio and I brought along some colour samples - not that they'd be easy to reproduce - but just as a starting point for a conversation.
Ysolda knew that she wanted a colourwork project using two colours and was drawn to a dark purple-brown and a lighter taupe silver - organically, we came to think of it as the Silver Birch yarn combination.
So I ordered in the yarn from my lovely supplier and a whole pallet arrived - eleven sacks of it.
I'd pick out about 120 skeins a day and soak them in the workshop, ready for dyeing.
Each of the paler colour had to be double dyed.
Each of the darker colour had to be triple dyed to build up the richness I wanted.
The dyeing took place back in April and we got some lovely sunny days for drying.
Once the batch of yarn was dry, I counted it out on our dining room table and batched them in tens.
I then transported it over to the studio, ready for winding.
Eliza, my studio assistant, works for me three days a week and I was winding on the other two days and sometimes before and after she left.
It took us both a good three weeks to get to this stage.
It then had to be all labelled and carefully packed in boxes - we ran out of the yarn protector bags usually used when boxing up yarn.
Six big boxes awaiting the courier pick-up.
I'll not tell you about the hairy few hours when we couldn't locate the boxes, involving phone calls to the Edinburgh Royal Mail depot, but it finally turned up and all was well.
This is what each of Ysolda's club members received - one skein of Hornbeam, one skein of Silver Birch.
And these are the beautiful Ornäs mitts and hat that Ysolda created.
We were so excited to see what she would come up with and I love that she was inspired by the textures and shapes of birch trees. The Ornäsbjork is a type of silver birch that’s the national tree of Sweden.
This pattern was designed for the 2016 Ysolda Club and will be exclusive to the club until May 2017, so keep an eye out for that release.
Sign ups for this year’s Ysolda Club are closed but to be the first to find out about future clubs sign up for her newsletter.
(The last two photos courtesy of Ysolda).
A show in Germany and a word on yarn prices September 09 2016
Back in October 2015, out of the blue, an email from Betta (the lovely lady pictured above) landed in my inbox wondering if I'd be interested in exhibiting at the second Wollfest in Hamburg. So of course I said yes!
I had a vague idea about the logistics of getting many kilos of hand-dyed yarn from the UK to Hamburg - over 1000km away. However, a lot changes in a year, and my son had acquired my big mumsmobile and I knew I wasn't going to fit a stand's worth of yarn into my Fiat 500! So he drove down from Lincoln to let his mum borrow back his old car and having arranged special insurance (never borrow someone else's car if you want to drive in Europe - it gets super complicated!), myself and Eliza found ourselves in the Eurotunnel with a car-full of yarn.
I know this little map says 11 hours and 47 minutes, but in reality, with stops factored in, the journey took us about 14 hours with me as the driver, and Eliza as the navigator. We passed through France, Belgium and the Netherlands, finally arriving in Germany.
When we arrived, we met up with Suzanne (alabamawhirly) and her husband who'd had a little holiday in Berlin and had made their way up to Hamburg by train. The night we arrived, we headed straight out to see the sights of the city, and indulged in a few local specialities at the biggest food festival in Europe.
The next day, we arrived at Staatliche Jugendmusikschule and set up the stand in an airy, light room.
Here's Eliza, me and Suzanne just before the start of the show, looking just a little nervous. Although we'd practiced some German on Duolingo, it was coming up with sayings such as "The cat is giving a skirt to a woman" which really didn't come in handy at all!
Suzanne was the best at German, although we were all decidedly ropey, but we managed with her help and were so impressed by many customers' fluency in English. Put us to shame!
These new hexagons which I custom ordered from FaodailWoodworks looked rather splendid filled with colourful skeins.
It was a busy show! By the end of day two, the yarn pile had dwindled to one level meaning we brought back very little.
Both the customers and the other vendors were so friendly. We felt so very welcomed and really enjoyed every minute as the yarn was appreciated with much ooing and ahhing - which is pretty similar whatever the language!
You may have spotted my new Holyrood shawl - pattern by Justnya Lorkowska - hanging in the booth.
I chose crazy summery colours as I really wanted to combine all my bright pinks and turquoises into something fun and the different textures of this design work well for frequent colour changes. It's a combination of Little Wrigglers with some Entwine, but you could really use any 4 ply fingering weight yarn.
For a more elegant look, the pattern works so well with two or three colours.
We did get a few hours to get out and about and see a bit of Hamburg. We walked many kilometres and I stumbled across... yarn! I discovered a massive hobby shop called idee and got a little overwhelmed by all the crafting supplies! Look at all that wool, and that was only about half of what was on offer.
And there are some quite tall people in Hamburg...
