Kate Davies Designs

Seven Skeins dispatch central


Since Friday, we have been very busy packing and dispatching yarn parcels for the Seven Skeins club.



We are working hard, but oftentimes I find myself stopping just to admire and squoosh the lovely wool.


The seven shades compete for my affections. At the moment I think my favourite is Haar – the silvery-grey natural fleece shade, inspired by cold sea mists.


This weekend we’ve packed the majority of the airmail (we’re holding off sending Ireland, because of a postal strike). This was the scene when we finished last night.


Now Tom is just heading off to the sorting office – the first of many trips today!


Bruce was very excited to see that some parcels in this van-load were going to Labrador.

So if you are a club member, a parcel of yarn will be heading your way!


We hope you are as batty about Buachaille as we are!

Love Kate, Tom, Mel, Gordon, Ivor and Bruce xx

Shetland days


It is Wool Week in Shetland, and I began it in this cottage out at Vementry. What a spot!







It was lovely to take some time out to visit my friend Hazel Tindall. I just love the part of Shetland where Hazel lives, and it was a real privilege to potter about her garden, and sample her home-grown produce. She’s certainly fared better than I with beans and soft fruit this year! I also explored some Westside nooks that were completely new to me, like Michaelswood – planted and maintained by the Ferrie family in memory of their son and brother, Michael Ferrie, and enjoyed by the whole community. I found this expanse of newly-planted saplings at the top of the hill very moving.


On Monday evening, I gave a talk at the Shetland Museum with my pal, Ella. Ella and I enjoy collecting vintage knitwear . . .


. . . and so we both talked about our collections, what we loved about them, and what we learned from them. Felix chaired the whole occasion with aplomb. As well as speaking to a packed audience, the event was live-streamed from the Shetland Museum to viewers in 9 countries all over the world! Somewhat daunting!


I understand from my friends at Promote Shetland that there are now plans to make the event publicly available to view from their website, so I’ll keep you posted.

It is really wonderful to see how much Shetland Wool Week has grown, and how it has been enthusiastically embraced by knitters and other crafty folk from all over the world. The opening ceremony was a really grand occasion! We were royally entertained by the evening’s knitting pundits, Felix and Louise, as well as by the Hjaltibonhoga Shetland Fiddlers, fresh from the Edinburgh Tattoo, who wore marvellous knitwear created by inventive Shetland designer, NiellaNell


Claire White was a wonderfully professional compere, and sang a beautiful song she’d written about Shetland knitting legend, Betty Mouat.


I could listen to Oliver talk about Shetland wool all day.


And I can’t think of a better Shetland Wool Week patron than wonderful Donna Smith – she’s someone whose warm presence just emanates her passion for knitting and for Shetland.


I am quite a private person, and I get to meet knitters very rarely. I really think this was the highlight of the week for me – and I found it quite humbling chatting to so many engaged knitterly folk! I’d like to give a particular shout-out to Gail, who, like me, was a youthful reader of Giovannino Guareschi, and to Ruth from Rhode Island, who is a very sweet person.

Its always so exciting seeing my designs out in the wild! Here are Betsy and Judie in Scatness Tam and Shepheid – the latter knitted by Judie from her own handspun.


Carmen seems one of those effortlessly stylish sort of people, and I very much admired her Hap for Harriet!


But it was Fiona who really made my day in this natty ensemble comprising Ursula, Funchal Moebius, Ecclefechan Mitts and Fugue . . .


Thankyou, knitters for being so very enthusiastic and inspiring, and thank you Shetland, for your bright full moons, beaches, birdsong, sunsets, the smell of peat fires, the sound of water, rolling hills, rocky cliffs, and your wonderful sheep and wool.


Pop-up fair


Are you in Edinburgh this weekend? If so, can I encourage you to pop along to the pop-up fair which is being held by my friends at the Royal Edinburgh Repository and Self Aid Society on Saturday? I’ve mentioned the Society here many times, and as you know, it exists to provide financial support to its member-makers through the sale of their work. The member-makers are extremely talented, and at the fair you’ll find . . .

beautifully hand-stitched children’s garments


. . . a range of gifts and toys . . .


and a multitude of wonderful hand-knitted items in lace, cables and Fairisle


So if you are in Edinburgh on Saturday do head over to St Andrews & St Georges (on George Street) between 10.30 and 3.30, and say I sent you!


