SQ Blog

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

Key responsibilities:
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
Serving customers

Not required: any dyeing duties

Would suit:
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 skeinqueen@gmail.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


Your invitation to come and visit the new Skein Queen Attic Studio October 24 2014

If it's been a little quiet here on the blog, it's because Skein Queen has expanded into a new studio. The studio is invaluable space for winding up the yarn, labelling, posting out, with a little bit of retail. It's pretty much taken the whole year to find a suitable place, go through all the legal bumpff, get the signage sorted, fast Internet installed, painting the walls and moving in. And now we're ready to welcome you.


The studio is handily located in a barn building above Mulberry Crafts which specialises in papercraft, stationery and home decor. 

 Please bear in mind, if you do visit on the Grand Open Day, that there is wheelchair access to Mulberry Crafts, but Skein Queen is located up some outside stairs.


Although I haven't got a decent photo, the knitted bunting made by wonderful customers looks amazing strung from the wooden beams.


I've loved working in this little woolly haven over the last couple of months, looking out over the ever-changing countryside and even love my commute - all of about a mile and a half!

If you aren't able to come along on 1st November but would still like to visit, it's worth making an appointment so that I can arrange to be there and let you know when there'll be hand-dyed yarn in stock.

Thank you for all your support and good wishes over the years and for making this possible. I hope I can now continue to produce more hand-dyed loveliness for your knitting pleasure.

Jamieson's of Shetland and Twittens August 06 2014

As you might know, I'm deep in the process of acquiring some studio premises and way back in April, when the prospect first presented itself, it was the perfect opportunity to invest in a new range of 100% British wool that I've loved using myself for a long time - and now, it's finally made its way into the online shop too - you can find all 50 shades of Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift here.

I've had the luxury of a few days off this week, and have spent the time getting back to my colourwork roots. My mum taught me how to do stranded knitting back in the day when I kept nagging her with "but how do you change colour?" and following charts comes naturally having done so much stranded knitting, rug-making and cross-stitch over the years.

The Jamieson's was perfect for these Titbird mittens by Natalia Moreva - although that name always makes me giggle somewhat immaturely, so I've rechristened them the Twittens.

The colours I used were Rye for the background (almost got away with one ball, but needed to break into a second ball just for the thumb), then working up through the mitten, Stonehenge, Bluebell, Surf, Grouse, Old Gold, Gold, Buttermilk, Caspian, Crimson and Maroon. 11 colours - 12 balls in total, although could have made them with fewer colours, I just wanted to experiment.

I went down a needle size to 2.25mm - my hands are small.

These are unblocked - in fact, I'm not entirely sure how to block them?

But the pattern was fun - the second glove took two days and I loved every stitch. Even loved working with the Jamieson's in the heat and sunshine we've been having.

It's worth browsing Natalia Moreva's other patterns - so many beautiful designs.

Feel free to leave a comment here


Skein Queen Open Studio - the review June 29 2014

"Just a quick note to thank you all for such a wonderful day yesterday. Beautiful yarn, warm reception, freely flowing woolly chatter and super cakes and cuppas from real china cups made the day lovely, despite the awful rain in the morning."

From a marvellous customer

Despite the deluge of rain and thunder starting at 10.45am and ending at 4pm on the dot, many brave souls ventured out to come and find us all ready with a warm welcome of tea, cake and yarn.

Another row of hand-dyed was added to this prior to opening and I think, suffice to say, it went down very well.

It was lovely to welcome so many enthusiastic and friendly knitters into our home and a huge thanks goes to Suzanne for helping setting up and providing the vintage china and serving tea via Jelly arts charity, Wendy for bringing so many cakes, beautiful flower posies and serving tea all day, to Suzanne and Wendy for washing up, to Michelle and Sandra for being SQ chaffeurs and to Sandra for bringing cakes, to Calvin for being the cash desk, to Kira for bringing cake, to Calvin, John, Sam, Suzanne and Michelle for helping set up the marquee... and I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. You all helped make the day the success it was.

And an extra special mention goes to Heather who had travelled down from Glasgow - it was so lovely to get a chance to catch up properly and I hope your evening family gathering was a success.

And did you spot the knitted bunting decking out the marquee? I had the biggest surprise this week when a box of four strings of bunting arrived for my new SQ studio (more on that at a later date). Vero (thatCanadiangirl) had organised a band of merry knitters to knit up lots of bunting triangles which she'd designed (which you can find here) and stringed them all up, many labelled with which yarn had been used.