It really is a wonderful city and Wollfest was a small, friendly show with very high quality vendors and teachers. It happens every two years, and I would thoroughly recommend a visit should you get the opportunity. Massive thanks to Suzanne and Eliza for being brave enough to accompany me on our little German adventure.
And now to the not so nice bit - yarn prices.
As you may be aware, following Brexit in June, sterling took a plunge against the US dollar and other currencies. I'm sure if you're UK based and been lucky enough to have had a summer holiday abroad this year, you'll have experienced directly the lack of purchasing power of the pound.
I have five to six suppliers of white yarn and many more other suppliers from mailing bags to tissue paper to dyes. Some of these suppliers I pay directly in $US and others pay their suppliers in $US or euros. Those not dealing in the dollar have still put up their prices as they have other supplies to pay for which may not originate in the UK.
So it is with great regret and having held off as long as I can, I've now had to make the decision to put up most of my yarn prices in order to continue to provide the highest quality yarn bases that I know you've come to expect. You can find a full price list here.
Please be assured that I highly respect each and every purchase made with your hard-earned cash and strive to provide you with an excellent product that you'll hopefully get a lot of satisfaction from.
Thank you for your understanding.
On a brighter note, I'm currently dyeing up the last installment of the Summer Club ready to be sent out at the end of next week and simultaneously signing up existing members and the waiting list to the Winter Club.
Depending on uptake, there will likely be more club places available at the end of next week, so keep your eyes peeled on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you fancy joining.
A HUGE thank you to everyone who came along and made the day a great success. We do hope you enjoyed it.
And the winner is... June 15 2016
Having selected a winner at random from nearly 400 entries across Facebook, Instagram and the blog, I can say a Huge Congratulations to raychball!
Thank you all so much for taking part and for all the touching and humorous comments. And thank you for all the support over the last nine years xxx
Help celebrate Skein Queen's 9th birthday June 07 2016
Nine years old today! And an incredible nine years it has been.
To thank you all for all your amazing support over the years and to help celebrate, we're giving away a £50 gift voucher which can be spent on anything in the Skein Queen online shop within the next year.
To enter, just leave a comment below. Make sure you enter your email address (it won't display publicly as long as you don't put it in the comment field) as well as your name so that I can contact the lucky winner.
We will draw a winner at random on 15th June and make the announcement here on the blog. The draw will also run across Instagram and Facebook, and the names will be pooled. One entry per person.
Open Studio! May 28 2016
Our Edinburgh Yarn Festival adventure March 27 2016
After three weeks solid of dyeing by me and winding by Eliza, and labelling and pricing by us both well into the evening of Tuesday, we had a studio full of yarn that we had to get from deepest Berkshire to my home city of Edinburgh for the event of the year, Edinburgh Yarn Festival.
Bright and early on Wednesday morning, somehow (and I'm still not sure how) myself and Suzanne (alabamawhirly) managed to get the whole lot into my little car and we set off from the farm.
Having bumped into John and Juliet Arbon at Westmorland services (my favourite and the best), they were a little envious of our planned overnight stop in a shepherd's hut. I must say, I was a little skeptical staying in the middle of the woods in March, but... I was proved wrong.
We had a very comfortable stay and were more than toasty as the hut has its own woodburner. Opposite was a wooden cabin with a kitchen and bathroom and in another wooden building, the self-composting toilet!
Suzanne's friend, Tabi, owns the farm. Her job for the weekend was dosing 1000 pregnant ewes! I didn't envy her that little task. To get a glimpse inside the shepherd's hut, check out her Scales Plantation website here.
There was knitting in the evening with cocktails and the woodburner. I say knitting - mine was more like detangling after this - but the beautiful brioche is Suzanne's Askews Me shawl by Stephen West.
The next day, we set out on the road again in brilliant sunshine, through the rolling Pentlands, until we reached Edinburgh in the fog.
Unloading was straightforward, but I'd accidentally ordered a teeny tiny stall, so you remember all the yarn in the studio in the first picture? We had to somehow squeeze it all into a 2m x 2m space.
We used every available inch, but there was still half as much again under the table. But no need to worry - everything was out by the end of Day One and it was nice to be in the position of being able to replenish stock.
Little Wrigglers and gradient Little Squashes - new 20g minis - were particularly popular and there will be more...
These next few photos were taken in a quieter moment.
I wanted to convey and remember the atmosphere of the event.
The excitement of newly discovered yarns.
And the meeting of friends and designers.
We were situated opposite Kate Davies Designs, so were witness to some of the knitting glitterati (knitterati if you will) meeting and greeting and hugging and photographing as they caught up with each other.