Cross-Country Knitting: Volume 3

Bank Swallows by Charley Harper

I have a great fondness for birds, and bird-inspired design. Like many designers, I adore the work of Charley Harper, because of the way that he manages to capture the bird-ness of a bird with such admirable economy of line. Harper somehow really got how birds – with their simple shapes, their distinctive characters and behaviours – seem to lend themselves naturally to repeating patterns, as can also be seen in the work of my favourite printmaker, Dee Beale.
Swallows in Chalky Blue by Dee Beale

Dees joyful kaleidoscope of swallows just sings out with the exuberance of a returning Spring!

Avian shapes are particularly effective when worked over small repeats of knitted stitches. SpillyJane is a master of this kind of thing, and her Flamingo Mittens blow me away every single time I see them.


There’s that same economy of line . . . and those flamingos are so neat! So inscrutable! So chock full of retro vim!

I also love to create bird-y designs, and as well as some work of which you might be aware, I also have a notebook filled with numerous unmade avians. In that notebook there are sketches for lapwing and gannet inspired knitwear, and perhaps one day I will show you the crazy oystercatcher intarsia that almost made it into Yokes. . .

Anyway, about the only other person I know who is just as obsessed with birds, and avian-inspired design, as I am is my friend Jen. It was a natural decision that birds would be the subject of our next Cross-Country challenge. This is the result.


My design is the murmuration scarf, and it was inspired by spectacular collective displays of starlings in the autumn months.


As you can see, a flock of starlings rises up and disperses across each end of the scarf. The repeats are really simple – just a few stitches – but I hope I’ve managed to convey in these few stitches the feeling of a rising flock in flight.


I like a big woolly scarf and I won’t lie – there is a lot of knitting in it. But I do think the end result is worth it.


Jen designed a pleasingly graphic hat and mitts set inspired by her favourite bird – the Atlantic puffin.


Jolly puffins parade around the hat, and the crown has a beak-related surprise.


There’s also another surprise, as a single puffin at the front of the hat is picked out in full colour embroidery (worked in simple duplicate stitch and back stitch).


The mitts mirror the stripes and stitches of the hat, with another embroidered puffin on one hand.


Tom shot these photographs on a lovely evening out at Inveruglas.


This was a particularly fun photoshoot, because it was with Jen.


Cross-Country Knitting, volume 3 includes the patterns for the murmuration scarf, and the Fufnip hat and mitts. I’ve also written an essay for this volume about the love of birds that Jen and I share.

Both our designs use one of my favourite yarns – Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. Why not stock up in Lerwick if you are there for wool week?
You can now find Cross Country Knitting, volume 3, digitally on ravelry and in print on Mag Cloud.

behind the scenes . . .


A couple of days ago, we announced the Seven Skeins Club – a venture we’ve been planning for many months, and which we hope will allow everyone who wants to to sample our lovely new Scottish wool. (If you are interested, you can read more about what the club involves here.)

People have been writing to me with their concerns about availability. Will they miss out on membership if they aren’t sitting by their computers on Friday? Well, we really are hopeful we have enough yarn for everyone. . .


I am hard at work writing and knitting the club patterns, and Mel is knitting too. Some designs will have both plain and colourwork options, so we are making two of everything.


We are also producing a new book especially for club members – Buachaille: at Home in the Highlands. The exciting thing about this tome is that it includes much more than my designs! As well as essays about the landscapes that inspired (and raised) our yarn, Tom has been developing and perfecting some delicious highland recipes. . .


. . . and he and our friend, Gordon Anderson (a qualified mountain leader), have been out and about in the highlands, preparing a beautifully photographed guided walk up Buachaille Etive Mor, the iconic mountain which lends our yarn its name.


We are all enjoying working on this project tremendously! If the Seven Skeins Club is of interest to you, you will be able to join from this Friday, September 18th by purchasing a membership in the shop.

You’ll find more information about the Seven Skeins Club here.
There’s more information about Buachaille – our new yarn – here.
And you can sign up to our newsletter here.

highland coo – dyed!