26 knitters contributed from 9 countries and I'm not ashamed to admit, I did shed a tear or two. The timing of its arrival was spot on for a number of reasons. So more big thanks go to: thatcanadiangirl, charliesumx, jhocy, littletreehouse, rallan, billybrown, ladymarian, lisknit, mikan, fxhunter, fifili67, smc1948, wildcedar, melarno, patriciakeith, erindcoffman, pomonaknits, mrszoedodd, dollydimple, meganyork, snowdroplady, applegateknits, wickedwoollywitch, bombella, alabamawhirly and kiknits.

What a wonderful week it has been. Click here to leave a comment or let me know what you thought of the day

Skein Queen Open Studio June 23 2014

Here at SQ HQ, we're gearing up for the Open Studio this Saturday. We're based in Thatcham, Berkshire.

Visitors can see where all the dyeing action takes place, eat cake, drink tea from vintage teacups, squish yarn, knit and generally have a lovely afternoon in the garden.

There will be SQ hand-dyed yarn available for purchase as well as Lotus Yarns yak, 50 shades of Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift, Dolly What Not lavender bags and purses for knitting notions, Addi needles, Fripperies and Bibelots stitch markers and NovaSteel shawl pins should you wish to do a bit of shopping during the day.

Click here to read more and leave a comment!

More Southwold in the Snow yarn bundles coming in the shop update tonight June 17 2014

Southwold in the Snow yarn bundles coming tonight June 03 2014

Having had a few requests for Southwold in the Snow shawl bundles (click the photo below to find the pattern), we've decided to put together 18 bundles of Voluptuous Skinny 4 ply - each bundle is a unique colourway - no two the same - and none in the original colourways.

The pattern requires 200g of the main colour and 2 x 100g skeins of a contrast colour and the bundles will be £37 each.

These will be uploaded to the Yarn Bundles section of the shop tonight - Tuesday 3rd June at 8pm BST - so is an extra POP-UP shop update ahead of the scheduled one on 11th June.



Much dyeing May 23 2014

I'm afraid I haven't got much knitty news as still working on the WW1 ribbed cardigan! Onto the sleeves now - working them two at time to make them go faster!

But have been doing very much dyeing this week getting ready for the Purlescence Open Day on 7th June.

In the meantime, there are 2 skeins of Voluptuous and a skein of Opulent cashmere up for grabs amongst other UK dyers' yarn + some gorgeous Tin Can Knits patterns over at their Big Spring Destash - worth checking out if you've been waiting to knit Tin Can Knits Lush cardigan or Loch hat.

Knitting for a WW1 movie May 09 2014

A tweet. It all started with a tweet about six months ago.

Pauline Loven, producer and costumier at WAG Screen, tweeted that she was looking for some volunteers to knit garments for a forthcoming film production of Tell Them of Us - a film about a Lincolnshire family during World War I.

A few months later, and I find myself knitting this RIBBED cardigan for a 17-18 year-old boy.

You know when you cast on a new garment and you can't wait to get past the rib? Yeah well, there is no getting past it on this bad boy!! Actually, it hasn't been so bad - my hands have settled into the rhythm of rib.

WAG Screen are a community-based film group and as such, the wool for all the garments has mostly been donated.

I dyed up some Oosie - Scottish Down Cross spun by John Arbon in Devon - in dark blue and grey tones, colours approved by Pauline to be fitting for the era.


It has been interesting, if a little challenging, to work from a pattern of the time.

I'm not sure I got the pockets quite right - they're knitted as part of the whole garment. You start at the top of the pocket, knit a large flap, then fold it back on itself. I ended up picking up stitches to allow me to carry on knitting the garment - not sure that was what was intended. And they seemed particularly narrow at just 24 stitches, but I think look okay and will be extra cosy with a double layer of knitted fabric behind.

The shawl collar has been the biggest challenge and Liz Lovick has been a great help offering advice whenever needed.

I was giggling and thinking THIS CAN'T BE RIGHT as I followed the instructions carrying on knitting the collar from the back of the garment - it extended to a whopping 15" beyond the top of the neck. I just couldn't work out how it would make a collar at all!

