Interview with Jule from
Hey Mama Wolf

In our effort to create a full range of ethical and environmentally sourced yarns, we have spent a long time searching for a company making yarn dyed with plants, or naturally dyed yarn. This is an inherently niche idea, so while there are people out there naturally dying yarn, it was difficult to find someone dying that could also handle the larger scales required to supply orders from yarn shops. We were so excited to meet Jule who came to visit the shop while she was in London attending Pomfest this summer and discover her yarn company, Hey Mama Wolf. Not only does Jule dye all of her yarns naturally, the yarns themselves are also sourced and processed locally to her in Germany, greatly reducing the carbon footprint of the yarn. We have started off with the Sockyarn #04 and kits to do your own natural dying at home.

With all this to consider, we were excited to ask Jule a few questions about Hey Mama Wolf and learn about what goes on behind the scenes.

jule hmwHow long have you been knitting?
When I was about 10 years old we visited my great aunt Agnes and she told me that I needed to learn how to knit. Without further ado she just taught me. I don’t think I had a choice but I enjoyed it very much. First things I knitted were teeny tiny things for my Barbies – scarfs, hats and even mittens. Aunt Agnes was also the one who taught me mending and gave me my first sewing machine.

kupfer mordantWhat inspired you to get into dying and specifically natural dying?
Again I will start with my aunts and my grandma. Aunt Agnes was a garden architect, my grandma has a huge garden and another aunt is a herbalist. My mother often took me for long walks in the woods and the botanical gardens. They all planted the love for plants in me. I was always especially interested in healing plants. I became a textile and surface designer, and when I graduated from art school, I was a freelance knitwear designer. After having our first daughter I started looking for sustainable local yarns. I love natural wool colours very much but what would knitting be without colourful yarns? Two very good friends of mine asked me why don’t I do plant dyeing. I love to explore and I love plants. So these friends were absolutely right. I find great joy in dyeing with plants.

farbkarte birkeWhere and how do you source the dyes that you work with? Can you tell us more about the plant origins?
I started with using only hand gathered plants from walks in Berlin and Brandenburg, leftovers from friends (flowers, onion skins, avocado pits…) and what I got from the local organic market – turmeric, carrot greens, whatever wasn’t suitable for selling anymore. But I knew that I wouldn’t get far with that if HMW wanted to grow. Right now I’m using plant dye extracts that are made by a company nearby in Magdeburg. I was so thrilled when I found out that there is actually a company in Germany who does that. They come as an easy to use powder. The difference between these and chemical dyes is that they are still a natural product and are much more influenced by other parameters – water, weather, mordants, the yarn itself. Every dyer will get different results.

Some colours I prefer to dye with plant matter itself. I try to buy them organically and preferably local grown. I still get stuff from the local market and of course I’m still exploring the colours that surround me, my local dye plants. We live in an old water mill surrounded by nature, so when a tree falls down in a storm I gather the bark and leaves. When tansy and St. John’s Wort are flowering in abundance I will go and gather. Right now I’m very interested in using mushrooms as a dye material. It is a whole different story to plants though, I’ll have to get acquainted to the fungi world.

johannis etsyDo you have a favourite plant to dye with? 
Oh yes, many. The first that comes to my mind is birch bark. It smells so good when you cook it and most of the time it makes the most beautiful dusty pinks or golden browns. Then fresh St. John’s Wort flowers. You can dye at least four different colours with it, bright green, golden yellow, orange and maroon. I also find many oak galls on my walks and I love the greys that I can achieve with them.

birkenrinde topfThe fibre for your yarns are all sourced locally to you in northern Germany, can you tell us more about where they come from and how they are made?
Yes, the wool comes from small organic farms in northern and eastern Germany. The farms sometimes only have some sheep to mow the lawn, while others have as many as 200- 300 sheep to produce cheese and meat. I don’t know many of the farmers personally. The wool mill gathers the wool. They sort and scour it (just with plant based soap) and it is then spun. The natural brown wool is from the Frisian milk sheep of my neighbour Anna. She has about 150 sheep and makes the best cheese. Anna is a very inspiring person. She makes everything from the wool of her sheep. Carpets, woven fabric, mattresses and pillows, wall hangings and of course she spins and knits. It is lovely to stand next to her watching the sheep. She can tell a story of every single one of them.