We had a wonderful, overwhelming couple of days - so good to meet so many customers from all over the world. I'm only sorry if I didn't recognise anyone - you know what would be great? Badges with your real name and Ravelry name. That would mean an end to secretly checking out someone's name on their debit card! That's it - I've given away my trick! I do wish I had a better visual memory for faces.
It was also great to meet the whole team from Wollfest - the next event we're attending in Hamburg. I met many German knitters in Edinburgh and looking forward to meeting you in your home country in September. As I don't speak a word of German, I've been attempting to learn some using the fantastic Duolingo app. Any useful phrases very much appreciated in the comments below!
Kudos to Mica and Jo for organising such a smooth, enjoyable event. There's not a single thing I would change.
One of the best things was waking up to this view - not dissimilar to the view I used to wake up to growing up between Morningside and Marchmont. And catching up with old school friends and my aunt. It was also lovely to spend a bit of time with Vero (thatCanadiangirl) of Along the Lanes podcast fame and her mum who was over from Canada.
Edinburgh - I miss you.
Lemony-Butterscotch-Chocolate Exploration Station March 01 2016
This was the first Stephen West pattern I'd knitted and I loved how he kept my interest throughout this rather sizeable shawl. Also loved the neat icord edging which prevents any rolling.
Selkino in Butterscotch
Selkino in Citrus
Enchant in Lemon Drop
Lustrous in Truffles
Having successfully managed the Bountiful Brioche section, I messed up on the Nothing but Knit section. So decided to make it a bit slimmer, with fewer rows.
Now it's hard to look at yarn without choosing the next colour combination for another one!
How to knit two-at-a-time top down socks January 31 2016
I made a little video of how I do this technique.
Watch to the end to see a cheeky little outtake.
Hope it's helpful in some small way.
Sock Fever January 27 2016
I'm feeling a little clammy. Think I've got a temperature coming on. My hands are all twitchy. That's right, because I've got a bad case of SOCK FEVER!!
Cannot stop looking a yarn and thinking - MORE SOCKS! And the more heavily variegated, the better. Now that I've discovered the delights of knitting DK socks and can knit a pair, two-at-a-time top down in less than a week - well, the sock world's my oyster. I knitted them on a 4mm needle this time for even speedier knitting! It makes them look a little more squat, but they are a good size 6.
Sock knitting feels like getting back to basics.
This pair were for my sister as part of her birthday present. She was admiring the Thick and Quick socks I was making in the last blog post when I came up to Edinburgh to visit in December. The Saturday before her birthday, I had the brainwave to shoot over to the studio and nab a couple of skeins of Dancing Queen before they went into the update.
I enjoyed knitting every single stitch of these socks and was a bit sad when they were over. But they've now arrived with my sister and I think she likes them.
I keep returning to my improvised pattern of Eye of Partridge used throughout - it almost looks like fake brioche.
Maybe I should write the pattern up some time?
The yarn used was Dancing Queen in Crush DK and I used 110g. I've got a new delivery of Crush DK arriving today, so will get some similar colourways into the next shop update.
You may think the next shop update is some way off being on 24th February.
That's because I've been invited to give a talk on running your own hand-dyeing business by the Buckinghamshire Guild of Spinners, Dyers and Weavers. Having shunned public speaking for 47 years, this is a pretty big deal. The talk is for an hour, so I've been working away on my speech, which has actually been a brilliant opportunity to look back at all the projects I've been involved with over the years. And I've been preparing lots of hand-dyed yarn and project examples to bring along. The lady I've been talking to seems so lovely and welcoming that's it's made it all a lot less daunting.
Over Christmas, I couldn't resist breaking into my skein of Hedgehog Fibres Twist Sock in Tapestry. I've called these 'Cos Dyers Have Stashes Too socks.
They're knitted using the two-at-a-time top down pattern in my head.
I'm also thinking of putting together a little YouTube video of how to knit two-at-a-time socks, if anyone's interested.
Quicker socks? December 21 2015
This last month has seen me getting back into good old-fashioned sock knitting - mostly for myself - because what's better than a pair of warm, woolly to keep you warm in a cold, damp dye workshop?
But now, with the launch of a brand new DK version of Crush (75% merino 25% nylon), sock knitting has just become a whole lot quicker!
This colourway is called Dancing Feet - the colours "dance" from stitch to stitch.
I'm improvising a pair of slip stitch socks as an experiment to see if you can get a pair of socks out of one skein of Crush DK which comes in at 225m. The leg and cuff measure 6". The first sock took exactly 50g for a UK size 6 sock on 3.25mm needles so it's looking like a possibility, but if you're a particularly loose knitter, or would like to knit longer socks with more cables, then I would recommend buying 2 skeins. Update: In the end, they used 110g of yarn - so two skeins needed with 90g left over.