Liz explained that it might work by the time you sew the borders in place and then Pauline posted a photo of the construction of a collar that another knitter had made, and it all clicked into place. The "long bit" is folded over twice, then the shaping at the top of the border and corresponding buttonband on the other side meets at the top, thus forming the shawl collar.

It's taken me longer than I wanted to knit this - I still have the buttonband and the sleeves to complete - I've been sidetracked by exciting things happening at SQ HQ and by a very poorly husband - but it's been a great learning lesson. The cardigan may or may not make an appearance in the film, and if it does, it might only be for three seconds, but it doesn't really matter. It's been a fascinating project to be part of.

If nothing else, it gives you an appreciation of the detail and depth that modern day pattern designers go into and of the importance of stating gauge! Although part of me quite likes the freedom to make it up as you go along...

I leave you with an early preview of some of the 200g skeins of Voluptuous which will be available in Wednesday's shop update - would make a beautiful ribbed cardigan!!!!


The art of naming a new yarn base April 04 2014

I'm often asked "So, how do you get the names for your yarn bases?"

It's not as easy as you might think.

When I first started Skein Queen, I wanted to use names that encapsulated the luxurious nature of the yarn. So some of the originals were Opulent, Lavish, Delectable, Mellow, Wisp, Sumptuous, Blush, Elegance, Decadent, Plushness, Glister, Splendid, Desire and Divine. For various reasons, some have been discontinued but many have become SQ staples and I hope are thought of with some level of fondness by their owners.

As other yarns have been added to the range, I've had to get a bit more creative with names:

A camel/silk was called Oasis as it conjured up images in my mind of the old Silk Road trading route.

Yarns which contained silver and gold stellina were called Five-For-Silver and Six-For-Gold after the nursery rhyme about magpies.

100% silk was called Kimono.

A merino/seacell was called Shore.

A merino/bamboo was called Bali.

A squishy merino was called Squash and its nylon partner, called Crush.

Their high twist versions were called Entwist and Entwine.

An aran weight organic merino was called Grandiose, to convey its weightiness.

And Voluptuous was introduced to the range - the first of the weighty 200g skeins - I wanted it to sound heavy and enticing at the same time.

Tweedore was a challenge - 85% BFL with 15% Donegal nep. If I remember correctly, I looked up the names of mills in Ireland. No joy there. Nothing rang true. Then I searched on towns in Donegal and came up with Gweedore. I quite liked that. I liked the tenuous connection with my Orr surname. Then substituted the Gwee- for Tweed- and there we have a new yarn base name.

Other additions have been Luminosity (to convey the shine on a silk), Blimey (100% British yarn), Selkino (merino/silk singles), Lustrous, Noble, Luscious, Exquisite, Encore, Elixir, Enchant, Entice (a lot of "e's"), Cushy, Indulgence, Blissful, Bamboozle, Alpassion and Duchess.

And the most recent has been Oosie - which is a very special yarn which needed a special name. This one actually took me six months to think of. I knew John Arbon was spinning me a Scottish/English yarn and it was a considerable challenge to think what on earth I was going to call it. Some failed considerations were Unity, Hadrian, September and MacBeth. In the end, I opted for Oosie which comes from the Scottish word for wool "oo".

Once you've established the charactistics of the yarn you want to encapsulate (woolly or silky or soft or tweedy), the first port of call is always the thesaurus.

The perfect name might present itself, but there are a LOT of wool companies and yarn dyers out there, so the next stop is check on Ravelry in the Yarn section to see if the name has already been taken. And guess what? Nowadays, it most probably has.

Then you have to establish if the name has been used for a one-off handspun yarn that is unlikely to ever make an appearance again, or is a well-established known yarn base. If it's the latter, as a courtesy to other traders, I don't use it. That's my own personal choice.

As you can see, even from the names used within just the SQ range, we're reaching saturation point for finding new yarn names.

But there are other options: one dyer uses female names, another uses local place names, yet another uses animal names.

I plan to continue to get creative - so watch out for what will be coming next!

In the meantime, have a very happy, indulgent Easter and I'll be back in the workshop adding colour to white yarn in a week's time.

Royal Mail price changes April 02 2014

31st March - the joy of the annual changing of Royal Mail prices.

But there's a bit of good news this time - some prices have gone down.

