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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Authors & Artists: The Frances Herself Shawl


frances-horzsm Helen Lockhart of Ripples Crafts dyes exquisite yarns from her home in the Scottish Highlands. I first met Helen at a knitting conference when her stall was next to mine. We bonded immediately, so I cannot believe that it took us nearly five years to finally collaborate. We decided on our collaboration at In The Loop. I fell deeply in love with the blue-teal shade (Stormy Seas) and the rest followed. The rich magenta (Jewelled) and the warm grey (Assynt Peat) worked perfectly in unison. Working with her Quinag base was an absolute joy. The BFL gave Helen's colours additional depth and the yarn flowed through my fingers.

The construction of Frances Herself will be familiar if you knitted my Byatt shawl (though it works in a slightly different way). You increase alongbthe top edge at an accelerated page which makes the shawl grow very rapidly in one direction and at a more considered pace in the other. It makes for wonderful asymmetry when worn - yet it is surprisingly straightforward to work. I do not believe in overcomplicating patterns when wonderful results can be achieved in a straightforward manner!

A lot of the Frances Herself joy is derived from working with such wonderful handdyed yarns. Frances Macdonald McNair was a child of the Arts & Crafts movement and its truth to material ideas. Truth to material simply means that you take the material that is best suited to your project and you showcase it honestly. The shawl is designed to reflect that. I am a big fan of basic stitches (like stocking stitch and garter stitch) precisely because they let handdyed yarns take centre stage.


I have included a guide to modifying the colour sequence so you can make it work with your given yardage. I used three colours in this shawl - one neutral and two jewel-like colours. If you are considering other colours, think about getting enough contrast between the two contrast colours. You might also be tempted by mini-packs of yarn - Col B would be the obvious candidate for this - so keep the following yardage breakdown in mind:

Col A: Gray / Assynt Peat (approx. 380m/ 415 yds) Col B: Magenta / Jewelled (approx 180m/196 yds) Col C: Teal / Stormy Seas (approx 180 m/196 yds)

Another modification you might like is beading. Frances Macdonald McNair used beads extensively - both as material and as visual metaphor. I opted not to add any (mostly as I was travelling when knitting my shawl and there is no worse combination than beads & a bumpy road) but it'd look incredible done right. If you want to add beads, I suggest doing it in the middle of the garter stitch sections with the beads nicely spaced out. I would also suggest choosing beads that reflects cols B and C - you do not have to agree!


The shawl was knitted on 4.5mm needles which the beautiful 4ply yarn was more than capable of handling. I strongly urge you to swatch if you substitute with any other 4ply yarn (and also to check your yardage!). The open fabric has a lot of drape and character, yet it still retains a sense of itself. I love how the lace pattern blocked out - it looks like tiny tenement tiles which is so very apt for a pattern inspired by Arts & Crafts in Scotland.

You can buy the pattern here. If you are going to Edinburgh Yarn Festival, make sure to check out Helen's stall where she'll be happy to advise on colour combinations (and we might have more up on our collective sleeve!).

(Note: I am away from keyboard February 26-28 2016, so I'll get back to any queries as soon as I can afterwards).