Here are some of the colourways that will be available from 8pm GMT tonight (Monday 21st December).
As an aside, due to knitting on a plane journey, I knitted the first sock on wooden DPNs. There seems to be a huge difference in the looseness of the stitches in the slip stitch pattern in the second sock knitted using Magic Loop on metal needles. I prefer the looser look of the wooden needles, so will be doing a bit of frogging and returning to the DPNs.
Finally, as this is the last shop update of 2015, I would like to wish you all the very merryiest of Christmases and thank you all for all your support over the past year.
We will be sending out parcels until 23rd December, but are now unable to guarantee that they will arrive before Christmas. However, if you're still looking for a last minute present, we offer gift vouchers or I've released a few Queen's Surprise Club places early. But don't worry if you're currently in the club or on the waiting list - more places will be released in early January as usual.
An insight into the world of running an indie-dyeing business October 11 2015
I made a little video to show you around the attic studio and the workshop.
Click here to see where the magic happens...
Coopknits blog interview October 08 2015
Honoured to have made an appearance on the wonderfully talented Coopknits's blog. You can read my interview here.
I already have her Toasty Knits Volume One, but have you seen the patterns in Volume Two? Just stunning.
A tiny POP cardigan for a new baby October 06 2015
This is my third POP baby cardigan - can you tell I love Rachel Atkinson's pattern? And if she ever does want to make an adult version, I'll be first in line.
This one is for Joy at the Post Office's first grandchild. I've been posting out parcels with Joy and Liz for over eight years - sometimes they're the only people I see during the day, so they almost feel like colleagues.
I chose a neutral oatmeal colour of Blissful Plump. Then when Joy told me her brand new grand-daughter had been born over the weekend, I felt it needed a little something else... so inspired by Dottie Angel's woolly tattoos, I added some flowers embroidered in Sajou thread.
Hope she likes it!
Cornucopia blanket by Amanda Perkins September 30 2015
This fruity beauty is the work of crochet designer, Amanda Perkins (of Natural Dye Studio fame).
Amanda is now a full-time designer, specialising in blankets.
Amanda explains that Cornucopia came about through a desire to explore the effect of subtle tonal and saturated colour in the same blanket.
She started with a skein of bright yellow Skein Queen Selkino and added extra colours that worked together from what she had to hand. The effect was a fruit bowl of cherries, oranges, limes, strawberries, apples, mangos and kiwis, so she named it after the mythological “Horn of Plenty” which overflows with fruits and flowers.
Amanda sent me these sample colours to match in a variety of her preferred SQ yarns - Lustrous, Selkino, Luminosity and Flockly.
And here's the result:
It was lovely working with Amanda and great to see her design career go from strength to strength now that she has the time to spend on getting her ideas into crochet form.
Finished project and buttonmania September 21 2015
One bonus of being laid up for the week with a bad back is that (after the initial not being able to sit up phase) there was plenty of knitting time.
Vitsippa hat was a fun knit. From the diagonal stem pattern at the bottom to the flower stems at the top, the constant change in design kept it super-interesting.
I used the new Skein Queen Ullvärme Swedish wool in Gin and Chocolate Mocha.
Vitsippa hat is by Joji Locatelli - a prolific knitwear designer from Argentina and I'll certainly be seeking out more of her designs.
The pattern appears in Spring 2015 Pompom magazine. If you're looking for a copy, I'll have more in the shop by mid-week.
Another new addition to the shop - Buttons!! Aren't they gorgeous?
High quality European-made buttons from a supplier who is extremely passionate about buttons and gets them made to her own specification.
Made in a variety of shell, coconut, resin and bamboo, these buttons make a perfect finishing touch for a treasured knitting project.
Introducing a new Swedish wool - Ullvärme September 09 2015
Ullvärme, or "warm wool" is spun by a Swedish company who can't bear to see this beautiful natural material go to waste as a by-product. They therefore collect wool from their local farms on the island of Öland and some on the neighbouring mainland and turn it into yarn. This wool can contain a blend of Dorsets, Suffolks, Dalasau and some Friesian milk ewes.
It's certainly a traditional wool rather than luxury yarn, with a softer handle than Gotland or Shetland, but more rustic than soft, silky yarns. It blooms and softens after being washed. So perfect for hard-wearing projects and excellent for colourwork.
Recommended needle size would be 3.25mm-3.75mm.
Gauge: 26 sts and 33 rows on 3.25mm needles on a 10cm square.
