Yarns of This Thing of Paper: Dye Ninja, an Interview.

Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. Sheila of DyeNinja is a real genius with rich, jewel-like colour with subtle semi-solid effects. When we started talking about the project, I knew she understood exactly what I needed in terms of colour and texture.  


Hello. You were a relatively new yarn dyer when I first came across your yarns, and I quickly became obsessed with your sense of colour. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

A lifetime ago, well four years (they were big years), I was a successful Programme Manager with thirty years experience of implementing Computer Systems for Banks and Hospitals. I was good at Planning, Budgeting, Organising and Risk Assessment. But there wasn't a lot of time for knitting, and I had way too many Capital Letters in my life.

One day, on the way home from a wool dyeing workshop, I had a life-changing moment. My heart and mind were filled with the possibilities of colour and wool, alpaca, silk, and so on but mostly colour; glorious, bright, joy-filled, life-enhancing colour. So I gave up the salary and the car and the ninety-hour weeks (I kid you not) and the capital letters and became a yarn alchemist.

Yarn alchemist. I really think that sums up your approach to colour and bases! Could you tell my readers about your yarns and colour, because I think you do something very special. 

Yes, yarn alchemist! Now, my life revolves around steaming cauldrons, jewel-like dyes, luxury yarns and vibrant colour. For me, the most important thing about yarn is that it handles well - if you're going to spend some of your precious leisure hours working with it, then it has to feel good in your hands. So I have luxurious yarn bases that I treat with care and respect, so that I can give you vibrant depth of colour without the dye bleeding, or the yarn scratching, or splitting and unwinding itself as you work.

Then, with beautiful yarn as a place to start, I layer on the colour - oodles of colour. I'm looking for depth and vibrancy, a bright richness of hue in almost solid, semi-solid and tonally variegated yarn. Used as a single colour the layering and shading give life to what might otherwise be flat colour, so a single-coloured sweater becomes a thing of infinite interest as it moves in the light; while the subtlety of tonal changes will set-off beautifully those multi-coloured and speckled favourites in the stash. 

You chose the baby camel/silk fingering for This Thing of Paper and it's arguably the most luxurious yarn I dye. It gives wonderful deep jewel colours and interesting multi-layering in the neutrals. It drapes like a dream and makes the most wonderful shawls, cowls and hats

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That yarn is absolutely spectacular and your colours are so subtle & rich, it was difficult to capture them properly. We spent ages trying to get the photography right! I also have a little box you made me of all your shades and I often go back to it just to play with colour combinations. I love how rich your colours are, yet they are never overpowering or flat. 


I have asked the next question to all my lovely yarn supporters, but I think I already know your answer .. seeing as This Thing of Paper is about books, what book would you recommend? 

What - apart from anything by Sir Terry Pratchett? (Guards! Guards! Mort or Witches Abroad would be good places to start). 

I knew you were going to say Sir Terry Prachett. In fact, you do a series of colourways inspired by Prachett's work - the proceeds of which you use to fundraise for Alzheimer's Research UK. As someone whose family has been touched by dementia, I am very grateful for this. Thank you. 

Finally, where can people find your yarns? ? 

I have a website shop with good photos and a simple process for buying. But one of the great joys of this life is yarn festivals. I love everything about them from deciding which colours to take, to flitting across country with the car stuffed to the gunnels with yarn and setting up my stand with dozens of like-minded crafty folk. Best of all I love meeting the people who knit with my yarn, who seek out vibrant colours and delicious yarn bases; they always have interesting things to say and they're just such nice people. I try to go to at least half a dozen festivals each year, this year it's been Edinburgh Yarn Festival, WonderWool Wales, York Wool Fest, Perth Festival of Yarn, Yarndale, Loch Ness Knit Fest and Nottingham Yarn Expo

Next year I hope to add festivals further afield! I'm already looking forward to seeing everyone.

And everyone should look forward to seeing your colours and bases. I bought some yarn from you recently earmarked for a new design. You do stunning work, Sheila. Thank you!

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Yarns of This Thing of Paper: Blacker Yarns, an Interview.

Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. I knew I wanted yarns that carried stories and had significance beyond "this is a nice colour". Having Blacker Yarns lend yarn support felt like a major step in the right direction: their yarns lend an extra dimension to the project. 

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Hi. I have been waxing lyrically about your yarns for years, and it was a great joy collaborating on this project with you. Could you tell us a bit about your yarns and yourself?

At Blacker Yarns we specialise in natural, breed specific yarns and innovative, unusual blends. We buy all of our fleece from UK small producers and scour, card, spin and dye everything under one roof in Cornwall. 

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What can people expect from your yarns? You are a yarn company with a difference.

Yes, and people can expect each of our yarns to be different! Knitting with our yarns is about the unique characteristics of a diverse range of British breeds. Wool can be many things.

Yes, the two different cardigans above really showcases that. Vellum is knitted in Tamar DK whilst Incunabula is worked in British Classic DK. I chose the two yarns after swatching carefully, so I understood the difference between them. British Classic is a really fantastic workhorse yarn which will wear like iron, whilst Tamar has more drape and feels lighter despite reading as the same weight. 

Tamar is a semi-worsted lustre yarn spun from the fleeces of fine British rare breeds, including Teeswater, Wensleydale and Leicester Longwool. The natural grey of the Leicester Longwool makes two subtle base shades in silvery or mid grey.  To give some body and bulk, we base the lustre fibres on a grounding of 30% Cornish Mule, which also has lustre as well as additional softness.

The British Classic range is based on a blend of British breeds white wool from our selected supplier farms, combined with 30% Blue-faced Leicester from a group of farms in North Wales.  The added Blue-faced Leicester wool softens the yarn to make comfortable, light and warm garments. We start with the natural creamy white and then add heathered grey or fawn using mainly Hebridean or Black Welsh Mountain fleece for the grey or Manx fleece for the fawn. We then dye the three resulting natural shades in subtle colours, which will all tone with each other.

And that is just two of your yarns. As I said, I love how all your yarns have similar stories about sourcing materials and carefully blending various breeds to get the right result. I like to think I know a great deal about yarn (as a knitter) and yet every time I swatch another one of your yarns, I learn something new. Just like knitting is never "just knitting", wool is never "just wool". And you make that experience accessible to someone like me who doesn't spin. 

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Now, let's chat books. This Thing of Paper is a knitting book about knitting and books, so it feels pretty obvious to ask you about your favourite read? 

My personal favourite book is The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula LeGuin. It's a beautifully written fantasy epic, with wizards and dragons and all that good stuff. But there is also a strong environmental message that fits with our outlook here at Blacker Yarns. And if you read closely, there is yarn, and spinning too!

I actually quoted Ursula LeGuin in This Thing of Paper! She is an amazingly powerful writer and I read The Earthsea Quartet as a teenager - it is fantastic. 

Finally, where can people find your yarns? ? 

We sell our yarns online through our website, and we also have a selection of lovely stockists in the UK and around the world. We attend several shows around the UK every year, including Edinburgh Yarn FestivalYarndale, Woolfest and Wonderwool.

You also sponsor the Podcast Lounge at Edinburgh Yarn Festival — which is actually where I was first told by people to go make This Thing of Paper! I love that little fact. Thank you for taking time out of your very, very busy schedule to have a chat. I love your yarns and I am so happy you are a part of my book. 

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Yarns of This Thing of Paper: Travelknitter, an Interview.

Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. The first pattern I designed and wrote was Rubrication. It is a shawl that explores the colour red and the practise of red-lettering in manuscripts/early printed books. It was so important to find the right red colour, but I knew my search was over when I saw Travelknitter's reds. 

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Hi Larissa. I have been a huge fan of your strong, bold colours for as long as I can remember. It is so exciting to finally collaborate with you. I've been waiting for years for the right project to come along. Could you tell us a bit about your yarns and yourself?.   

I’m Larissa, the dyer behind Travelknitter. Technically I am an Australian living in London, although I’ve actually lived in London longer than I’ve lived in any other city in the world. My itinerant life plays out in many of my colourways, which are inspired by places and travels. Some of the sources of inspiration are obvious, while some are more obscure. I enjoy having a story behind the colourways.

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How do you approach dyeing?