I had some knowledge of most of the manufacturing processes that making my yarn involved, but the process I probably knew least about was dyeing. Like most designers, I love colour, and I am very picky about the shades I use being just right. I had a very clear idea in my head about what I wanted my highland coo shade to look like, but very little idea about how that shade might be translated into a dyed yarn for hand-knitting. Tom and I suggested to Adam that we’d very much like to observe the dyeing process from start to finish and thanks to him, and our wonderful dyers, Harrison Gardner, we were able to do just that.

Harrison Gardner are another great Bradford textile company, based a short drive away from Haworth (we are really pleased that all of the processing of our fibre and yarn was done within a small West-Yorkshire radius). Harrison Gardner are a family company who have been expertly dyeing yarn since 1901. They dye yarn on the hank – a process that is ideal for our requirements, because of the nature of our yarn (high-quality 100% wool), and the consistency of the end result (hank dyeing is in some respects more time consuming and costly, but also allows colour to be absorbed more uniformly than other processes).


At Harrison Gardner we met Jonathan Harrison, co-director with his brother, Daniel, and part of the fourth generation of his family running the company. Jonathan is head of production, and has a refreshingly hands-on approach to all of the processes the company’s involved in, including colour matching, which was one of the things I was most interested in seeing.


I was able to show Jonathan what I wanted my highland-coo shade to look like, and the dye recipe was created by matching my requirements in an incredible machine. The machine generates dye recipes that can accommodate a fascinating number of customer demands and criteria, including cost, fibre type, and colour consistency across a range of different light conditions. These light conditions include daylight, tungsten light, and a wide variety of other artificial point-of-sale lighting methods commonly used by retailers (including the very particular kind of artificial light that is apparently used by Marks and Spencer). Once a colour recipe is created and agreed on, this is tested on a sample of the customer’s yarn in Harrison-Gardner’s dye lab (a neat operation that closely resembles the indie-dyeing workshops or studios many of you will have seen).


Its not just a matter of trusting the colour-testing and recipe-generating methods of the nifty machines – everything is double-checked by eye, and the expert dyers have to be happy with the result. Once they are happy, the recipe is scaled up, and then the fun begins in the large custom-built dye house next door.


This is the dye bath in which my highland coo shade was created! Jonathan explained that they use this particular machine for dyeing quality pure-wool yarns because the action of the wash is comparatively gentle, ensuring that none of the fibres are felted or damaged – even when the temperature in the dye bath is raised to boiling point. My yarn was arranged above the bath in 2 kilo hanks, and prepared for dyeing. Here it is!


The brown-y grey skeins that you can see at the end of the bath are there to offer further protection to my yarn against the swooshing and swirling action of the dye-bath. They are there to take up the flack, and ensure the fibre achieves maximum dye absorption with minimum impact. Keith (an expert dyer who has been working with Harrison Gardner for over 30 years) poured a bucket of highland-coo coloured dye solution into the bath, and then the hanks were lowered in . . .


At this point, as you can imagine, we were extremely excited! Jonathan then took us for lunch in the factory canteen, where we were treated to a superb home-cooked steak pie and peas which we ate outside in the sunshine. After a very pleasant lunch, we were able to return to the dye bath to see how things were doing. Here comes the highland coo!

As you can see, the yarn is very wet indeed, and colour can look very different when the yarn is dry. So to get a proper sense of the shade the yarn had now taken, we had to see a dry sample. Towards the end of the video clip, you can see Keith disappearing with a hank of the yarn that has just emerged from the dye bath. Keith took this hank to a small drying cabinet – very like a hair dryer – in which the yarn was dried. Together with Jonathan, we were then able to check the shade in the colour assessment cabinet (which also mimics a variety of light conditions)


I liked the result, but I did feel that it needed the tiniest amount of adjusting to look completely like the rich and rusty coo-like shade I’d pictured. Jonathan agreed, more dyes were added to the bath, and the yarn went through the process again.


This time the shade was absolutely perfect!

After dyeing is complete, the yarn hanks are dried – first in a sort of giant spin dryer . . .


. . . and afterwards in a specialised hank dryer.


I was particularly intrigued by the hank-dryer and its effect on the yarn we saw going through it . . .