I couldn't resist casting on a Vitsippa hat by Joji Locatelli from the Spring 2015 Pompom Quarterly magazine, but choosing a great colour combination was haarrrrd! Too much choice! In the end, I opted for neutral tones with maximum contrast with Gin and Chocolate Mocha.
These beauties will be released from the shop at 8pm BST tonight (9th September).
Yarn in the City September 07 2015
After an early start and confusion over trains, a broken suitcase handle, rain and abandoning the tube in favour of a cab, myself, Suzanne and Wendy managed to magic four suitcases of yarn into London.
We piled the yarn high and had an extra vintage suitcase of Oosie propped open on a chair.
(And before you ask, because I know you will, Suzanne's cardigan is Siri by Linnea Ohman and is knitted in John Arbon's Viola yarn in English Mustard. You can see my emerald version in Oosie hanging up on the display. Such a fabulous cardigan pattern - I would knit another in the blink of an eye, and Suzanne's got many, many compliments.)
Around 11.20am, I got a hilarious text from a friend who was going on the Yarn Crawl around the yarn shops of London who was listening to the briefing: "Ahhh, they're holding us hostage away from the yarn!" But she didn't have long to wait as the doors opened to the Yarn Crawlers, and shortly afterwards to the general public. We met old friends and new customers - there was plenty of time for squishing, ooh and ahhing, pattern consideration and recommendations.
We had participated in an event previously at Chelsea Old Town Hall about six or seven years previously and were familiar with the beauty of the venue. A stunning hall with chandeliers, marble columns and original oil paintings called for a celebratory glass of fizz later in the day.
With much restraint, I only made two purchases during the day - a Loop bag and this handy dandy gadget from YAK which Suzanne had been raving about for ages.
I've pinched this from their website : Grellow & Gray is the genius company behind the Sirka® counter. This counter is for anyone who has looked at a pattern with dread when the words “at the same time” appear. This multitasking counter lets you track up to three counts at the same time and will even remind you when to stop.
To top off a most marvellous day, Susan Cropper from Loop presented me the gift of a golden crown. I was a little emotional, I must admit, and it has taken pride of place in the studio, under the pompom tree and beside the silver bunny I bought from her other emporium, Swoon Lounge.
Congratulations to Allison and Rachel for organising the event and I believe they raised over £1000 for Refuge. Speaking of worthy charities, littletreehouse on Ravelry spotted this one today and I thought I'd mention it here in case it spoke to you. It's true, winter is coming.
Queen's Surprise Club places available! September 01 2015
Be inspired and intrigued by new colourways inspired by books on your doorstep every six weeks. Skein Queen will dye up a unique colourway on a different yarn base each time and deliver it to you.
The Queen’s Surprise Club, run on a three-installment subscription over four months, offers colourways inspired by a particular book each time. Club members can choose their preference from semi-solid or variegated colourways and whether they’d like to receive one or two skeins each month. It’s all about the yarn – so no extras other than a colourway inspiration sheet.
SPACES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE - CLICK HERE - PLACES FOR AUTUMN AVAILABLE UNTIL SOLD OUT OR 5TH SEPTEMBER 2015.
To whet your appetite, here are some past colourways:
Lallybroch and Heatherlands inspired by Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - July 2015
Assendelft and Petronella inspired by The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - May 2015
The Goldfinch inspired by The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - January 2015
Open Studio - the review in pictures July 11 2015
Had such a fun day - thank you SO much to everyone who came along from as far afield as Portsmouth and Somerset.
Together with The Mulberry Bush, we raised £294.48 for Breast Cancer Care.
Thanks to Eliza and Calvin for all their help, to Cate for tying in the event to their Strawberry Tea Party and to Tesco for donating several punnets of strawberries and tubs of cream.
Here's the day in a few pictures (apologies for the poor quality - realised afterwards that there was a dull filter accidentally set up on my camera phone!)
Maxine from Marmalade Yarns sporting her Southwold in the Snow shawl in a beautiful choice of colours she picked out at a previous Open Studio last June.
As there was two to three weeks' worth of dyed yarn on the shelves, there is plenty left for the update on Wednesday.
And the winner is.... ***20 second dramatic pause*** June 19 2015
After much chin-rubbing, contemplation and cogitation; after collating over 120 entries from the blog, Instagram and Facebook together into a spreadsheet so that we could give them maximum consideration; after blacking out the names, then mulling over some impressive suggestions - we finally settled on a winner - CONGRATULATIONS, KATY!!
I'll be in touch on Monday so that I can send your Luminosity off to you, with your colourway names on the labels.
Just want to say a HUGE thanks to everyone to took time out of their days to enter. I'd certainly like to employ some of you as colourway namers!!
Onwards and upwards to the next eight years.