faerberknoeterichHow do you develop a new colour way? Do you start with a specific combination in mind, or is it a happy accident? 
In the beginning there was exploring and many happy accidents. Now I can predict the outcome much better. Still natural dyes are always surprising. Some weeks ago I dyed a colour that I often dye, a best seller, a golden yellow with St. John’s Wort. I made two batches at the same time, doing everything absolutely exact according to my recipe. One batch was golden yellow, and one was green. A beautiful green and I would love to dye it again, but I don’t have a clue what went wrong. I can’t even blame the stars, because I made them at the same time. As a textile designer I work pretty much according to the books when developing a shade card. I make a mood board, then think about which plant can give me which colour.

muehle herbst 1What’s currently on your needles?
Too much. I have the Whinfell sweater of Jenn Steingass from Woods on my needles with my own hand dyed and hand spun yarns. There are mittens for our children with my Rauwerk wool. I’m working on a striped pullover with my #02 yarn. A pair of socks with the Mistletoe pattern by Verena Cohrs. A vest from my #03 yarn. But my favourite project these days is not knitting related. We’re currently renovating our old house and I’m trying to make plant pigments to use in my own wall paint.

What Natalie Knits: Homeward Bound Shawl

So way back in September I had to head back to Canada again to apply for a new visa to stay in the UK. This was a relatively straight forward process, but had to be done from Canada and required an uncertain amount of time away from my new home in England and my partner. Before I left Maya suggested a collaboration with the shop to design a shawl to sell as kits when I got back. We picked out some yarn and I knit it up while I was in Toronto for 7 weeks waiting for my application to be approved.

homeward-natalieSince then we had difficulty getting our original choice of yarn back in stock, so the launch got delayed, and delayed and delayed while we waited to hear back from our supplier. It was not unlike waiting for my visa! Finally in March we decided that the best course of action would be to change yarns completely for the kits, which would mean a full pattern re-knit. Again I grabbed my needles and got cracking! This time we picked a yarn that we knew we could get in easily and where we had a more personal relationship with it’s makers, Socks Yeah! by Rachel Coopey and Fyberspates.

homeward-detail2 The resulting design is Homeward Bound, a triangular shawl knit from side to side with a bold geometric pattern using garter stitch intarsia. I have recently become enamoured with the potential of garter stitch intarsia, especially with creating these fun modern shapes. The triangles were inspired by the traditional quilt block pattern called Flying Geese, so named as it reflects the shapes of migrating birds. The name for the pattern comes from both the Flying Geese and that I knit it while waiting to return home. It uses 4 colours of 4ply yarn, with the pattern calling for Socks Yeah! It would also be a great way to use up leftover yarn, with each section in a different colour.

homeward-detail1The pattern is now available on Ravelry to purchase, and we have 3 different colour combinations available in the shop for kits. The original combination is Beach, and there is Berries and Forest as well.

We have loved the response for the pattern over the weekend, so we have decided to do a knit-a-long. It will run on Instagram from Friday May 5th to Monday the 19th of June. Any post of your Homeward Bound Shawl with the #homewardboundshawl tag in that time will be entered to win. On Tuesday the 20th of June we will pick winners from the hashtag, including in-progress pictures. Prizes to be announced later this week, stay tuned!

 

But what does it look like…?

One of the best parts of my job is to receive deliveries, and I’m sure this goes for everyone working in a yarn shop. There is this very particular excitement when opening the boxes, being the first one to open the bags and pull out the lovely woolliness neatly winded up in fresh skeins or balls. Admiring the texture, the softness, oohing and ahhing over the colours, then rush to get everything up on the shelves in the shop, and online, to show off so everyone get the chance to see. As you can see in my previous blog post, I did the exact same thing when the WAK spring colours arrived, so exited over this chunky super soft yarn and it’s gorgeous colours.