. . .which was noticeably loftier and poofier when it came out than when it went in. Jonathan explained that this loftiness is a very important factor for yarns used in the carpet industry (of which they dye many), as well as yarns for hand knitting. When you see my yarn, the dyed shades have, I think, a slightly poofier handle than the undyed shades – this is a pleasing and natural effect of the hank drying process, and everything evens up in the blocking.

Finally, the dried yarn is wound onto cones . . .


. . . and sent a few miles down the road to the skeiners.

Now for the moment of truth: a finished skein of highland coo!


We had a fascinating day at Harrison Gardner, and we were really impressed with the commitment and interest of the lovely staff, and indeed with everything with saw. Best of all the dyed shades are exactly what I’d dreamt they’d be. It is a truly amazing feeling seeing the colours you’ve pictured in your head imagine become a woolly reality!


Between Weathers


Thankyou so much for taking the time to show us the whole process, Jonathan! Tom is still dreaming about that steak pie . . .
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meet the man who helped me make my yarn

Thankyou for your comments on the last post. When I settled on this new venture, I felt it was important to be able to show you some of the usually hidden processes behind yarn production, so I’m glad you are finding it interesting! I thought you might also like to know a little bit more about the decisions behind my yarn’s development, and who I chose to work with.


(Tom’s kilt hose show off some of Buachaille’s characteristics: the yarn is smooth, yet springy; durable yet soft, and with great stitch definition)

How exactly does one go about developing a yarn? I know what kinds of yarns I like, and what I love to knit with, as I’m sure every knitter does. As you will no doubt be aware, I like sheepy, characterful yarns best of all, and I have some knowledge of how different preparation and spinning techniques can get the best out of different fleece types and wool. I also like to work with a product whose origins I can trace. Knowing what one likes is one thing, but manufacturing it is quite another. This was a big step, and I knew I wanted to work on developing my yarn with someone I liked and trusted. I also knew that person was Adam Curtis. I met Adam and his family through our Shetland connections. They know more about wool than anyone I know, and Adam has a particular talent for developing beautiful and interesting wool products: things that really showcase the best that British wool can be. His family were kind enough to invite me to represent hand knitting and design at this event a few years ago, and, from our opposite ends of the industry, we’ve always regarded each other with mutual respect. In the UK, most raw wool is sold at auction through the British Wool Marketing Board, and the vast majority of it is purchased by merchants such as Curtis Wools. They are a well-regarded Yorkshire company whose commitment to wool is deep and long-standing, and whose resources and reach are pretty unparalleled. I knew they could find exactly the wool I wanted, and help me to develop it into an interesting new yarn.

Adam 03 So here’s what happened when I asked Adam to make some yarn for me.

KD: What were your initial thoughts when I approached you?
AC: I was delighted when you approached my father and I to develop a speciality yarn. Creating unique yarns for customers is one of the challenges we genuinely enjoy and pride ourselves on. With the enormous reserves of British and foreign wools held by Curtis Wool there are few requests that we can’t cater for.

KD: But even so, I came to you with quite a long list of things I wanted the yarn to be! What were your priorities?
AC: We knew you wanted a thoroughly British yarn with traceable links to Scotland, and the Scottish highlands. And we knew you wanted the yarn to be light and lofty. So we were looking for Scottish-origin fleeces with a natural crimp that would add loft, and which would spin up to create a classic hand that would just feel right to the knitter.

KD: How did you go about selecting the wool?
AC: We decided that a combination of wools from different breeds would be necessary to arrive at the perfect match for your requirements. We then sourced and chose a selection of the finest hand-sorted Scottish origin fleeces. These were then scoured at Haworth, combined together, and combed to create the perfect top. Combing your wool allowed us to remove any coarse fibres and noils [short fibres] in the fleece, and to create a blended top with maximum smoothness and softness. Combing and blending the wool really made it sing! As you know, the blend we’ve created for Buachaille is unique and exclusive to you. I was very pleased with the result.

(Buachaille – natural combed top)

KD: so what happened then?
AC: Then I sent you a sample of the combed top for approval. You were just as pleased with it as I was, which was great! With the blended constituency of the combed top in place, we were then able to begin developing the two other natural shades you wanted to complement your dyed palette.