So although I've had to put my price for a small UK parcel up to 750g up a bit, the good news is that I've been able to REDUCE the price of a medium parcel up to 2kg.


European prices for sizes up to 250g (most parcels) STAY THE SAME. Larger parcels have gone up a little.

Rest of World prices for sizes up to 250g (most parcels) STAY THE SAME. There's a small increase for parcels in the 250-750g range, but I've been able to REDUCE the largest size by whole £1.

I've adjusted the dollar rates to be in line with today's rates, which unfortunately wipes out any decreases for customers buying in $US, so the price for you, will in effect, mostly stay the same.

Having created spreadsheets for these changes and manually amended all the prices in the shop from Gibraltar to Greenland, I hope the prices remain the same until at least this time next year!

I feel a bit like the Chancellor giving the Budget speech - but here is a summary of current prices which you can always find in the Delivery section of the shop.

UK - Royal Mail 1st class

  • 0-49g          -   £1.10
  • 50-750g       -   £3.20
  • 751g-2kg     -   £5.30

Europe - Airmail

  • 0-99g          -   £2.95
  • 100-250g     -   £3.45
  • 251-500g     -   £4.95
  • 501-750g     -   £6.25
  • 751-1kg       -   £7.95
  • 1.01kg-2kg   -   £13.50

Rest of the World - Airmail

  • 0-99g           -    £3.50 (approx $5.80)
  • 100-250g      -    £4.50 (approx $7.50)
  • 251-500g      -    £7.95 (approx $13.25)
  • 501-750g      -    £10.50 (approx $17.50)
  • 750-1kg        -    £13.50 (approx $22.50)
  • 1.01kg-2kg    -    £24.00 (approx $40)

Now there just needs to be hand-dyed in the shop to buy! Keep an eye out tomorrow - I have a few skeins which I plan to add to the shop throughout the day - not a huge amount. And then I'm taking a week's Easter break until April 14th.

Summery socks March 26 2014

Sometimes, a yarn comes out of the dye pots that I just can't part with.

I try not to make a habit of this, but I couldn't resist this skein of Entwist.

It's becoming a pair of Hermoine's Everyday Socks - with just a little texture to break up the variegation.

I'm loving the transitions between the candy pinks, apricot, citrine, teal, pale lemon, deep rose and spring green - just a few stitches of each colour.

It's very naughty and very indulgent, but it feels so refreshing to have a portable project after THE BLANKET.

I can always make more...

Although achieving these colours again could be a challenge.

A finished blanket!! March 22 2014

Until today, I've never finished a knitted or crocheted blanket - well, not a full-size adult one.

And look - I'm wiping tears of pride away as I show you. Squares that haven't become cushions, or chair covers, or anything else. It's a real-life blanket.


The story of this blanket starts a while back. I'd wanted to crochet a granny square-type blanket with a white border for a long time, having seen Flowers in the Snow and lots of examples in Mollie Makes Home magazine (does that magazine still exist?)

Back in January, myself and alabamawhirly went to visit thatcanadian in Cambridgeshire. We'd been messaging back and forth that she'd bought a load of Noro Kureyon from Tangled Yarn to make a blanket inspired by Beata's one here. When we arrived, she'd made a few squares and said how quickly they were working up and that they kept your interest because of the colour changes of the Noro.

That was it. I was "hooked" (forgive me the pun, I'm ill!)

I thought if I was going to finish a blanket, it was going to be this one. So I bought my Noro in batches of five balls (y'know, just in case). Each ball worked up about four squares. And I sailed through them, watching the colours change as I went. I wasn't precious about how the colours were working out or the odd colour jolt - the white evens them all out in the end.

I used a Clover Soft Touch crochet hook size 4 from Natural Dye Studio which was a bit easier on the hands than previous ones I'd used.

For the border, I found a big cone of Aran BFL (as you do) in the workshop and it worked perfectly. But it did take a long time to put one row of trebles round each square. Then I finished off with a single border of double crochets.

It needs blocked but my daughter has requisitioned it as the new sofa blanket.

And I hope it lasts for many years to come.

I wonder what knitting will feel like now...

Exciting new British yarn March 19 2014

Custom spun by John Arbon for Skein Queen, Oosie is a bouncy, woolly, non-superwash yarn. Perfect for cardigans, scarves, gloves, hats, sweaters.
Oosie is derived from the old Scots word for wool "oo" and means fluff.

