Skein Queen is recruiting! November 17 2017
Electra shawl by Truly Myrtle in Selkino October 18 2017
A few months ago, Libby of Truly Myrtle and myself put our heads together to bring you something fun and I'm blown away by what she's come up with. This is her Electra Shawl.
"Electra has oodles of style. She’s zingy, super fun and just enough wild to make you feel amazing.
Wear her draped around your shoulders and hanging long for extra pizazz, or snuggle her up for a pop of colour at your neck."
"Knitted from end to end, Electra is a long, slim, arrow-shaped wrap, with a funky tail at one end and a lace point at the other. You’ll begin at the tail with gutsy lace, move to slipped stitches that knit into a delicious honeycomb, and then relax into an easy rhythm of lace and honeycomb and back again."
Libby chose three colours of Selkino for her shawl design - Greenham Common, Lady Philomere and Highclere Castle but there are so many options.
"Electra is the perfect chance to try your hand at combining colours. Try mixing a dark, light and bright to create a real statement or create calm elegance with three tonal shades. The options are endless, and exciting!"
Royal Ascot, Lady Philomere and Woodspeen
Biscuit Town, Woodspeen and Highclere Castle.
Tonight, I plan to cast mine on in Brick Kiln, Biscuit Town and Highclere Castle - cannot wait! My needles are itching to get going.
Electra has just been released on Ravelry and Libby is offering a generous discount until Sunday 22nd October.
Susan Crawford is a legend in the knitting world. She specialises in interpreting ideas from vintage patterns for today and lectures in fashion history. Not only is she a knitwear designer and author, but also a shepherdess. Her small flock of sheep includes Shetlands, Herdwicks, Zwartbles and Lonks
12 months ago, Susan was diagnosed with stage 3 invasive breast cancer and was given poor odds for survival. An intensive period of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy culminated a year later with Susan cancer free. She was, and continues to be, supported by the amazing local charity CancerCare, who provide complementary treatments and professional advice to cancer patients and their carers at no cost to the user.
Susan also became part of Phoenix, CancerCare's online group and formed friendships with many other women going through the same experiences. A short time after joining a project began photographing members of Phoenix sharing their scars, both physical and mental. These 'Scarletts' as they became known wanted to share their personal experiences of how cancer, and particularly, breast cancer, attempts to strip women of their physicality, their visual identity.
Through the portraits they wanted to take back ownership of their bodies, and to be proud of who they had become. These portraits have been turned into the 'Knocker Jotter' which is being sold to raise funds for CancerCare.
To help support this campaign and to put two fingers up at the horror that is cancer, Susan created the 'fubc' shawl kit. The kit includes two skeins of Susan's exclusive 100% Lonk wool, Ghyll, one undyed and one dyed, enough to make one of two shawl patterns included in the kit both inspired by the shape and structure of Lonk horns. In addition a copy of the 'Knocker Jotter' is included in every kit.
What makes these kits even more special is the dyeing. Susan reached out to four hand dyers, Old Maiden Aunt, Countess Ablaze, Skein Queen and Knitting Goddess, each of whom instantly agreed to provide an exclusive colourway inspired by one of the portraits in the journal.
My inspiration photo was of a Scarlett called Karen who wore a beautiful three-layered chiffon skirt in peach, gold and pink with a purple belt with the moody blue sky behind. It's a strong but feminine image as she draws back the string on a bow, ready to face her critics and her new journey ahead.
Each dyer dyed approximately 100 skeins. No two are identical and the four colourways are very different, each reflecting the approach of the dyer. There are fewer than 400 kits available. Susan's 2016 limited edition Ghyll yarn is available only in the fubc kits with a percentage of monies from each kit sale being donated to CancerCare.
Ghyll is 100% British wool all from a single breed of sheep – the Lonk. Only the best shearling fleeces have been used, from just one flock living on the Lancashire moors overlooking the Lune valley directly across from Susan’s own farm. Using only the best fleeces ensures the highest quality of yarn.
Ghyll is worsted spun, meaning it is combed before spinning to create a smoother, stronger and less scratchy yarn. It is comprised of 3 plys which are spun together with quite a high twist creating a firm but bouncy yarn, suitable for all sorts of knitting projects but particularly textured patterns, lace knitting and even socks.