KD: Yes! As you know, Adam, I’m very pernickety about colours. . .
AC: Well, like all designers you knew what you wanted, and we had to get those natural shades just right.

(Buachaille – natural silver-grey combed top)

KD: I just love the two other natural shades you’ve created – sheepy fleece colours really are my all-time favourites.
AC: Yes – and they sit really well with the dyed shades you created too. So after your tops were combed at Haworth, we had them worsted spun – a spinning technique which completely suits the wool type and its preparation – and we were then able to arrange for you to see your yarn being dyed. I think you are going to talk about that later?

KD: Yes, I certainly took lots of pictures that day! I am very happy with the yarn, and I know you are just as excited about Buachaille as I am!
AC: Yes indeed -its one of my favourite yarns and I’m really pleased with what we’ve achieved. I think we’ve managed to create a yarn that combines all of your requirements, and perhaps added a little bit more as well. Best of all, its a yarn with a heritage that can be traced from the hills and mountains of Scotland to the textile powerhouse that still exists in Yorkshire. Its a thoroughly British product, made entirely in the UK and inspired by some of the worlds most beautiful mountains, Buachaille Etive Mor and Beag!

KD: Thanks, Adam!

(Tom and Adam talk wool at Haworth Scouring)

We’ve designed seven distinctly Scottish shades for Buachaille, including four dyed shades to complement the three naturals that Adam created. In the next post I will talk a little about the inspiration behind each shade.

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at Haworth Scouring

As we have discovered over the past few months, there is an awful lot to think about when designing and manufacturing a new yarn for hand knitting! There are many stages to consider, and many decisions to be made. It occurred to me that one of the processes that’s least visible to hand knitters is how the wool they work with actually gets clean. As anyone who has handled a fleece will know, cleaning raw wool is not particularly glamorous but it is certainly essential. I thought you might like to see a little about these early stages of our yarn’s manufacture.


The raw wool for our yarn was cleaned, its fibres blended, and the blended fibres processed into lovely combed tops here at Haworth Scouring. This large plant is based in Bradford, a short drive from where both Tom and I were born and grew up. The textile industries in Yorkshire and Lancashire have seen an awful lot of changes in the past 50 years, but Bradford is still the beating heart of the British wool industry.


This is a large operation, capable of scouring a million kilos of wool per week. That’s right – a million kilos. Our first order seemed enormous to us, but it is merely a tiny proportion of what Haworth Scouring can process here in a single day.


Much of the raw wool processed here is British, but Haworth Scouring processes wool from other countries too – these are Norwegian bales in the photograph above.


Customers have different requirements, and some of the wool arrives in a very raw state, needing preparation and grading by specialised wool sorters.


Wool grading is a really important, and sadly declining skill. (If you would like to learn more about wool sorting and grading and its importance to the wool industry, I recommend you visit Jamieson and Smith and meet Shetland’s top wool man, Oliver Henry)

The scouring process is designed to remove dirt and other impurities from the raw wool, along with suint (sheep sweat) and lanolin. At Haworth, its really important that this process is as environmentally friendly as it is efficient (more of this later). Here is some wool, prepared and ready for scouring.


The wool is put through a series of washes and rinses at several different temperatures.


It is repeatedly and carefully cleaned with swinging rakes. After every wash you can see the wool becoming gradually cleaner and cleaner . . .


. . . with the wool’s heat and moisture content being monitored at every stage.


After this, the wool goes through a gigantic metal detector. This is one of those processing factors that’s completely obvious when you think of it – sheep often pick up bits of wire in their fleece – but which I’d never previously considered. You don’t want bits of metal in your yarn, and you certainly don’t want it in the machinery that’s making your yarn. The work of the metal detecting machine is reinforced by this lovely chap, who double-checks there’s nothing non-woolly in the wool.


After washing, the wool is dried. As part of the drying process, the fibres are loosened and mixed, and blended together.


Just check out what’s going on in that huge machine!

After drying, the wool is beautifully clean. What a transformation!


For some of the wool that comes through Haworth’s doors, this is almost the end of the story. It is compressed and packaged into huge bales and prepared for the next stage in its journey elsewhere.



These large bales are compressed by an amazing machine, and, as you can see contain over 350kg of wool. It was at this point that the sheer scale of what goes on here started to astound me. This really is a whole lot of wool!


