Summer Tops KAL winners!

It is hard to believe that our Summer KAL is over! How did those three months go by so quickly? We had a great time seeing everyone’s projects take shape on Ravelry and Instagram. Thank-you to everyone who participated!

We have drawn our winners and wanted to highlight their beautiful projects here.

The winner of the grand prize of a £100 gift certificate for the shop is janpalma, who entered two projects. Her Gone Green Sweater is stunning, knit in Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply in Jen’s Green.

image_medium-1Hegem81 knit a Summer Lime shrug out of Mirasol Hacho, such great bright colours, perfect for summer. She won a copy of the brand new e-book from TinCanKnits, Max & Bohdi’s Wardrobe.WP_20150609_19_25_48_Pro_mediumPixiemoon is another of our knitters who entered two projects. This tank out of Wool and the Gang’s Shiny Happy Cotton in Nude Pink looks perfect for summer days. She won a copy of the latest issue of Pom Pom Quarterly and a tote bag.

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SiobhanBeatty had our one crochet entry, a jumper in 5 colours of Rooster Almerino. The colours she chose look like an ice lolly! She won a TinCanKnits e-book of her choice.

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This shrug by rena636 is another example of Rooster Almerino, and she even had enough yarn to make a matching hat!  This entry won a TinCanKnits pattern and a Fyberspates pattern.

Hopefully craftyactivist will be getting lots of wear out of this Literally Over The Top tank that she knit out of Louisa Harding Amitola. Those stripes look fantastic! She will be taking home a skein of Meadow courtesy of The Fibre Co. and a pattern of her choice from Kelbourne Woolens.Stripes_mediumLast but not least, our final prize goes of a bottle of Yuzu scented Soak will go to SevenFirs, who knit a gorgeous shawl called Antarkis in the Lotus Yak.

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Stay tuned for an announcement of our next KAL, we’ll definitely be doing it again! In the mean time, feel free to keep us updated on your KWA projects in our Ravelry group.

Thanks again to all of our prize sponsors and of course all of our wonderful customers who participated.

 

Summer Knitting with Jess

It’s starting to look like it will be another cracking summer season here in London, and that means it’s time to take a holiday. We’ve organized an interview with the staff of the shop to see how they plan their vacation projects and what they may be bringing along. We will feature one of our staff members each week. 

What sort of holiday are you going on? Are you going to be on the beach, staying local, flying, train? Does this influence your project planning?

This summer I’m on a lazy beach/pool holiday to Turkey. I like to take a project that’s relatively straight forward as I find there are usually too many distractions for anything too complicated and as I always only ever take hand luggage it has to be something small. But I wouldn’t want to be knitting a big old wooly jumper or blanket in the heat anyway, so that’s fine!

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on a two colour fisherman’s rib cotton top for my 3 year old niece. I’ve shown her a sample and she says she likes the colours. Phew!Jess_jumper_debbie_bliss_knit_with_attitude

Fisherman’s Rib Sweater from Debbie Bliss Eco Baby Prints in Carnival and Mariner

What’s your ideal holiday knitting scene?

Sitting on the balcony in the early evening sipping on a gin and tonic or a glass of white wine looking across a beautiful view. Here’s the view from the veranda we had in Turkey. Perfect!Jess_holiday_turkey_knit_with_attitudeDo you think that you’ll come back with a finished FO (finished object) or a WIP (work in progress)?

Almost certainly not. I’ll probably also come back with several unfinished books!

Welcome to the World of SweetGeorgia

We have yet another new yarn company in the shop! SweetGeorgia is a hand dye studio based in Vancouver, BC. They are known for bright, saturated colours and interesting fibre bases. We were able to catch up with founder Felicia Lo to learn more about the company, colours and inspirations. 

We have started our range of SweetGeorgia with 4 different yarns. Silk Fog and Silk Mist are both luxurious silk/mohair combinations, while BFL Sock and Tough Love Sock are both hardy sock yarns in fantastic colours. We will be back next week to talk more about the yarns themselves. 

