Monday, November 13, 2017

R&S Yarn Update!

If you follow me over on Instagram, you've probably seen that we are in the final stages of launching Raincloud & Sage Yarn into the world. YAY!! 

Honestly you guys, I can't believe we made it this far. That sounds a little trite to say, but it's the honest truth. I could never have imagined when I started this blog (almost 5 years ago now!) that this is where my path would lead me, but it feels so right and I'm just thrilled to be here. 

Of course, starting this yarn label has come with it's challenges in different shapes and forms. I'm so glad we stuck with it and that I can finally hold the finished product in my hands, but in many ways this is only the beginning. 

As many (all...?) creatives, I have a lot of fears surrounding putting my work (and ultimately myself) out there. Honestly, every time someone purchases a pattern from me my very first feeling is fear- what if they don't like it? what if they find a mistake? Regardless of how much effort and energy and love goes into creating a thing, I think these feelings are somehow always connected with sharing creative work. And I'm sure battling them with this yarn- what if people hate it? what if it's too scratchy for them? Or perhaps even worse- what if nobody even cares...?

My husband recently told me that I need to stop describing our yarn in terms of what it isn't (in other words: it's not soft) and focus on what it IS. Because the truth is, I am incredibly proud of what it is: rustic, sheepy yarn with a story, grown by sheep who are raised with care, spun locally & sustainably with mindfulness for both the materials and the environment, packaged by us with a ton of love and then (hopefully!) sent to knitters everywhere so that they can continue this story we've started. 

I've seen the sheep who grew this wool. I've visited the mill, seen the machines that spun our yarn and the river where it was washed afterwards. To be involved in something like this is nothing short of amazing. 

No it's not soft- and it's not for everyone. It's not even for every knitter. But I'm putting it out there anyways, because I believe this is a story that deserves to be told. 

If you're curious- here are the two colorways all swatched up. I'm calling our first base Origin and it's a 3ply yarn, woolen spun at a light worsted/DK weight. For whatever reason, the grey is scratchier than the cream, which is actually quite soft and would totally work for a hat for someone who's not afraid to wear a little wool. Otherwise I think this yarn would be great for outerwear sweaters, and of course mittens or even a good thick pair of mucklucks or outerwear socks. 

All further info can be found on our website- // That's also where you'll find the links to our Newsletter and Instagram, both of which will keep you up-to-date on what's happening. Thanks as always for being here. It means so much. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November's Quote

sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up. 
-Brené Brown

It's no secret how much I adore BrenĂ© Brown, and this quote speaks so perfectly to what I'm going through right now- in my parenting, my work and my creativity. It's hard to continuously show up and put yourself out there day after day after day. But it's worth it. Man oh man is it worth it. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Autumn Drizzle Shawl

Today I am so super excited to share with you all my latest pattern: the Autumn Drizzle Shawl. 

The Autumn Drizzle Shawl is a small, triangular shaped shawl featuring garter stitch stripes and plenty of squishy texture. It's designed with a shallow fit for easy wear while out enjoying favourite Autumn activities: apple picking, hiking in the woods or crunching through fallen leaves. 

This shawl features plenty of garter stitch, as well as some stripes and a simple chevron stitch pattern to keep things a little interesting. It's perfect cozy evening knitting, with a cup of tea and your favourite Fall movies- Harry Potter of course, or perhaps even a little Gilmore Girls

The design itself is actually quite simple but I spent ages trying to get it just right. The final finished object looks quite different (and much better even) than the original idea as it came to me. When I saw these two yarns lying side by side in my stash I just knew they wanted to be together- and boy was I right. 

A little more about the yarn: the speckled yarn is Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in the Urchin colourway and something about the colours and the distribution of the speckles reminds me of fallen Autumn leaves. The beautiful caramel yarn is Madeline Tosh Merino Light in the Glazed Pecan colourway. Personally, it reminds me of caramel drizzle (you know, the kind that you get on Pumpkin Spice Latte, of course) which is where I originally got the name from. 

Several weeks ago on a beautiful sunny late September day I had a photo shoot with my lovely friend Simone (of Ink and Soil). I just love how the photos turned out and am so excited to finally share them all with you.