A significant recent investment in new jobs and machinery means that wool that’s not sent away at this stage can be expertly processed at Haworth into tops. There’s now a state-of-the-art combing operation here, and this is where our wool first started to resemble something like yarn. Our unique blend of fine Scottish fibres was developed and created on this machine!


The wool fibres are relatively blobby and clumpy at this stage – the worsted processing practised here, and which we felt was important to get the best out of our wool, enables the fibres to be opened up, smoothed out, and carefully combed to lie parallel to one another. When I observed the several different stages of combing, gilling and drafting, I was very intensely struck by the technological complexity of these machines, their skilled operatives, and the sheer magic both perform.


From raw wool, to lovely combed top!


Here is what is known as a bump top, at the end of the combing process. . .


And here are lots of bump tops, ready to go.


I mentioned previously that environment is as important as efficiency here. The whole purpose of wool scouring is to remove grease and impurities from fleeces: this is a relatively high-impact process, that creates a lot of waste, and Haworth’s verifiable green credentials were certainly important to us when making early decisions about our yarn’s processing and manufacture. The plant’s water monitoring is extremely careful and completely transparent, and we were impressed that very little in this process actually goes to waste at all! Lanolin removed here is sold to the cosmetics and vitamin industries, while other by-products are used as feed for shrimp and prawn farming (who knew?!)


One reason Haworth’s environmental credentials are so laudable is because it has ENco on site – an environmental testing company that does important work with the textile and farming industries. As well as ensuring the wool products produced at Haworth comply with strict environmental standards, ENco also acts as a consultant, testing many different kinds of finished textiles to check for levels of mothproofing agents and other chemicals. Carpets, military uniforms, knitting yarn, and the fabrics used in high-end fashion houses all receive environmental testing and certification here. If you needed to check whether a certain yarn contained 20% or 30% nylon; or discover for how long a particular moth-proofing agent would protect a certain kind of fabric; or wanted to ensure that the animals providing a batch of fleeces had not been treated with particularly harmful pesticides in their sheep dip, then ENco could find out for you. It was absolutely fascinating chatting to Mike and his team, and learning about their work.


Thankyou to everyone at Haworth Scouring, Curtis Wool Direct, and ENco Global Testing for their time and generosity! We’ve learnt an awful lot, and feel very inspired by our visits!

(Tom surveys the wool mountain with anticipation)

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A busy week


It has been an incredibly busy week here! As you might imagine, the imminent arrival of Buachaille means we have a lot to do, and I am hard at work creating a small collection of designs to accompany the yarn’s release (only a few weeks to go!) Then my friend and colleague, Jen, came to stay with us for a few days – together Jen and I are currently developing several rather exciting projects . . . one is a book which will appear next Spring, and another is a new volume of Cross-Country Knitting. Above is a sneak peak at the latter’s content, of which more very soon.


Jen and I got lots of work done, laughed a lot, and had time for a hearty post-photoshoot dinner at the Bridge of Orchy hotel. It was lovely to see her.

Meanwhile, In the Loop 4 was happening down the road in Glasgow (one year I will make it to this event, which always features a fantastic line-up of speakers and some important research). This year, the conference was hosted by my friends at the Knitting in the Round project (who you’ll remember I’ve mentioned before). I was really honoured when they asked me to provide some samples for the fashion show which closed the conference!


Jade Halbert selected three of my designs, and I styled them with the original garments I’d used when photographing Yokes. I genuinely love styling – visualising a look is often the starting point of the design process for me – and I really appreciated the thoughtful way that Jade styled the models to suit the work of each designer in the show.


The lovely model wearing Buchanan even had her hair in braids!


Jade chose Buchanan, Keith Moon, and Foxglove to appear in this showcase of contemporary Scottish knitwear design. It was somewhat humbling to see my work displayed in this context.


I loved the soft and subtle palette of the beautiful garments shown by Jade Starmore , and was blown away by their styling with these stunning leather skirts (also the work of Jade)


The show featured well-established names of Scottish knitwear design such as ERIBÉ


. . . and Di Gilpin


. . . alongside the work of emerging contemporary designers like Laura Muir

It was lovely to see the work of some of my friends and comrades in hand-knit design, like Gudrun Johnston . . .