But then I received a comment on that blog post which made me think about how we tend to present the yarns, and how what you see yourself might differ quite a lot compared to what your audience or customers see. My friend Sylvia said ‘Lovely yarn in gorgeous colours. But it is quite chunky right? (…) Maya, do you have any pictures showing us what this yarn looks like knitted up?’

What struck me with this comment were a few things. First of all it made me aware that even though I know that these balls are huge, taking a pretty picture of the ball with a bright white background might not convey the actual size of a ball, or the thickness of the yarn. In a picture like that I guess that a 25g 4Ply would look quite similar to a 200g Chunky. I’ve been playing a bit with this idea today, and I took some pictures to show you some real life photos of this yarn instead of a stylised version.

If this ball was a mug it would hold plenty of coffee...

If this ball was a mug it would hold plenty of coffee…

Then there is the question about what this yarn looks like when it is knitted up. We are Knitters make some brilliant kits, ranging from beginners to more intermediate levels. They’ve been very popular this year, especially with my younger customers. I believe this has two reasons, first, a yarn this thick will knit up quickly which is very satisfying for a beginner knitter, second, the models are stylish and on trend. So to give you an idea of how this yarn comes out when knitted, let me show you some of the kits that I stock over at Knit with attitude.

The Nolita Sweater

The Nolita Sweater

The Sienna Beanie

The Sienna Beanie

The Vertigo Sweater

The Vertigo Sweater

Can you tell I’m in love with this yarn yet? And did I mention that even though it is chunky it is still super soft, made in peruvian highland wool. Yeah, I’m showing it off, as you can see it is pretty hard to miss should you stumble by my shop these days.

WAK The Wool on the shelves, and another favourite, the gorgeous TJOKT yarn on the top.

WAK The Wool on the shelves, and another favourite, the gorgeous TJOKT yarn on the top.

Stitch & Story Knitting Kits

In our series of ‘what’s new at Knit with attitude’ we’re so happy to finally tell you about Stitch & Story! Simple, lovely, and beautifully packaged knitting kits specially aimed at the beginner knitter, or the more advanced ones who are looking for a quick and easy knit fix.

This is how Stitch & Story present themselves: Stitch & Story is a story weaved with love and traditional values for a simpler life. We supply natural, wholesome wool yarn made from 100% wool. The difference is in the touch – super soft like cotton candy! For us, knitting is our way of embedding emotions and memories in our creations; slowing down in our constantly busy lifestyle; and standing out from the crowd by being the designer, the maker, and the model.

You’ll find all the gorgeous Stitch & Story kits that Knit with attitude stocks right here

Cable Coo Hat by Stitch & Story

Cable Coo Hat by Stitch & Story

Vale Scarf by Stitch & Story

Vale Scarf by Stitch & Story

Beautifully packaged kits - perfect to give away!

Beautifully packaged kits – perfect to give away!

Luca Pom Hat by Stitch & Story

Luca Pom Hat by Stitch & Story

Grazier scarf by Stitch & Story

Grazier scarf by Stitch & Story

Hadley Jumper by Stitch & Story

Hadley Jumper by Stitch & Story

News from Purl Alpaca Designs

The high season of knitting is finally here, and what better way to celebrate than to fill up our stock with lovely, delicate and luxurious knitting kits from Purl Alpaca Designs?

Allegro Shawl Top

Each of Purl Alpaca Designs’ kits includes the pattern, yarn, a postcard biography and image of the alpaca the design is named after. Purl’s 100% pure alpaca yarn is not dyed, all the colours are completely natural and the fibre is sourced from local breeders.

Sherri Shrug

Melody Legwarmers

Breeze Top

Purl Alpaca Designs specialise in fashionable knitting kits and are the Field-to-Fashion company that offers you an exclusive collection of garments to make from 100% pure British alpaca yarn. Their Field-to-Fashion approach means that Purl is involved in every step of the creation of their kits, following the Alpacas from birth, their first and later shearings, then paying attention to how the fibres are treated in the mill to make the wonderfully soft Purl yarn, and finally combining the yarn with a gorgeous design so that you can create your new favourite garment.

Allegro Shawl Top