My signature style is towards rich, saturated colours, created through lots of layering. I dye semi-solids and tonally variegated colours, designed to look as good knit up as they do in the skein. I use a small range of base yarns, which I’ve chosen for the specific qualities needed in handknits. Hardwearing-but-soft Bluefaced Leicester for socks or jumpers, extra fine merino for supersoft cosiness, and of course the baby camel and silk Tanami for pure tactile luxury! They are all yarns that I would personally choose to knit with myself.

I chose to use the Tanami for the Rubrication shawl and it's really stunning to work with. That camel/silk blend feels almost sinfully good as it runs through my fingers!

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Now, let's chat books. This Thing of Paper is a knitting book about knitting and books, so it feels pretty obvious to ask you about your favourite read? 

Great question! Books were my greatest weakness before I discovered yarn, so linking the two makes for a pretty heady combination. Staying with the theme, I recommend Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World by Clara Parkes. Clara writes about her experiences travelling the world attending various knitting show and events. She has a great way of capturing all those special moments that are recognisable to anyone who has travelled to a yarn show. The book is full of warmth, wonderful stories, and hilarious anecdotes about what happens when knitters gather. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, and a wonderful way to capture those experiences we share as knitters in search of yarn and community.

Yarn and community. There is nothing better. And Clara is such a great storyteller that I whoop every time I see she has a new book coming out.

I think the first time I saw your yarns in person, it might have been a knitting retreat we were both attending. I knew of your yarns, but had never seen them up close before. They are stunning. Where can people catch up with you? Do you do a lot of shows?

There are a few different ways that people can get hold of Travelknitter yarns. One option is to visit my online Etsy shop where I update stock regularly. For the opportunity to squish-before-you-buy, Wild and Woolly in Clapton, East London is the only LYS stockist of Travelknitter. It’s my own LYS and has a very special place in my heart. The owner Anna stocks my BFL Supersock and Extra Fine Merino DK, including a Wild and Woolly exclusive colourway in both bases. I certainly wouldn’t be the Travelknitter though without travelling to yarn shows. My next confirmed yarn show is Festiwool in Hitchin on November 11th. I’m hoping to be invited back to Edinburgh Yarn Fest in March. Fingers crossed!

I'm also on Instagram and (very occasionally) on Twitter

Thank you! On a personal note, you are also one of the funniest people I know, although your wit is so dry it takes me a day to realise you've cracked jokes at my expense! Your colours are so extraordinary, Larissa, and I'm so pleased to say that the Rubrication shawl is on the cover of This Thing of Paper.  

Rubrication uses two hanks of Travelknitter Tanami 4ply in the Double Happiness colourway.

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Yarns of This Thing of Paper: Ripples Crafts, an Interview.

Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. Ripples Crafts was an early lock-in as I had previously worked with the Quinag base for my Frances Herself. I also knew that I wanted to work with the Copper Beech colourway as it reminded me of leather-bound books. Perfect. 

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Hi Helen. I have loved your yarns for many years and I'm so glad you wanted to get involved with my book project. Could you tell us a bit about your yarns and yourself?.   

My name is Helen Lockhart and I began the business Ripples Crafts in 2008. I had been dyeing yarn for my own use, but it wasn’t until we made our home in Assynt in the Scottish Highlands in 2008 that I stepped up my craft and developed it into a full time business.

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How do you approach dyeing?

Living in what many consider to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world inevitably influences the colours I use in my yarns and colour combinations.

The techniques I use result in colours ranging from almost solid shades which I aim to be able to repeat as closely as possible through to wildly variegated colours which are unique. I am known for my deeply saturated colours, and while I do a few pastel shades, it is the deeper, saturated shades which bring me the most joy.

Why is that? I know that is a big question.

Again, this saturation is influenced by where I live, where we have such wonderful light which show up the depth of colours in the landscape beautifully. The light in Assynt changes constantly, and at times that can be infuriating as I run indoors for my camera to capture a particular scene only to come back outside to find the light has shifted and the moment I wanted to catch is gone. But it is also what makes living here so magical.



I love how the landscape influences your making, and I am always drawn to your strong & rich colours. Now, This Thing of Paper is all about books, so do you have any books you would like to recommend to my blog readers? 

