countryside

Indian Diamonds

I have just published a new lace shawl design – Gujarati Diamond shawl:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

It was designed in collaboration with Lindsay Roberts – The Border Tart (not a real Border Tart, we both live in the Scottish Borders, where the tart originates). Lindsay developed her range of natural hand-dyed indigo yarns, Blue Moon, after participating in a textile residency/exchange in India. The shawl was designed specifically for Lindsay’s indigo dyed lace weight yarn, and it seemed only right that the design should be inspired by India.

These are Lindsay’s Blue Moon yarns:

Blue Moon Sock Yarn

The different shades of blue are created as the indigo becomes weaker during the dying process. Unlike acid dyes where the yarn sucks all the dye out of the water; indigo slowly fades, so the strongest, deepest blues emerge first, and subsequent dye batches gradually end up pale blue. Indigo has to be oxidised to bring out the blue, a process I explained in my blog post – Natural Dye workshop.

A semi-solid colour is achieved by immersing the yarn in the dye and not stirring, so the dye is  absorbed unevenly, which creates a lovely soft ripple effect when knitted:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

These are her lace weight yarns:

Blue Moon Lace Yarn    Blue Moon Lace Yarn

She uses dip-dyeing and tie-dyeing techniques on her 4ply sock yarns to create different kinds of variegated effects:

Blue Moon Sock Yarn   Blue Moon Sock YarnBlue Moon Sock Yarn

Lindsay also dyes heavier weights of yarns with indigo. The most time-consuming part of the process is rinsing, it takes many rinses to get all that loose blue out.

Lindsay showed me the beautiful textiles she brought back from India, some stunning embroidery:

Indian Textiles

Indian Textiles

This is a purse:

Indian Textiles

The free-form shapes and the added buttons are fun on this one, a bodice of a child’s dress:

Indian Textiles

I love how unplanned the designs are – the embroiderer clearly ran out of space at the end of the central panel and had to squish down the size of the squares to fit the space:

Indian Textiles 3

This is a block print sampler piece:

Indian Textiles

Here is some exquisite finely tie-dyed fabric:

Indian Textiles

I love the run-off at the end, which almost looks like bobbing shore lights reflected in water.

Here come the diamonds – a woven geometric design:

Indian Textiles

This was a piece given to Lindsay as a leaving present, and is a good example of typical motifs used in Kutch, Gujarat:

Indian Textiles

These are also Kutch motifs:

Indian Textiles

You can tell which motifs inspired my shawl design:

Gujarati Diamond textiles

Even the triangles from the textile border appear on my edging:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Lindsay and I had a fun time on the photoshoot for the shawl; I chose to go the Monteath Mausoleum, in the Borders, as it has quite an Indian feel to it:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

As it turns out, it is deliberately Indian style, as General Sir Thomas Monteath, who lies here, was an army officer in the Bengal Infantry.

It was quite an endeavor getting up the hill in a long white dress, and lovely to see the stone lions when we got there. Awake lion:

Awake lion

Sleeping lion:

Sleeping lion

We particularly liked sleepy lion, so we had to include him in the photos:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

There is a spectacular view over the Borders countryside:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

The shawl is a shallow semi-circle, correctly a semi-oval, nearly a crescent, and it’s very wide:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Perfect to cover your head:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Or for elegantly draping around your neck to dress up a pair of jeans:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Or for talking to lions:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

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St Abbs Wool Festival

I headed over to the lovely fishing village of St. Abbs for a regular Wool Festival event, which I’ve never managed to get to. St. Abbs is on the North East coast of Scotland just North of Berwick-upon-Tweed, so not too far for me to travel for Lauder. I was looking forward to it, and the sun was shining, and it was beginning to feel a bit like Spring! I’ve just got a new car, with a Sat Nav, after being without a car for a year, and it was quite a novelty to be able to just go somewhere without excessive planning for bus times etc. However, I’ve only been to St. Abbs once before, so this time I was trying out driving to the Sat Nav directions. They were very good, but after encountering some scary bends, and an unexpected single track road, and just not knowing exactly where I was, I felt a little frazzled when I got to St Abbs:

St Abbs Harbour

I was eager to see yarn though, so I dived in and perused the stalls, stopping briefly to say Hello to Janice from Flight Weaving and Laura Brittain, a fantastic felter, I know them both from the Tweed Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, and Lindsay Roberts, The Border Tart, who I’ve mentioned before in this post:

Lindsay Roberts stall

She’s been dyeing yarn with indigo. I haven’t seen anyone doing a just indigo range before, I think she’s been inspired by her trips to India.

Bordertart Indigo yarn

The St Abbs Wool Festival was spread between two close venues, the Ebba Centre and the St Abbs Visitor Centre and it was really busy where I was, and I was still feeling a bit frazzled, so I headed to the other venue. I stopped to take a look at the view of St. Abbs Head, which is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland, and is a popular place for walkers.