I am really really proud of this shawl and hope you love it too. The pattern is available on Ravelry as of today, and I am offering a little coupon code as a celebration of it's release. Just use the code autumndrizzle15 when checking out to receive 15% off until this Sunday, October 22. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Summer Book Report

So I actually don't have quite as long of a list of Summer Reads as I had hoped to. A few abandoned books definitely found their way into rotation and I just ended up reading a little less than I had thought. BUT that being said, I read some real gems this summer- some of the best books I've read all year, and I wanted to share a little round up with you today of what I did manage to read.

So, here goes:

Present Over Perfect // Shauna Niequest
This has been on my TBR list for what feels like ages and ages (it only came out last summer...) When I saw it was a pick for the Solly Baby book club, I was reminded of it and am so glad I was! It was a perfectly timely read for me. I mistakenly thought going in that this topic was one I had already wrestled with and had a handle on- NOPE. Still so much to learn. This book was written with so much wisdom and grace- I cried my way through and will definitely be picking it up for a re-read in the not too distant future.

Murder on the Orient Express // Agatha Christie
Our book club summer read. I breezed through this in 3 days and really enjoyed it. I didn't have much prior experience with Agatha Christie and after reading this, I'd love to pick up a few more titles.

Wonder // RJ Palacio
Another book club pick. Wow you guys- this book. Not only is it a great story well told, but it's also a great conversation starter (and would be an excellent book to read with kids, or to discuss with them...) This is the sort of perspective-giving book that can really make a difference. 

Big Magic // Elizabeth Gilbert
So I basically highlighted and bookmarked and dogeared my way through this entire book. So much good stuff- this is the sort of book that makes me wish I still kept a physical quote book so that I could jot down all the wisdom I gained from it! 

Yes Please // Amy Pohler 
A bit of a bonus pick, I read through this quick, fun read while in Berlin. I wouldn't say it was the greatest book I've ever read (not even my favorite comedian/celebrity memoir) but I did enjoy it and appreciated Pohler's perspective at several points throughout. 

So that's a wrap. I am ALL about Fall reading and closing off this year of books strong. I'm on track with all my reading goals for the year and have a few picks for the next few months that I'm really excited about (I'm currently reading the books in the photo above) How about you, fellow bookworms? How's your reading life these days? 

Friday, October 6, 2017

creative chat: Emma of Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company

It's been awhile since my last Creative Chat interview, but I've got something really special to share with you all today. This past month I had the chance to talk with Emma from Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company. Emma is a photographer and fiber artist living in Northern Ireland where she works with natural woolly fibres in the form of knitting, spinning and natural dyeing. From the moment I discovered Emma on Instagram I knew her work was something special, and I'm so super excited to share this interview with you all today- especially because she is currently in the process of opening her shop, which will launch later this month. 

So grap a cuppa and join us for this inspiring chat: 

1. If we were having this conversation in person, in a cafe what would you be drinking? Are you a coffee or tea person?

I am most definitely a tea person- no coffee for me! I would probably be drinking black tea with milk, or Earl Grey. Or if I’m feeling summery I will have a fruit tea! My current favourite is peppermint and liquorice. 

2. Tell us a little bit about what you make/do. What got you started on this particular creative journey?

I am an architectural photographer by trade, and occasionally I have pockets of ‘bad weather’ time I like to fill up, where I can’t be photographing outside. I like to craft/ make in these in between moments. More specifically I love spinning on my wheel, dyeing with natural dyes and knitting socks. I got started on this creative journey when I was at art college in London- I was studying on the photography course at Camberwell College of Art and I met a lovely crafter/ illustrator lady by the name of Kim Smith (@kimsmithhappy/ @aushopuk). We became great friends and met up most weeks to catch up and craft together, sometimes meeting at her house, sometimes at her cousin’s pub down the road. 

I arrived at her house one night for some craic (as we say here) and a bit of craft and I noticed she had a spinning wheel. I was very excited and had to learn the skill myself- Kim is an awesome teacher! I purchased my own wheel on eBay, and went on the train to collect it. I began spinning on my own, playing around with different types of wools and techniques, and really enjoyed the process. Around the same time I created an art project where I visited several sites around London, picked various dye materials from the environment, and dyed with them. I then wove a small mat on a frame loom, which included all the dyed fibre from around London. 