When I spoke to John at Yarndale last September, I said I'd love a second John Arbon yarn to add to the SQ range and that I'd ideally like a Scottish/English blend, what with the referendum coming up in September and being a Scot living in England, it seemed to resonate with my idea of an exciting British wool.

So this is what he came up with:

100% Scottish Down Cross - or Highland Suffolk which is a Suffolk bred in the Highlands and blended with a Scottish bred Cheviot.

  • 100% Scottish Down Cross
  • DK weight.
  • 200g.
  • Approx. 500m/547yards.

Spun by John Arbon in Devon. Dyed by Skein Queen in Berkshire.

Gauge: 21sts and 28 rows to 10cm on 4mm metal needles.

On sale in the online shop from tonight at 8pm GMT, including mini skeins if you want to try it out first.


And the lovely thing is that I'll be knitting a garment for a WWI film in Oosie - just got to dye some up in a manly colour first!

Unravel preview February 20 2014

Unravel is fast approaching so I thought I'd give you a very brief preview of some of the yarn I'll be bringing.


100% silk

Selkino - merino/silk singles

Blush - merino/cashmere

 Entwist - high twist merino

more Entwist

Opulent - cashmere

Noble - alpaca/silk

Flockly - BFL/cashmere/silk

A very small taster of what to expect if you're visiting Unravel this weekend.

I'll also be bringing a selection of Voluptuous and Skinny Voluptuous, so if you've been planning to knit a Southwold in the Snow shawl, you can select your own colours.

Also available will be Delectable, Oasis Cobweb, Crush, Blimey and Enchanting Lace. Along with BomBella fox kits, NovaSteel shawl pins, fripperies and bibelots stitch markers and Addi needles.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to reserve any of the yarn, but very much look forward to meeting you if you can make it.

From sheep to woven fabric project comes full circle February 10 2014

You may remember a rather lovely project I was working on with a London textile designer to produce a book cover using irregular hand-dyeing techniques to mimic the effect of the piecemeal application of stock marker sprays by farmers on sheep.

The idea was originally conceived by design guru, Peter Saville, in his role as consultant to Danish textile firm, Kvadrat. He saw the bright, almost DayGlo colours of sheep markings as a kind of rural graffiti.

Well, look what arrived over the weekend. Isn't it stunning?

There's even a page on the dyeing and weaving process.

To see how my role in the project came about and the process involved, see this blogpost from July.

To read more about the book, see more photos from it and listen to Peter Saville talk about Kvadrat and how the cover came about, check out this review.

Welcome one and all February 03 2014

Come in, come in - have a good browse round.

The doors of the new shop are open to give you time to get your bearings, maybe set up your new account and to see where everything is kept. Once you're in and settled and it's starting to look familiar, I'll then add a little new hand-dyed yarn.

If you're a regular SQ shopper, you may notice some differences to the old shop.

  • it brings together the old website, shop and blog to one place. Don't forget to reset your Favorites or Bookmarks to the new website domain name - www.skeinqueenyarns.co.uk.
  • the photos are bigger and clearer, so you can better see what you're buying. They can be easily pinned to Pinterest, so please do.
  • if you click on Hand-dyed Yarn, you'll find a list of the yarn bases and prices but also Origin of Yarns information.
  • if you're interested in where to squidge the yarn in person, there's a Forthcoming Shows page under the Information tab.
  • can I politely suggest that initial caps are preferable to lower case when completing addresses in the new account.
  • if you hold a gift voucher for the old shop, please do get in touch and I will issue you with a new code for the new shop.
  • you'll notice that the new shop is set up to accept pounds sterling as Skein Queen is based in the UK. PayPal will do all the hard work if you're paying in another currency - check out Terms and Conditions for more info. on how it works.

There is a small amount of new hand-dyed yarn being added to the shop this Sunday at noon - and as it is less than two weeks until Unravel and I haven't started dyeing for it yet - the next shop update will be after that.

Huge thanks goes to Mr Orr for his stupendous effort and extra hours worked in getting the website up and running and thank you for bearing with us while we decorated and stocked up the new shop.

Please feel free to shower us with comments so that I don't get all lonely on this new, airy, spacious blog.

So all that remains is for me to cut the ribbon and I'm cracking an imaginary bottle of champagne on the nearest doorframe.