St Abbs Head

There was a striking sculpture at the entrance to the Visitors Centre:

St Abbs Bronze1

It marks a fishing disaster in 1881:

bronze label

The distressed women and children are still looking out to sea for the men who will not return – I found it quite moving:

St Abbs Bronze2

There were demonstrations, rather than yarn sales in the Visitors Centre, and more people I knew – Eve Studd from Cornhill Crafts (more about Eve from this post) was showing examples of natural dyes and was making a rug on a peg loom, and Rod from Innerleithen Spinning Wheels was busy getting people to try out spinning on his fabulous wheels. In fact they were so busy, I didn’t get a chance to chat to them.

Some quite detailed wet felting was going on from Anna Turnbull as part of the Woolscape project:

felting a fish

The Visitors Centre were encouraging people to sign up to the project newsletter and April workshops, and knit/crochet/felt fishes and other sea life, like this:

crocheted rockpool

crochet coral and whale

I don’t often get involved in this type of project, but I liked that they were making specific sea life, and had books you could look at for ideas. As I work in a Museum Library, which has lots of natural sciences books, I thought I could get some inspiration there, use up some of my yarn stash odds and ends, and create some undersea flora and fauna. I’ll let you know how I get on, and any more news I hear about the project.

I was feeling in need of a cuppa, and a bit of a respite from the busy festival, but the café in the Ebba Centre was full, so I went and sat in the car and had a snack and a little rest. I wasn’t ready to go back into the hustle and bustle, and I remembered that Louise from Woolfish was having an open house, and had yarn for sale, so I drove back up the hill and felt welcome, and had a lovely time rummaging through the yarn, and was offered a cuppa, and a cheese scone, and I was soon relaxing with a bit of knitting in the comfy conservatory, and chatting to like-minded people. I bought some practical yarn for knitting man’s garments.

Louise used to have a shop on the road into St Abbs, but she is now focusing on her knitting retreats, which sound great; have a look at one of her itineraries. I was chatting to Louise about knitting styles, which I have written a post about, and she showed me her way of knitting Continental style, which she linked to how you hold your yarn to crochet. It made it seem a more feasible prospect the way she showed me, so I reckon her retreats must be very helpful, and would move on your knitting skills quite considerably, while having a relaxing time.

Feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated – the power of tea and knitting! I returned to the Ebba Centre and said Hello to the Wensleydale sheep outside:

Wensleydale Sheep

Sheep sign

The fleece from these sheep is made into lustrous Whistlebare yarn:

Whistlebare yarn

Whistlebare stall

I am making a cardigan from Wensleydale sheep yarn at the moment and it’s a lovely wool to knit with, and gives good stitch definition, with a slight halo and shine.

I was very impressed with the yarn from Yarn Garden, and their innovative garden-themed display.

Yarn Garden

I wish I had taken a close up photo of their yarn. They are a new company from Newcastle; go and check out their scrumptious yarn on their website. They said they were going to be introducing some new base yarns, but they haven’t made it to their website as I write, so keep an eye on it or “like” them on Facebook to get status updates.

I ended off my day buying some Pumpkin colourway yarn from the Border Tart, she is great with colours and blends different colours of fleece before she hand spins it:

Bordertart pumpkin yarn

I remembered there was a great gallery just outside St Abbs, so I thought I’d have a look around before I went home. I liked the view of St Abbs Church from the gallery:

View from Number 4 Gallery

I got tempted in the gallery and bought a beautiful small bowl – it makes me think of shallow rippling waves on the beach.

Pottery bowl

More photos of the St Abbs Wool Festival on the St Abbs Visitor Centre website.

Felty Folk snowball fight

Before the snow melted, I took a walk around the back of my house to see the snowy scenery. It was a bit of a grey dull Sunday afternoon, but the snow looked lovely:

Snowy field

I walked through woodlands, and reached a gate:

Snowy gate

where I could see the partly frozen and flooded Leader Water still flowing through the field.

Icy Leader Water

I was just about to turn back for home, when I heard some familiar squeaking behind me. I looked around, and there were all of the Felty Folk on a nearby snowy bank:

FeltyFolk in the snow

“Hi all of you,” I exclaimed, pleased to see them, “what are you doing out in the snow, you don’t usually like to come out in it?”

“Hi,” they all replied. Neeva came nearer and explained,

“Well, the snow is nearly melted in parts, and it wasn’t too difficult to get about, so we thought we would come out and see some daylight.”

“I had the same idea,” I said. “How come Diggly and Neeva are here too? I thought they lived further South now.

“We came up for a visit,” Diggly said.

“Then it snowed, and we got stuck here, as it was too difficult to travel in the snow,” Oosie continued.

“So they’ve been staying with me ever since,” said Neeva, smiling.