Yesterday marked the last injection of Susan's treatment and it is so good to welcome her back into the knitting world.
The kits are available now to order exclusively from www.susancrawfordvintage.com
Now stocking Laine magazine October 10 2017
Blog post by Eliza.
We're proud to say that we are now stockists of the beautiful Laine magazine. This collectible publication is packed full of fascinating articles and each pattern is stunningly photographed and clearly laid out. This issue is brimming with warm, wintery knits.
"Laine is a brand new tri-annual, high-quality Nordic knit and lifestyle magazine for people who cherish natural fibres, slow living, local craftsmanship and beautiful, simple things in life. It includes patterns by the leading designers, insightful stories from the world of wool, exciting travel articles, seasonal recipes and strong, visual storytelling."
"Laine was set up in 2016 by Jonna Hietala and Sini Ellen. This duo packed by years and years of experience with journalism and publishing, social media, and wool wanted to create an aesthetic, informative and inspiring magazine for people sharing the same interests."
I've fallen in love with the Treysta sweater by Jennifer Steingass (below) and I'm already planning a batch of apple lingonberry sheet cake, both from issue No# 3 available here.
Wriggle Lace and Romance September 13 2017
Cécile Balladino was inspired to create this beautiful crocheted Romance shawl after purchasing a skein of Summer Houses in Wriggle Lace.
Cécile says "Romance is a triangular shawl in lace yarn that starts at the top.
I designed it especially for the love-at-first-sight hand dyed yarn that we buy and which, very often, we do not know what to do with.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!
Its regular pattern highlights the subtleties of the yarn while avoiding the messy effect.
The stitch is memorizing very quickly, making it an easy to crochet and not boring work."
The pattern is available here.
It's so beautiful in Summer Houses but imagine one in these colourways too.
Yarnfolk August 14 2017
Yarnfolk was held on Saturday 5th August in Whitehead in Northern Ireland and organised by Louise of Lighthouse Yarns.
Whitehead was the perfect setting for Northern Ireland's first wool festival - a compact seaside town with several community halls which were just right for hosting vendors from all over Ireland and some of whom had made the journey across the Irish Sea.
Eliza and I had worked hard with our preparations and so had lots of lovely yarn to bring - even more than we had planned!
It was a super easy set up on the morning of the show - with parking right outside the Community Centre.
It was so great to meet the other vendors including Terri of Fine Fish Yarns - who also took a role in organising the event, Lindsay of Dye Candy, Fiona of Green Elephant Yarn, Bernie from Bear in Sheep's Clothing, Tracey of Ewe Momma and Fay of Knit It-Hook It-Craft It who had travelled over by ferry in the morning and was returning after the show!
And, of course, the wonderful yarn lovers who had travelled from all over the country. It was great to meet a long-standing customer from Wicklow and another lady who'd met my father-in-law on the train one day and wondering why he was feeling her knitting! The knitter's handshake! He explained that his daughter-in-law was a dyer and hence, we got to meet her!
The town was buzzing with excited shoppers and attendees of the various workshops on offer from needle felting to making Dorset buttons. There were demos from various guilds including the Guild of Machines Knitters NI and the Ulster Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. And purveyors of everything from hand-dyed yarn to cute accessories were spread across the town's various venues.
The food was amazing -- by local company Maggie's Working Kitchen. Their Fifteens were to die for! And if you don't know what a Fifteen is, you really have to try this Northern Irish traybake - very easy to make (although not sure I'd be able to make them this good!)
I lost count of the number of people who thanked us for coming over but it's us who has to thank everybody for the fantastic welcome. It was Mr O.'s first show and he did a sterling job (although wasn't too keen on me calling him My Glamorous Assistant!)
If you want to get a feel of the atmosphere on the day, check out Vince Polding's vlog here.
Open Studio - the review June 30 2017
The yarn was ready...
The bunting was up...
The cake was ready...
And then the knitters arrived. There was choosing... and chatting... and knitting.
It was an amazing day, having the place come alive with so many yarn appreciators. We really did enjoy it.
So much so, I got enabled into choosing colours to make the ever-popular Find Your Fade shawl by Andrea Mowry. Having seen knitiam's sample, I'm told you can do it in six skeins rather than the seven called for. I've cast on and loving it!
HUGE THANKS to everyone who came along and looking forward to next year already.