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Felicia. Tell our readers the
story behind SweetGeorgia Yarns. How did you get your start dyeing yarn?

Dyeing fibre and yarn was something I started experimenting with very shortly after
I started learning to spin yarn. I had been knitting since I was in elementary school,
but the spinning bug hit me much later when I was in my mid-twenties. Locally, the
only spinning fibre that was available to me was all plain white, undyed, and I felt
the irresistible itch to spin with colour. So I started with Kool-Aid and some
Corriedale wool, as one does, and was immediately smitten with dyeing. The near
instant gratification and the joy that playing with colour brought kept me coming
back to it, week after week, and as I blogged about it, people started to get interested in what I was doing. It was my blog readers that gave me the encouragement to start a little Etsy shop in 2005 and that’s how it all began.

Very quickly after I started the Etsy shop, I was approached about doing wholesale
orders and after about a year of doing that alongside a full-time graphic design
business I was already running and getting completely exhausted and burnt out, I
had to pull back and re-group. I took about an 18-month hiatus from working so that
I could travel to London (three times), get inspired again, and decide whether or not
I would even continue SweetGeorgia.

During that time, I did a lot of natural dyeing with silk in the temporary space where
I was living. One morning, I looked over at a skein of silk yarn that I had dyed in
natural dyes and it was so beautiful… glowing in the morning sun, gleaming. It was
something so simple but breathtaking. It was like the universe opened and revealed
the depth of beauty to me that I had never experienced or taken the time to notice
before. It was in that moment that I was convinced to leave my career in graphic
design to pursue SweetGeorgia.

After that, I rebuilt the business from scratch, intentionally and deliberately
choosing our yarns, starting over and creating an entirely new colour palette, and
choosing to grow the business slowly and steadily.

It’s been 10 years since I first started that Etsy shop but about 7 years since I re-started the business, and it still feels like I am barely scratching the surface of what is possible with colour, craft, yarn, and fibre.

Ultimately, I feel compelled to do more than just create and run this business. I feel like my calling is to show people that same, almost supernatural, experience I had around seeing how beautiful, uplifting, and life-changing colour can be.

SweetGeorgia headquarters in Vancouver, BC.

SweetGeorgia headquarters in Vancouver, BC.

SweetGeorgia Yarns are known for their bold, vibrant palette. Can you speak to the process behind how you get those gorgeous tonal semi-solids?

We have a few different processes for creating and dyeing our semi-solid yarns —
some methods which make for more rich, layered tones where an underlying colour
will peek through to the top, and other methods that will produce more “solid” semi-
solid yarns. Our methods range from dyeing in pots on stovetops to hand-applying
the colour directly to skeins. Sometimes we might end up layering up to 5 or 6
different dye colours to achieve the exact hue that we’re looking for. And there are
differences in when we introduce heat and fixative, because all those variables affect
the final look and feel of the colourway.

How do you decide which yarns to dye on or which bases to introduce or discontinue?

We work with mills to develop the kinds of base yarns we love to knit with and use.
We typically get small lots of samples spun for us and then I’ll knit them up to see
how they look and feel. There’s a lot of lovely yarn that we get to play with, but I try
to choose the ones that make my pulse quicken a bit. Those are the yarns that I get
excited about. And how dye presents on the yarn makes a huge difference to me too.
Some blends just take colour in a more muted way that doesn’t necessarily resonate
with what people want from us. In terms of discontinuing, we try to “retire” yarns and colour ways very rarely if possible, unless we are forced to because of mill issues or dye issues.

It must be really exciting to come up with all of those brilliant colours. What is
your inspiration? How do you put together the colour story when launching
new colours?

We live in Vancouver on the stunning west coast of Canada and are surrounded by
mountains, ocean, and temperate rainforest. The landscape itself is textured and
inspiring on its own, but we also get a lot of rainfall. There are often months and
months of grey weather and rain which has always driven me to produce colours
that are vibrant and uplifting.

SGY yarn close up

SweetGeorgia Yarns also have fantastic pattern support. How is the creative
process different when working with designers, or creating pattern designs yourself?