Well, being a dyer it is inevitable that two of my choices would be about colour:

“Colour : Travels through the Paintbox” by Victoria Finlay and “The Secret Lives of Colour” by Kassia St Clair. Both books are worth having for the covers alone, which I love. But both look at the history and stories behind colours and I love dipping into both books from time to time. Perhaps a more unusual choice of book to recommend would be “Gifts of Unknown Things” by Lyall Watson, but it was this book that got me interested in the concept of hearing the sound of colours along with other forms of synesthesia.

I'll be digging through those recommendations! Now, where can people find your yarns? 

You can find my yarns on my website. I fit in as many shows as I can around the UK each year including Edinburgh Yarn Festival, WoolfestYarndale and Loch Ness Knit Fest. I enjoy shows as it gives me an opportunity to meet many of my customers in real life, and also gives them the opportunity to see the true colours of my yarns which, at times, are difficult to portray accurately online. Many find my dye shed conveniently placed alongside the North Coast 500 driving route. While I don’t have a formal shop as such, folk are always welcome to have a peek inside the dye shed to see the process and browse and purchase yarns while they’re here.

That sounds lovely! I have a burning desire to come visit you & see the amazing landscape. However, where can people find out if they cannot make it to the Scottish Highlands and they still want to catch up with you?

You can find me on Twitter, Ravelry, where I have a Ripples Crafts group, and Instagram

Bibliotheca is a shawl that uses two hanks of Helen's Quinag base - the base is named after a mountain in her beloved Assynt. I'll be seeing Helen at the Loch Ness Knit Fest later this week (she is vending and I am teaching). I'm bringing the sample with me, so hopefully she approves!  

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Countdown to Edinburgh Yarn Fest

It is the most wonderful time of the year: the Edinburgh Yarn Festival is just over a week away! Attending a fibre festival is always a great day (or weekend) out. You are surrounded by people who love the same activities as you do, and you get to do some serious knitwear-spotting too. It can also be a really exhausting time because there are just so many things to see and do - and you might find yourself so overwhelmed that you end up leaving empty-handed and slightly burned out.

With Edinburgh Yarn Festival just around the corner, I thought I'd update my survival guide and share some of my tricks for having a fabulous time.

  • Plan aheadHave an honest look at your stash, go through your Ravelry queue, and then make a note of yarn requirements. Yes, smartphones are handy for looking up requirements on the fly, but you have more time to browse if you already have all the information available! Do the same for any needles, hooks, and other tools you want to pick up.
  • Plan ahead. Start looking through the vendor list and visit their websites, so you know roughly what to expect. Make a short-list of your must-visit vendors and grab the official EYF map to find out where their stalls are. This stops you from feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on offer! Remember to factor in time to browse other stalls - you never know what might grab you on the day.
  • Plan ahead. If you are meeting with far-flung friends at EYF, make sure you know where and when to meet. EYF has an excellent cafe area that is perfect for an informal get-together. Check your favourite Ravelry groups for any meet-ups and, if you don't have any photos of yourself online, make sure to describe yourself ("I'm short with curly brown hair and will be wearing a blue Waiting for the Rain shawl") if you are meeting up with friends who may not have met you before.
  • Food. If you have special dietary requirements, always make sure to bring a back-up lunch. Personally I always carry some bottled water to keep myself hydrated and a small bag of mixed nuts to snack on so my blood sugar stays level throughout the day. The cafe sells nice cakes and there are coffee vendors strategically placed. Just remember to stay hydrated and don't get hangry!
  • Bags. The UK has implemented the carrier bag charge (very good news for the environment!) so remember to bring your own carrier bags. You can also buy gorgeous tote bags at the events, of course. Do not rely on vendors having bags (though most will).
  • Wear sensible shoes & clothes! You will be on your feet most of the day, so leave your high heels at home. I hear the "wear sensible shoes!" advice all the time and yet I keep seeing miserable-looking people in high-heeled boots at events. Obviously EYF and other events are perfect places to show off your favourite makes, but try not to overheat!
  • Budget. Unless you are a multi-millionaire, chances are that you will have to make some tough decisions at EYF. Decide before you leave home how much you are going to spend. Decide how much you'll spend on yarn, how much on notions, and how much on cute accessories like tote bags, mugs etc. Then leave room in your budget for impulse buys. Even the smallest budget should have an impulse buy allowance. You will fall in love with something unexpected.
  • Classes. If you have signed up for a class, make sure you have everything you need several days in advance. Don't rely on picking up supplies at the event itself. Check if you need to do any homework and sure to arrive on time.
  • Travel. The EYF website and Ravelry group contain everything you need to know about transport, so make sure you know your train times and keep your tickets in a safe spot. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to and from the venue. Make sure you have a perfect travel project on the go - travelling to a fibre festival is part of the festival fun! If you are going by bus, you will instantly know which bus to take - it'll be filled with knitters!
  • Be Social. Say hello to people! Smile and talk knitting while you are waiting in a queue. Let strangers know how awesome their cardigans are. Enjoy the atmosphere. If a vendor or a tutor has been especially incredible, let them know! Take pictures of amazing things and share them on the internet. Use the hashtag #eyf17 so others can enjoy your fabulous memories!
  • Remember to Breathe. Fibre festivals can be very exhausting (especially as so many of us are introverts and the buzz can get overwhelming). If you get tired, take a break. If you need some fresh air, go for a short walk. Nothing is more important than you enjoying yourself, so be kind to yourself rather than push through. The perfect buttons will still be there ten minutes later. The Leith Water Walk Way is not far from the Corn Exchange if you need a touch of nature.
  • And just have fun! This is going to be one of the highlights of your year.