We're having a one-off Singles Special in the shop tonight at 10PM BST to coordinate with a little thing happening in podcastland - there's not masses but you can see a preview here.
And don't worry if you miss out as there'll be more of the Berkshire Collection colourways, Heavenly Midnight and Oyster Bay.
This is Heavenly Midnight - a repeatable colourway and one I'm particularly happy with - sometimes the dye-gods come together and a particular alchemy you've been working towards for months finally happens!
And the 10 year anniversary celebrations continue... June 19 2017
As the 10th anniversary celebrations continue and we prepare for the Open Studio this Saturday by dyeing much yarn and planning my cake-baking for the end of the week, we're also very, very close to launching the new wholesale ranges and participating in a yet-to-be-revealed project. So exciting times.
If you're thinking of coming by train, let me know what time your train is due in at Thatcham rail station and we'll make sure someone is there to pick you up and bring you back.
And thank you all SO much for participating in the Name the Yarn competition. As a family we went through all the names and after much consideration, the unanimous decision was:
Congratulations, Julienne!! If you'd like to get in touch, we'll get your prize sent off to you as soon as possible.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all the thought that went into your entries - I've thoroughly enjoyed reading every one of them. Some very interesting suggestions and it was hard to pick a winner.
Ten year anniversary June 12 2017
Skein Queen is 10! It is almost inconceivable that a little notion I had one night lying in bed has turned into a full-time job for both me and Eliza.
But first things first - we're having three little celebrations to mark the occasion. As the graphic says, Name the Colourway - Win the Yarn. That's FOUR skeins of Crush sock yarn. Just leave your suggestion in a comment on the blog and I'll announce the winner next Monday 19th June. The competition will also be running on Instagram and Facebook. One entry per person. I will post worldwide so don't be shy - can't wait to hear your suggestions.
The second celebration is an Open Studio in a couple of weeks when we fling open the doors to the new dyeworks and welcome you in to see where the dyeing takes place, eat cake, drink tea and knit, and of course there will be an opportunity to squidge the yarn in person and purchase if anything takes your fancy.
And thirdly, we are finally launching our new, updated logo designed by the talented graphic designer, Patricia Lewis. You'll see new yarn labels, stickers, thank you cards and a change on the website as the new logo takes hold. I hope you love it as much as we do.
So a little of the history of Skein Queen.
At the end of 2006, the Internet was opening up all sorts of discoveries in the knitting world and it no longer seemed like such a solitary activity. I started talking to other knitters via the social media networks of the time such as Plurk and a knitters' forum, the name of which escapes me. And then... there was a big buzz about a new network for knitters called Ravelry. So I signed up for the beta testing, waited in the queue and was so excited when I got in!
In the meantime, I bought a copy of Knit Now and there was an article by Debbie Tomkies about dyeing yarn with Kool Aid. I don't know why this captured my imagination as I can't remember ever trying anything else from a magazine, but it did so I gave it a go in the kitchen.This was one of my first attempts!
In fact, if you hop on over to DT Crafts's gallery, you can see my first attempts are still there!
I thought it would be a good idea to consolidate the dyeing skills I was learning by attending a dyeing course run by Debbie Tomkies at Eyam Hall in Derbyshire.
There were just the two of us on the course - here's Becky and myself presenting our dyeing attempts. It was good to know that everything I was doing was as it should be. If you ever get a chance to do one of these workshops, I'd highly recommend them.
Over the next three months, I became completely obsessed with tracking down some cashmere/silk. White yarn was much harder to find on the Internet then than it is now, but I finally traced it to a Chinese mill and got in touch with them to buy some. I still use that mill today for some yarns and have a developed a great working relationship with Han over the years. I finally got to meet him at H+H in Cologne a couple of years ago.
By that time, I'd moved onto using fibre reactive dyes and opened an Etsy shop. This was the first skein of yarn I ever sold within 24 hours to a lady in the States - it was called Kew Gardens and the yarn base was called Lavish - 55% silk 45% cashmere.
One of the pivotal moments was when a lady in Reading bought some yarn and realised it had been posted from the post office next to where she worked. Somehow we got chatting online and she ran a knitting group in Reading called the Outcasts. That lady turned out to be Suzanne Stallard, who has been hugely supportive over the years - and is a very special friend who some of you may have met at shows.