From there I left university and started my photography business, and hadn’t been crafting as much as I’d have liked. I knew I wanted to make more with my hands, since most days I was sitting on a computer or behind a camera in the digital world. I then joined the Ulster Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers and that helped spark my interest and hone my skills. I learnt about different sheep breeds, qualities of different fleeces and different dyeing methods. They are a lovely group of ladies with so much knowledge to impart! 

In May 2017 I had a serious creative itch, and knew I had to do something about it. I was knitting a lot, and starting to dye again. I knew I wanted to experiment more with natural dyes in a bigger quantity but I couldn’t unless I had a suitable outlet. That’s when I came up with the idea of opening an online shop to sell my naturally dyed and handspun yarn. I placed an order with the wonderful Laxton’s Mill in Yorkshire for some of their lovely fibres- BFL, Masham, Wensleydale, Falkland Merino in different weights and I couldn’t wait to get started in dyeing them! During September 2017 I used a mixture of foraged and extract materials to dye with- a process I absolutely loved! I experimented with blackberries, elderberries, onion skins, logwood, madder amongst other things with some really nice results. I have also purchased some local alpaca fibre which I plan to spin up for the shop opening- it’s really exciting to work with local suppliers!

3. What does your daily routine/creative process look like? How do you structure your creative time? 

Every day for me is different- I wouldn’t enjoy doing the same thing all the time! I don’t really structure my creative time as such- I usually just have a list of things I have to complete that day and I try and get them done. I always find it helps if you have an end goal in mind- e.g. a shop opening, an exhibition planned, a collaboration etc as this provides some motivation to get things done! In general I try not to separate creative time/ other time too much, or to really think about it too much as I feel it stifles my creative process a little, especially when it comes to dyeing. “Think through making”- that’s what tutors used to tell us at art college. Sometimes with natural dyeing, you get unexpected results, and want to explore those options more, and end up making a batch of colours you hadn’t planned on. You should able to do this without making yourself feel guilty for enjoying it!  In general, if I’m having a ‘dye day’, I have everything set out the night before- dye baths soaking, pots at the ready, yarn soaking. This makes the process of getting started a lot easier! I then make my to-do list and get on with dyeing or collecting materials from my local area. Sometimes there are other bits and bobs that need done- Instagram posts, labelling, photographs which is all part of the creative process too. At the end of the day, about an hour before I want to finish, I start cleaning up work area (currently my kitchen!). 

My knitting usually takes place at night, in front of the fire in our front living room- not during the day!

4. I'd love to chat a little more in depth about your tools/workspace. Do you have a designated work area, or any special tools/favourite fibers to work with? 

I do have a designated work area for crafting, but somehow it infiltrates the rest of the house! I usually tend to craft wherever feels good that day. Generally it’s not my actual workspace because it’s so messy and unkempt- it’s not even slightly pretty! When I’m dyeing I’m in the kitchen a lot so I end up staying there to check on the temperatures etc. When I’m doing admin I go to my office and sit at my computer and turn it off when I’m finished. That where all my photography equipment, books and architecture journals are kept. 

My Frank Herring spinning wheel is quite unique- it is made in Dorchester, England and has a definite 70’s vibe to it- it is made of bent plywood. It’s quite a petite wheel, easy to throw over your shoulder to take to a demonstration. I’ve never met anyone else who has this wheel. 

I also have a noddy-noddy handmade by a local wood worker, which I love, and a ball winder given to me by my Great Aunt, which is invaluable! 

 As for fibres, I love single breed, non-super wash wool, and my current favourites for spinning are Swaledale, Gotland and BFL. All of the yarns in my shop will be non- superwash (read more about the process here and fully woolly! 

5. I'm also curious about how place affects your creative process. Can you tell us a little bit about where you live and how/if this affects your work?  

I live near the North Coast of Ireland in an old Georgian terrace house (which we are renovating) in a medium-sized farming town. Every room has a different feel, particularly at different seasons of the year, so it’s lovely to have the choice of where to work on a particular day. The weather here is temperamental, and we often see the four seasons in one day. It’s often raining. This forces a lot of indoor time, so the fire gets stoked and the dye pots get going. In saying that, I like cycling and walking and the mountains- so I am sure that this has an influence on me too. 