. . . as well as Karie Westermann and Lucy Hague.


I also came away feeling inspired by the work of designers I’d never previously encountered. This cashmere dress by Stephanie Laird was truly gorgeous.


And I loved the fresh take on colourwork in Hilary Grant’s bold machine-knit accessories



Thankyou, Lynn, Marina, Jade, and the whole team at Knitting in the Round and In the Loop 4 for inviting me to be part of this fantastic event! Thanks too to Tom, who took the great catwalk photos in this post.

Buachaille – coming soon!


We are getting very excited here, as we are anticipating a large woolly delivery, and it will soon be time to announce the launch of our new yarn. I thought it was time to tell you a little more about it.

(my favourite sheep, from Colours of Shetland)

I am a great advocate for using local materials, and nowhere more so than where wool is concerned. Sheep, and the human work around them, are an incredibly important part of the structure and character of the British landscape and I find it very sad that so many yarns made and sold in Britain in general, – and Scotland in particular – are not raised here, from our native sheep. With some notable exceptions, much of the wool described as “Scottish” has little or nothing at all to do with the many sheep raised in this landscape by hard-working farmers and crofters. So I wanted to create a yarn that was truly raised in Scotland – a yarn that was part of the work of this landscape – but I also wanted to make a yarn that defied long-standing assumptions about what Scottish wool was or could be. I am so tired of hearing that British and / or Scottish wool is coarse or scratchy. Scottish sheep produce wonderful, wearable fibres that, when properly sorted and graded, spin up into truly beautiful yarns. Over the years I have knit with many such yarns from small local wool producers. You might describe these yarns as lofty or springy or smooth or soft – you might describe them as interesting – but you would never describe them as coarse. I wanted my wool to reflect the characteristics of the interesting sheepy yarns I loved and admired. My yarn would be woolly and springy and durable – speaking of this land, and of the animals that grew it – but it would also be smooth and light and soft enough to wear next to the skin. These were my requirements, and, after many months of development and hard work, I am very happy to say, that this is what we’ve got in the finished product!

Selecting the finest fibres of some distinctive Scottish sheep breeds, we’ve created a completely unique yarn that you won’t find anywhere else. The yarn blends wool fibre that hails from as far north as you can travel in Scotland, and from as far south, too.

The yarn is called Buachaille. The first thing you are going to want to know is how to pronounce it.

(Thankyou, Anna)

Am Buchaille (the herdsman), is the Gaelic name associated with two mountains – Buachaille Etive Mòr, (great herdsman of Glen Etive), and Buachaille Etive Beag (little herdsman of Glen Etive). These mountains are well known to anyone who has followed the West Highland Way, or who likes Scottish mountain walking, and I’d go so far to say that Buachaille Etive Mor is among the most familiar and iconic of all Scottish munros.

Me and both Buachailles in 2013

Me knitting a sock on the summit of Buachaille Etive Mòr, in 2007!

These are mountains for which Tom and I hold an affection of long-standing. They are rugged and rocky and elemental . . . yet they are also breathtakingly elegant and sublime. They are somehow what one pictures when one conjures up the idea of a Scottish highland mountain. This – and their relative accessibility – explains why they are so frequently photographed. I think you’ll immediately be able to see the relationship between familiar images of Buachaille Etive Mòr, and Beag . . .


and the logo we designed for the yarn!


Suggested by this one word – Buachaille – are a series of connections between humans, animals, and landscapes – all of the things, in other words, that we wanted the yarn to capture and express.


As you can see from the tag, Buachaille has been “raised in Scotland” and “made in Yorkshire.” As well as being grown by a host of Scottish sheep and farmers, and designed by us, Buachaille has involved lots of hard work from the best folk we know in the UK wool industry – these folk are in Yorkshire. Its important to me that the wool for Buachaille originated in Scotland, and its equally important that several skilled Yorkshire processors and manufacturers have been responsible for making it into yarn. As time goes on, I will tell you much more about the different processes involved in making Buachaille. . .

If you would like to be the first to know about our plans for the yarn, when it launches, and when you can get your hands on it, I have set up a newsletter. So if you’d like further information about Buachaille, please sign up here.