I was still working as an Editor, but for two years combined both jobs, dyeing yarn in the kitchen, labelling it with labels from Hobbycraft with matching ribbons in the bedroom. Reinvesting all income back into the business.
By 2009, the shop was regularly selling out, custom orders were plentiful and there seemed to be a demand, so I decided to take the plunge and go full-time with Skein Queen waving goodbye to the world of academic publishing.
We converted the garage into a workshop, so I could have a dedicated work space as working in the kitchen with a busy family and stopping and starting for meals was totally impractical.
And the spare room became my office.
I'd worked from home since 2002 (using the old Tele2 satellite dish!) so discipline came easily.
In 2014, there was wool everywhere in the house and industrial winders on the landing, so it was time to look at expanding.
Eventually I found an attic space not far from my home which turned out to be perfect.
At the time, a friend - Kira Moffat - had been working with me for a couple of months, but she had found herself an engineering job, so I was sad to see her go.
It was time to recruit and I was fortunate to find Eliza - a keen knitter and fibre enthusiast.
Eliza was working three days a week up at the studio, while I was still dyeing from the garage workshop. Then we'd work together after a shop update, taking two days to pack up and send out all the orders. I think we both loved working at the studio - it was a beautiful environment and we had friendly neighbours downstairs running the craft shop.
Finally at the end of last year, the working on split sites was proving too unwieldy, from deliveries to communicating with each other, so after much searching, I found our current premises - 1,500 sq ft of workshop, mezzanine for storage with three offices.
Eliza is now working full-time and together, we are able to produce more yarn for your delectation.
I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing people over the years including Ysolda Teague, Kate Davies, Ella Austin and Tincanknits.
One of the highlights was working with Wallace Sewell on a book cover conceived by Peter Saville for Danish design company, Kvadrat.
And another was being asked to take part in an international art exhibition called Elemental Birds by Inga and Andy Hamilton.
Another incredibly special moment was when I was presented with the most amazing blanket made by lots of customers and friends from around the world and assembled by the Outcasts when my mum died of lung cancer at the age of 71 in 2010. It truly was a touching moment.
I really am so lucky to have such a wonderful, warm community of friends, knitters and customers who make this job so very special.
And I couldn't have done any of it without the help and support of my family, Calvin, Sam and Lily who deserve medals for putting up with damp yarn hanging around the house and too much business talk for so many years.
Here's to the next ten years...
And the winner is.....*insert drumroll* May 15 2017
And the winner of the two skeins of lovely Moonwalk Exquisite Twist is....
Congratulations, Michelle Ainslie! If you could get in touch, I'll get the yarn posted off to you at the soonest opportunity.
And massive thanks to everyone who participated - we raised over £275 thanks to your enormous generosity, helping the Fizzy Floozies smash their original target by raising almost £3,500 towards breast cancer charities.
We were all overwhelmed by one donation in particular - you know who you are - thank you SO much. And to every one of you who took the time to donate.
I'm super proud of all nine of my friends who completed the 26 miles on Saturday night. What an amazing achievement!
And if you want to read more about where the money raised goes, these are some of the charities that Walk the Walk supports.
Want to win two skeins of Exquisite Twist in the specially devised MoonWalk colourway and support this breast cancer charity?
On May 13th, nine of my hero friends will be power walking over 26 miles through the streets of London in an effort to raise money for breast cancer. They've all been training so hard - walking for miles and miles in the evenings and at weekends, when they could have been doing other things, like raising a glass of fizz with their feet up.
I'd love to be able to help them to get to their target of £2000, and they're very nearly there, so I'm offering 2 skeins of merino/cashmere/nylon to tempt you into donating a minimum of £2 to their fund-raising page in order to enter the lucky dip competition.
I will pick the winner at random on May 15th and announce who it is here on the blog so good luck! I'll post it worldwide, so don't be shy to enter.
All you need to do is:
1. Go to the Fizzy Floozies fund-raising page here.
2. Make your donation - please mark it with SQ so that I can tell if you've entered.
Feel free to leave the girls a good luck message to spur them on on the night.
And that's it! Best of luck to you and to Michelle Stevens, Sandra Benton, Karen Neumann, Karen Symes, Katie Lewis, Leanne Holland, Amanda Drane, Clare Stewart and Kate Flitter!
(Comments left on the blog won't count - sorry.)
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.