I'll be teaching three classes (Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons) so do say hello if you see me! I love seeing what people have made from my patterns, so don't be shy. Looking forward to seeing a lot of lovely faces.

For the Love of Indie Dyers

ECY2014 A big thank you to Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns for sending me this sneak peek of her new yarn, Milburn 4ply. It arrived last week and it brightened up the day. I am yet to wind any of the skeins and swatch, but I have played with colourwork patterns in my head. That oatmeal/grey colour is particularly speaking to me - I am going through a bit of a neutral phase - and I love how the other colours sing to each other. Designing a palette is always hard (every colour needs to be distinct but still play well with the others) but Vicki has pulled it off.

The UK has some of the most amazing indie dyers and I feel so fortunate that I have ready access to names like Vicki, Skein Queen (new website!), Juno Fibre Arts, Lioness Yarns, Kettle Yarn Co., Triskelion Yarns, and The Knitting Goddess. Yarn is shipped quickly and I get to see them 'live' at the various shows. Scotland is particularly strong on indie dyers: I'm a huge fan of  Old Maiden Aunt; RipplesCrafts' amazing colours are pulled from her Highland surroundings, and The Yarn Yard is well-established as a go-to dyer for sock lovers.

One of the many things I really appreciate about many UK dyers is their commitment to offering a variety of bases - many of which are UK-specific breeds. Sourcing the right bases is one of the hardest thing for an indie dyer (followed closely by being able to source enough for a sustainable business) but so many of them are now selling yarns that are so much more than just a merino or a wool/nylon mix. They are showing a real commitment to showcasing the best of British fibre - and I think this is something we should celebrate. They are small, local businesses, they are supporting other small, local businesses and knitters get to discover what makes Polwarth wool different from Corridale wool, say. Win-win for all concerned.

Louise Scollay of KnitBritish recently wrote about the Dos and Donts of Knitting Locally. It is a wonderful post which pokes holes in a lot of myths surrounding knitting locally. It does not have to be more expensive, nor is it more difficult to care for. Being thoughtful about your yarn choices is maybe something to requires a bit more mindfulness (especially next time you are in a yarn shop and are overcome with omg, all the yarn!) but it is doable and rewarding.

I'd love to see a big collaboration between indie dyers and local designers. I try to work with as many indie dyers as I can, but I am just one person. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see a plethora of the best UK indie designers collaborating with the best UK indie dyers? How do you as a knitter feel about this? What would you love to see happening within the UK indie community? And who are your favourite dyers? I know there are some dyers I am yet to discover!