Skein Queen is 8 today!! June 11 2015
Blimey! I can barely believe it was eight whole years ago since I set up an Etsy shop to sell some of the excess yarn I had dyed. Little did I know! Thank you all so much for your continued support and kind words - now it's time to give a little back. WIN yarn worth £40 - will send internationally.
Skein Queen Open Studio June 01 2015
Looking forward to flinging open the doors of the studio to welcome one and all with tea, cake, knit and chat.
Please be aware that there are stairs up to the attic studio.
Siri cardigan finished May 12 2015
Having spotted this design wandering around Unravel - a gorgeous yellow version by fa1ry_elephant on Instagram - I knew I had to knit one. The pattern is by Linnea Ohman and is called Siri. (Apologies for lack of accents on the designer's name).
I'd been craving something in emerald green but couldn't find anything in the shops, so dyed up three skeins of Oosie in Emerald City and ended up using two and a half with 96g left over.
I love the way the yoke pattern continues down the sleeves. It took an age - like mini cables and reminds me of a Scandinavian forest of pine trees - but then the stocking stitch went speedily. The ribbing is a twisted rib.
The green does look a little different in each photo! I chose some vintage jade coloured buttons given to me by an ex-colleague and the ribbon braid on the left of the picture from Namolio.
I knitted the XL size and it's a perfect fit for UK size 16.
A little survey April 28 2015
(Unfortunately doesn't work on all mobile devices. Works best on a PC.)
A fair amount of knitting has been going on here... March 19 2015
It's been a wee while since I posted any actual knitting content in the old blogosphere - when I looked back at recent projects, I realised there were quite a few to show you, if you're interested (and I guess you must be at least vaguely interested if you clicked to land here in the first place).
So, in no particular order;
The Halyard Shawl
Pattern by Tetiana Otruta
Yarn: Skein Queen Flockly in Butterscotch - half a skein
Skein Queen Selkino in Winter Water - half a skein
Knitted by me
Pattern by tincanknits
Yarn: Skein Queen Voluptuous in Toffee - one and a half skeins.
Buttons: by Textile Garden
Knitted by me.
POP cardigan #1
Pattern by Rachel Atkinson
Yarn: Skein Queen Blissful Plump in Ava Pink - one skein
Buttons: by Textile Garden
Knitted by me, for Baby Ava born on New Year's Day
POP! cardigan #2
Pattern by Rachel Atkinson
Yarn: Skein Queen Blissful Plump in Red Plum - one skein
Buttons: by Textile Garden
Knitted by me as a shop sample
Pattern by Kate Davies
Yarn: Skein Queen Voluptuous Petite - half a skein Shell Rose, half a skein English Damson for a pair.
Knitted by me.
Pattern - Hermoine's Everyday Socks by Erica Leuder
Yarn: Skein Queen Entwist - one spatter-dyed skein - 30g left after knitting the pair
Knitted by me
Koigu plain vanilla sock and Koigu cowl
Both improvised patterns knit in Koigu - single sock took one skein.
And the awesome sock model is from Jacksons following its sad demise (check out the reference to "Cruella").
Knitted by me.
Oh No Bear!
Pattern - Oh My Bear! by tinyowlknits but with no bear on the front and no ears.
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed - 7 skeins - ran out just at the end, so added a bit of something special to finish off the hood.
Knitting time: 2 weeks - gotta love chunky
Knitted by me, for Lily
Faux Taxidermy Kit by sincerely louise bought at Unravel
Another quick knit - just a few hours - chunky yarn again - he lives in the studio
Knitted by me.
The bottom one (top one is On the Pier in Selkino)
Pattern by Helen Stewart
Yarn: Skein Queen Selkino in St Emilion - one skein
Knitted by Rachel Moutrie as a sample for Unravel and for the shop
Pattern by Suzanne Stallard
Yarn: Skein Queen Gotland Rustic in Moss - half a skein
Knitted by Rachel Moutrie for a sample for Unravel and for the shop
Whew! I think it's taken longer to write this blogpost than to knit some of that lot!
Next up: a Siri cardigan by Linnea Ohman in Emerald Oosie. I think a few of us were inspired to knit one of these beauties having seen a gorgeous yellow example floating round Unravel (one of the best aspects of attending shows - I always get so inspired seeing people's creations being worn). I'd love to get a KAL going on this, so if anyone's interested, do let me know.
I feel like I'm brimming with creativity and ideas at the moment - must be the time of year - and I'm heading off to Cologne, Germany next week in the hope of discovering more ideas, yarns and accoutrements to bring to you in the coming months.
Unravel 2015 - the best show yet February 24 2015
A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat and maybe make a purchase. We came back with considerably less than this! So thank you for making packing up super easy!!