Thanks so much for that! We have been working on building up our pattern support
for years now and it’s quite an undertaking! We send out a call for submissions
every so often (we have one out now for Fall/Winter 2015) and collaborate with
designers in that way, looking to see if their sketches and proposals will fit in with
what we’re looking for. We also collaborated directly with a local Vancouver designer, Holli Yeoh, on a collection of 11 designs last Fall, called Tempest.

When we work with other designers, we put together mood boards which express
the kind of aesthetic that we are looking to create. We suggest colours and yarns,
then when we get the proposals, we look at everything together to see how we can
assemble a cohesive story. From there, selected designs go into pattern writing, tech
editing, test knitting, sample knitting, photography, and graphic design. The whole
process has a lot of moving parts, often coordinating dozens of knitters and their
feedback. To lead this entire process, we have recently asked knitwear designer,
Tabetha Hedrick, to join our SweetGeorgia team to make the process more smooth
for all the designers and knitters involved. As for designing patterns myself, I’m not nearly as efficient as a lot of other designers out there! I’m terrible at making notes as I go, so the whole pattern writing process gets sort of fuzzy for me. If I could get into the habit of making better notes, I might actually be able to launch more designs!

Knit With Attitude customers are environmentally and socially conscious consumers. How does SweetGeorgia share their values?

Absolutely. For production reasons (to avoid issues around shipping or delivery
delays) we source our yarns and fibres from spinning mills all over the world and
always take animal cruelty and environmental concerns into consideration when we
choose our base yarns.

Regarding dyeing, the type of dyes we use are low-impact acid dyes which are fully
bonded to the fibre once the dye process is complete. That means that there is no
more dye or colour in the dye bath and that we are pouring out clear water when
we’re finished. We aim to dye in efficient dye lots of at least 4 or 8 skeins, so that we
are minimizing our water and energy usage. And very often, we will re-use dye
baths so that we can conserve water where we can. And finally, all our yarns are hand-dyed in Vancouver by crafters and artisans who
love colour or yarn.

Silk SweetGeorgia yarns drying after getting their colours.

Silk SweetGeorgia yarns drying after getting their colours.

What do you enjoy most about running SweetGeorgia Yarns?

At the most basic, basic level, my passion is about creating something from nothing.
It has always boiled down to that. Whether it’s making something from sticks and
string, or building a website from nothing but pixels, or creating a business and
community of like-minded craft enthusiasts, that is where I get my enjoyment. The
thinking, planning, designing, executing… everything about this business, I love
doing it all. But the thing I love most is when customers share their stories and
experiences with me. Just a short email here or there saying how pleased they were
with the yarn or the finished project can absolutely make my day. It’s the reason
why we do what we do… to make people happy.

If you weren’t dyeing yarn and fibre, what would you be doing?

Before I started SweetGeorgia, I was a graphic designer and web developer with my
own business, so I had my hands fully immersed in design, tech and entrepreneurship, and I really loved it. If I wasn’t doing this around yarn and fibre, I imagine I’d still be working with my hands, working in a visual medium, and with
some kind of technology. It’s the mix of things that I love.

What’s next for SweetGeorgia Yarns? Any exciting news you’d like to share?

We are heading into our 10th year in September 2015, so there’s lots of exciting
things planned around that. I can’t mention much yet, but I hope you’ll keep your
eyes and ears (!) out for us in the next couple months!

Welcome to the World of The Fibre Co.

We have been finding loads of fun new yarn companies to work with recently, and we are excited to share their stories with you. As you know, Knit with attitude is all about finding out what’s behind the yarn company, from production to inspiration.

One yarn that definitely inspired us is The Fibre Co. Recently transplanted to the UK, The Fibre Co. is a company that embodies many of the things that we hold dear here at the shop. Daphne developed all her yarns herself, from trial and error, to create jaw-dropping blends of fibres that you didn’t even know were possible. Her yarns are now produced and dyed in Peru, where she works directly with artisans there to create her signature two-tone shades. We are absolutely in love with our debut yarn with them, Meadow.