Although I lived in London for three years while completing my degree, the heritage and traditions of coming from a farming background in rural Northern Ireland affects my work more than anything else. It makes you aware that nature and the landscape are not always picturesque and gentle, as well as teaching you to look after what you have and to make things rather than always buying them. My great Granny used to make all sorts of concoctions and potions out of things she foraged from the hedges and country lanes, as well as having amazing crochet skills- her lace work was beautiful. I suppose all of these things have influenced me- I love colours derived from our landscape, small cottage industries, living a simple (as possible) life and working with my hands. 

6. What are you currently up to? Anything new and exciting coming up?

I am currently preparing to open my online shop Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company on October 31st! I have been busy dyeing and spinning wool, as well as getting the website ready. You could say it’s a mammoth undertaking! You will be able to find the yarn shop at from October 31st and you can find me at @woollymammothfibres on Instagram. 

Thanks so much Emma for taking time to chat with me and share more about your work. If you enjoyed this interview, make sure you visit Emma over on Instagram to say hi and mark your calendars for her shop opening on Oct 31! 

note: all photos provided by Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October's Quote

"Put yourself forward in stubborn good cheer, and then do it again and again and again...The effort is worth it, because when at last you do connect, it is an otherwordly delight of the highest order. Because this is how it feels to live a creative life: You try and try and try, and nothing works. But you keep trying, and you keep seeking, and then sometimes, in the least expected place and time, it finally happens. You make the connection. Out of nowhere it all comes together."
-Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic

You guys- IT'S HERE. I cannot even begin to describe in words what being a part of this project has meant to me (though I do intend to give it a decent try- stay tuned for that...) This month I wanted to share this quote from the book Big Magic which I just finished reading (and highly recommend!) that speaks to my experience in working with WOODS. If you don't know what I'm talking about make sure you check the book out here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Let's Talk About Hats!

After a summer full of fingering weight shawls, I have completely embraced the start of Fall and with it- HATS! 

You guys, hats are awesome. First of all, they are so fast to knit, it's unbelievable. You can just crank those babies out one after another...well, not quite. But that's the feeling I have after all those miles and miles of fingering weight...

I have big plans for hat knitting over the next few weeks and months. The truth is, I haven't had the best of lucks with hats in the past. I've chosen the wrong yarn or the wrong pattern or made the wrong size and I actually have very few hats that I'm completely happy with. So my goal this year is to change that. I've been on the hunt for patterns and have found some gorgeous ones. Today I thought it would be fun to share a little list of those with you all- my hat queue, if you will: 

1. Braddock
This is a super lovely chevron-y hat with a double brim, knit in dk weight and designed by Christina Danaee. I'm seriously in love with the photos- if you haven't seen them yet, you really must check it out. I've got a skein of dk weight in my stash, from Mineville Wool Project that I've been hanging onto for ages, in search of the perfect project. Perhaps this is it...? 

2. Vanilla Fog
This is a two-tone hat, knit in squishy brioche designed by Andrea Mowry. I've been itching to knit more brioche after finishing my shawl and a hat seems like the perfect thing to make next. I love the two tones that the sample is knit up in and actually have the perfect yarn in my stash for this- colorwise but not weight-wise sadly. I'm wondering if I can make a worsted weight version of this pattern...?

3. Picos de Europa 
Designed by Verena Cohrs (of The Wool Club) for the WOODS crowdfunding campaign, this is also a dk weight pattern, with a really lovely woodsy stitch pattern. It's been on my list since the crowdfunding went live, and I'd really like to get it knit up in the next month or two.

4. Mizzin 
So- colorwork. I've not done much of it, but I absolutely fell in love with this hat, designed by Claire Walls and I'm thinking I'm going to have to give it a go. This is knit using fingering weight- and I must say, I don't know that I've ever knit a hat using anything lighter than a dk weight, so I'm excited to try it! 

5. Skiff
This is a bit of an older pattern and I've seen some seriously lovely versions floating around on Instagram and Ravelry. Would love to make one myself, maybe in Quince & Co Lark, since I've got a few skeins in my stash. 

Bonus: Dubliner Hat (pictured above)
So this is my own pattern but I'm sharing it here because I really genuinely love it. I've just finished one for a friend and am thinking that I might need to make another for myself! 

So those are at the top of my queue right now but I also really love this this and this!! What about you guys- any hat patterns to recommend??