Unravel really does just keep getting better and better every year, and this year again, it was a fantastic show. Having it spread over the three days seemed to make it less hectic and much more comfortable for shoppers and browsers and gave us more of a chance to chat, help with projects and ooo and aah over purchases.
I may have made a few purchases myself - a faux taxidermy fox head kit for the studio from sincerely louise, a couple of Unravel bags, a vintage wooden airer from Eliza Conway, some gorgeous ribbon and vintage scissors from namolio and MORE buttons and ribbon from Textile Garden to add to the collection.
There was much, much yarn and fibre temptation, but I was a very good girl and am awaiting the next order of Voluptuous Skinny from John Arbon to arrive to dye up for a particular garment I have in mind - and the excellent news is that John said it's very nearly ready!!
Very nearly ready for Unravel February 19 2015
The studio shelves are heaving with yarn.
We've got Oasis Lace, Entwist, Delectable, Exquisite, Oasis Grande, Blush, Noble, Lovesome, Voluptuous Petite, Luminosity, Selkino, Enchant, Lustrous, a little Flockly, mini squeens and a limited amount of Jazz Hands bundles.
There's lots of DK including Voluptuous, Oosie, Blissful Plump and Gotland Rustic.
New Lovesome sock yarn
I'm also bringing a small amount of Koigu to show off the colours, Dolly What Not lavender sachets and purses, Fripperies and Bibelots stitch markers and small tubs of beads.
Unfortunately, I can't reserve any yarn in advance. Please also bear in mind that the colourways on offer are all one-off unrepeatables, so worth making sure you have enough for the project you have in mind. It seems this would be the most yarn we've had for Unravel, with several skeins of many the colourways, so hopefully you'll be able to find something lovely for most projects - especially early birds tomorrow.
Suzanne aka alabamawhirly will be helping me again this year. We're in the Barley Room upstairs and proceedings start at 12 noon tomorrow!
Just got a shawl to finish and block tonight.... better get knitting!
The story of the Jazz Hands yarn bundles January 22 2015
Some time just before the turn of the year, I got a message from the lovely Kate Davies asking if she'd mind if she used some Voluptuous Skinny she had for a mittens pattern.
I silently squee'd. Then very professionally answered with a delighted "Yes please" or similar. Not to say it wasn't a daunting prospect for a one-woman dyer with a brand new studio assistant who works part-time (but who is a very fast learner).
Introducing Jazz Hands - the pattern is available to buy here.
So I had to get to work.
Voluptuous Skinny is a 4 ply yarn consisting of 80% Exmoor Blue 20% organic merino and is spun by John Arbon in Devon.
The Exmoor Horn is a rare, hardy hill sheep native to Exmoor in Devon and the ewes are often bred with the Blueface Leiceister ram to produce a hard-wearing but soft yarn with a lovely bloom. The organic merino hails from the Falkland Islands.
I usually buy in 30 kilos at a time and the lead time at the mill is around 3-4 months.
The undyed yarn comes in 100g and 200g skeins, tied in two places. These then have to be tied by hand in a further two places. And all the yarn is soaked overnight in large tubs with food grade citric acid (an alternative would be vinegar, but it's a bit fragrant for me). This preparation time can take an hour or two.
The skeins are then fully immersed in dye in hot water - 3 or 4 at a time - and left for 20 minutes. I then, very carefully, lift the skeins, one-by-one, out of the pots to avoid tangles. Mix up more dye in hot water, add it to the water, and extremely carefully, lower the skeins back into the pot to ensure maximum coverage. They are then left in the water for a further 20 minutes. This is called double dyeing and can lead to a certain intensity in colour.
Production was very nearly brought to a halt on Monday by an almost-electrical-fire in the workshop - moisture and electricity - the eternal battle of the dyer. Hence regular electrical inspections are essential. Pleased to report that the workshop is all dried out now and safe for the next batch of club dyeing next week.
The yarn is then spun, dried and brought to the studio.
For these yarn bundles, we had to break the yarn down from 100g and 200g skeins into 50g skeins.
Here's Eliza loading up the new swift which arrived from the States just after Christmas.
She sets the metre on the electric skein winder to 170m. It automatically stops when the desired length has been reached. However, this is far from an exact science. All kinds of factors play a role including the exact positioning of the flexi-skeiner arms.
Hence we have ended up with skeins varying between 46g and 59g (depending on the generosity of the original skein too). But we will team up the lighter skeins with the heavier so that you will receive 100g or more in total and as the largest size called for 115m, there will be more than enough yarn for the mittens.