We recently sat down with Daphne to talk about her yarns, inspiration and of course, knitting!

How do you think that The Fibre Co. fits in with the KWA ethos (environmentally and ethically friendly)?

It has always been about the triple bottom line for The Fibre Co.—profits, people and planet.  We’re always asking ourselves how we can improve our sustainability. Our main supplier has just become OEKO-TEX® certified for their spinning process. We have used organic fibres in some of our blends and will not use merino from regions that practice mulesing.  We know that sustainability is an essential ingredient for our long-term success. We understand that sustainability is a process and see ourselves as a greening business constantly looking for ways to improve our impact on the environment.

The Fibre Co. Meadow

The Fibre Co. Meadow in Gentian, Fennel, Prairie, Cornflower and Bergamont. This yarn is a blend of Merino Wool, Llama, Silk and Linen.

Your yarns all contain a combination of fibres in them. What is the most important thing to you when you are choosing which fibres will go into the yarn? What sort of process do you go through?

I began creating yarns for The Fibre Co. by standing at a carding machine and mixing different fibres together to see what would come out at the other end. Then I would go to the spinning frame and try different weights, twists and plys. Finally, it was time to play with colour in the dye pots and that was the most fun. It was all experimental. Through that process I learned a lot about how the fibre and spin would affect the dyeing result. I also learned about the qualities of fibre and the way the different ones wanted to be spun. This experience continues to inform my product development process. I always begin with the fibre in my hands. In the early days of creating The Fibre Co. yarns, I put the greatest emphasis on achieving softness. But today, I’m more interested in understanding what each fibre wants to be and how it can best be used to create a yarn for a specific purpose.

You have moved the production of The Fibre Co. yarns to South America. What was that experience like, both the process and working with the textile industry there?

Outsourcing production was a gradual process. When I first started the mill, I sourced fibre from local farms until I could no longer purchase sufficient quantities in the right quality. So I began by buying the alpaca fibre we used in our blends from Peru and in so doing I established an excellent relationship with one of the two large vertically integrated alpaca businesses in the country. When I needed to produce more of one of our yarns than I could spin to meet demand, it was natural to turn to the mill where the fibre was sourced. Later, when I realized that my dyeing process was the bottleneck, I again turned to Peru and its tradition of artisan dyers. I had a delightful time traveling to Peru to work with the dyers and ensure that they could reproduce our colours and achieve the desired effect. My Peruvian colleagues are lovely to work with and I look forward to visiting again soon.

Can you tell us a bit more about the techniques that are used to dye your yarns?

The technique used to achieve the subtle duotones in our yarns is one that I developed by trial and error. The actual steps involved are proprietary, but I can tell you that it involves using kettles, small batches and relies on the unique characteristics of the various fibres and the way that each blend is spun.

Calexico by Maura Kirk, knit it The Fibre Co. Meadow. Available on Ravelry in-store.

Calexico by Maura Kirk, knit it The Fibre Co. Meadow. Available on Ravelry in-store.

Your family has been producing textiles for generations, have they had advice for you while building The Fibre Co. business?

My father was a textile engineer graduating from the Lowell Textile Institute at a time when the textile industry was going through much change. I grew up with bookshelves full of chemistry textbooks and tomes on subjects from industrial dyeing processes to textile physics to yarn manufacturing. When I set up my small spinning mill, my father was ill and sadly passed away without ever seeing the operation. However, one of his classmates from Lowell found out about the mill and came to visit several times with many words of wisdom and stories about the old days.

Are you a process or a product knitter?

I’m a bit of both really and it depends on the piece that I’m knitting and why I’m knitting. Most work related pieces are product projects out of necessity. When knitting for pleasure though, I fall into the process category.

What’s your current knitting project?

I’ve had a striped cardigan in 12 shades of Road to China Light on the needles for some time now. (All those ends to weave in!) I’m just about to go on a journey that will put me on 8 flights over 2 weeks so I’ll need something to see me through all of that flying time. I’ll most likely take along a project using our soon to launch new yarn called Cumbria. Stay tuned for more info on that!