I was still chatting with Neeva when I noticed Oosie make a snowball:

Oosie starts snowball fight

and aim it at Neeva:

Oosie with snowball

“Look out!” I cried. But it was too late:

Neeva hit by snowball

Oh Dear.

Neeva hit by snowball close up

“Two can play at that game!” she yelled, and hurled a snowball at Oosie:

Oosie hit by snowball, Lauder, Scottish Borders

A playful snowball fight ensued among the younger Felty Folk, with the Gillie Dhu, Dod and I laughing at their antics.

Eventually they were all snowed out and a bit soggy:

All snowed out

“That looked like fun,” I said to them, “I think you’d better get home and dry off.”

Snowball fight

They laughed and we all headed off up the track together.

The Crystal Well

I made a return visit to the Crystal Well, near St. Boswells, at the end of the Autumn and saw some of the Felty Folk again. I was directed to the Crystal Well when looking for a geocache, (a good example of how geocaching leads you to interesting places). I went with my friend from Newcastle, who took the photos of my red shawl I showed you in my last post. I really enjoyed my last visit, and was fascinated by a plantation of trees there:

Tree avenue in Summer, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I loved the rhythm of the receding trees. I was keen to see what they would look like in Autumn colours.

As I got out of the car, I was greeted by a Robin, really close by:

Robin, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

It had been a frosty weekend, and although the sun was shining, there were pockets of thick frost, which created wonderful sculptured foliage:

Frosty Maple leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders          Frosty leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Frosty fern, St Boswells, Scottish Borders          Frosty Butterbur leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Which contrasted with the bright trees:

Trees on Fire, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

When I visited the well in Summer it looked like this:

Well Pump and view to River Tweed, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

This is what it looked like in Autumn:

Autumn well view, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

And by the river:

Frost and Sun, view to River Tweed, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I walked towards the well, and thought I saw something quickly move there.

Frost and well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I crept around to the side of the spring, and look who I saw:

Autumn well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Can you see him on the left by the railings? It’s the Ghillie Dhu: often the most difficult of the Felty Folk to see, and rarely keen to talk to me. When I got closer to the well he moved away.

Crystal Well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I had a closer look at the carved face above the well:

Well carving, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I heard a small voice below me,

“Go away! I’m busy communing with the Spirit of the Well. Go and find Neeva, she’s exploring the woods nearby.”

I looked down, and there he was:

Ghillie Dhu at the well, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

He looked quite cross, so I backed away, apologised, and went to find Neeva.

I headed to the tree plantation, and was disappointed to find all the leaves had fallen off the main plantation trees:

Treetops, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I had forgotten they were poplars, which drop their leaves quite early in Autumn. It still looked dramatic though:

Through the trees, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

Autumn shadows, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I had hoped there might be a carpet of golden leaves below the trees, but most of them were black and brown. However, this one looked lovely:

Poplar Leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

It gave me an idea for a colour combination to use with some beautiful golden handspun yarn I have.

I went in search of gold leaves, and found some:

Golden Leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

This reminded me of a Klimt painting:

Klimt-like trees, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

And a single leaf, still clinging on:

Golden Leaf, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I walked back into the plantation, and noticed some of the trees looked like they were wearing mossy legwarmers:

Moss legwarmers, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

And then I saw Neeva:

Seeing Neeva, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

“Hi Neeva,” I said. “You’re far from home.”

“So are you. I’m surprised to see you here,” she replied.

I explained about my previous visit, and she said she had come with the Ghillie Dhu on his pilgrimage to the Crystal Well for a change of scenery. Although she said she was a bit bored now she was here; and that the Ghillie Dhu was doing meditation, and communing with the Spirit of the Well, and they could be here for a while yet.

Neeva and Moss, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I was a bit concerned about disturbing him, but Neeva said he was often a bit grumpy anyway, and not to worry. We headed back to the Crystal Well together, Neeva stopping for a frolic in the leaves under a hazel tree.

Neeva in leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

The shadows were getting longer and it was time for me to return home. I was concerned about Neeva travelling in the dark, but she reassured me that she was staying with some other Felty Folk nearby, and would be travelling back the next day. Although the Ghillie Dhu would stay at the well overnight. I asked if Neeva had seen the Spirit of the Well.

Neeva in leaves, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

” I’ve only seen her faintly,” she said,  ” she can’t be seen by humans at all.”

“Why does he do the pilgrimage?”

“I think it is a kind of cleansing experience, and is done to mark a change of some kind. I don’t really understand it, it’s to do with his ceremonial duties too,” she explained.

We walked along the path together until we reached the steps I had to climb to get back to the car.

Neeva on path, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

It’s interesting that the Ghillie Dhu makes his pilgrimage here, as the information board at the well says it is quite modern:

Well sign, St Boswells, Scottish Borders

I’m sure the spring itself is old…