And to make matters more complicated, our original set of winders refused to count in metres. So we used rotations to gauge the weight.
Both of us worked all day on Tuesday on the skeining up. Then I worked on it myself yesterday and Eliza is furiously winding up more as we speak. The skeins she's currently winding will be available in the online shop from 8pm GMT tonight (22nd January).
And tangles are time-consuming. It's a bit of an art to know when to persevere and when to abandon!
This morning, we were ready to go as Kate launched the pattern with 100 yarn bundles, with more to be added tonight at 8pm GMT.
The tags, yarn labels, tissue and ribbon are at the ready. One customer has already come in to purchase her set and there are many orders waiting to be wrapped and posted out around the world.
Next week, I'm committed to club dyeing, but am aiming to get more bundles into the February 5th shop update. Due to demand, I'm being very strict with myself and sticking to the original colourway and original yarn weight.
I would hope to produce enough so that everyone who wants one gets one, and to have some in the shop permanently available. But it may take us a few weeks to get to that point - thanks for bearing with us. And so looking forward to knitting a pair of Jazz Hands for myself at some point!
Huge thanks to Kate - it's been fab working with you.
Lush little giveaway to kick off the New Year January 07 2015
The giveaway is now closed and the lucky winner is...*20 seconds wait to increase the tension*... it's Sheila Barth who commented "I love Lush, made one for my granddaughter. Would like to make one for myself in the gorgeous color!" Congratulations, Sheila! If you could contact me through the Contact form in the Skein Queen shop, I will make sure this little parcel of knitterly goodness makes its way to your door. If I don't hear from you by 24th Jan., I'll pick another name at random.
I am truly overwhelmed by all the entries - almost 600 in the end. Too many to draw from a hat. So my daughter and I spent a couple of evenings carefully entering every person into a spreadsheet, entered a randomising formula into a cell and this morning we pressed the button and it drew a name at random.
Would you like win two 200g skeins of Voluptuous DK in Sweet Persimmon and the Handmade in the UK book of 10 unique designs by Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits?
Voluptuous DK is a heady blend of Exmoor Blue and organic merino, spun in Devon, dyed in Berkshire and comes in weighty 200g skeins.
One of the most popular designs in the book is the Lush cardigan which Emily originally knitted in Voluptuous.
All you need to do to win is to leave a comment here on the blog or Skein Queen Facebook group here (make sure you comment under the same picture featured above) and your entry will go into a hat to be picked out at random on Wednesday 21st January. The winner will be announced here on the blog and in the Facebook group.
Please note: to leave a comment on the blog, click on the blog title post.
I couldn't resist casting on a Lush of my own during Yarndale last year, choosing an autumnal toffee-flavoured colourway.
It was a joy to knit and I had a substantial amount of yarn left after completing the XL size. The buttons are from Textile Garden - my go-to button provider!
I'm dreaming about my next Tin Can Knits project... perhaps a Vivid blanket in Jamieson's?
Happy Christmas to one and all December 23 2014
Skein Queen is recruiting November 12 2014
Skein Queen is seeking a self-motivated part-time Studio Assistant to help with the day-to-day
running of the business based in an old barn between Newbury and Thatcham. Skein Queen is an
indie yarn dyeing business established in 2007 with a discerning international customer base that
appreciates the deeply saturated one-off colourways on luxury yarns, excellent customer service and
attention to detail.
- starting beginning of January
- 3 days a week (Tues, Thurs, Fri)
- 5 and a half hours per day
- 9am-3pm or 10am-4pm
- £6.50 an hour plus 40% discount on yarn
Position: Studio Assistant
Location: The Barns, Lower Henwick Farm, Turnpike Road, Newbury, RG18 3AP
Winding yarn speedily whilst maintaining high quality standards expected
Labelling yarn - yarn identification training will be given
Photographing yarn - training will be given
Loading yarn into online shop - training will be given
Printing out orders and postal addresses
Wrapping and posting out yarn using OBA system - training will be given
Working to tight deadlines
Not required: any dyeing duties
Someone with a lot of patience (sorting out tangled yarn requires endless patience).
Someone with knitting knowledge to be able to advise customers on suitable yarn types and to work
out quantities required. Previous retail experience an advantage. The retail aspect is secondary –
visitors are mostly by appointment.
Someone who is computer-literate.
Someone who can work alone for much of the time.
If you have a passion for yarn, love colour, want to work for an exciting, slightly unusual business in a
semi-rural location, enjoy listening to the radio all day and are happy working in a tiny team, then
this could be the just the job for you.
Please apply to email@example.com with your CV and a paragraph or two on why you think you
would make a good SQ Studio Assistant.
Closing date for applications: 30th November 2014