Crafting in Co. Clare

We delve into natural dyeing and seed-to-garment with our columnist Jennifer Lienhard of Woolfinch Studios

I’m very excited to announce that I have finally found, or more correctly, have been found by Albina McLaughlin, a lovely knitwear designer from Co. Donegal. For a long time I’ve been looking to find somebody who would like to design knitwear that uses our own hand dyed yarns and the unique yarns we stock. So, this is a very exciting and a new step for me; to dye according to patterns, or to dye for a possible new garment, puts a lot more focus on the outcome and colour collection.

Albina creates beautiful knitwear. Her garments are a joy to look at (and I’m sure to wear, too) – simple, yet with so much detail, elegant but rustic at the same time. Do have a look at her website to see her lovely creations.

We are going to launch our first pattern at the end of May. It’s a design suitable for an Irish summer using our lovely linen/cotton blend Moonlight.

Albina called the design ‘Top of the Morning’. It’s a beautifully simple, yet stylish sweater, easy to knit and only uses a reasonable 400-500g of yarn. I invite you to read Albina’s blog post on why she called it ‘Top of the Morning’.

The pattern will be available from the end of May on www.lbhandknits.com and www.woolfinchstudio.etsy.com. We will also offer it as a kit, where you can buy the yarn and pattern at a slightly reduced price together.

Also, for all Olann and readers, there will be a 10% discount coupon available in my shop. Just use coupon code: OLANNANDKIT10 at checkout (expires on the 30th of June 2017; discount only applies to kit, if you like to purchase multiple items, please contact me and I will process your order for you).

Meanwhile, we’ve also been very busy using locally sourced ‘weeds’ and food plants to create lovely new shades of beige, yellow and green. We’ve also started experimenting using different wool/silk/yak/camel yarns dyed with locally-collected Lichen dye from windfall, and yarn dyed with locally-collected dock plants.

We also got busy with yarns dyed with locally-collected horse parsley, an old Roman cultivate, which was used before celery was cultivated and grows wild on roadsides now. And I love our new silk and yak yarns that have been dyed with lovage out of my own garden, and I was happy with the results from dyeing with madder used in food colouring. I’d love to hear what you think.

Seed to Garment

As if we weren’t busy enough, we are also starting another exciting project with ALFA (Active Learning for Adolescences), our local Steiner secondary school. Steiner is a new take on secondary schooling, based on integrated hands-on learning.

During a meeting, my obsession with flax, its local and Irish history came to the fore. My dream is still to see blue fields of flax stretching across the Irish landscape, delicate flowers nodding in the wind, bringing Irish flax for linen back to Ireland. However, lacking fields, funds and all that goes with it, we thought it would be very educational, and not least of all fun, to start our own research program using the school’s garden and starting a project called ‘From Seed to Garment’.

We have sown the flax seed and are now waiting patiently for it to grow – a process which takes roughly 100 days. Because we had to fit the project around school holidays, we sowed the flax a little later, but are still confident that it will take off. My husband, Tristan, is a gardener and a recent graduate in Education, so he is taking on the growing part of the project.

For now, we have to wait, weed the seedlings and keep an eye out for slugs, which are very fond of the young young seedlings!

We will take the project through all the processes and build the tools needed ourselves; harvest, retting, cutching, combing, spinning, dyeing and weaving or knitting. The last part will depend on the quality of the thread; spinning flax isn’t easy and many hands having a go will certainly result in a very thick and thin yarn, but that is all part of it and I’m looking forward to teaching, documenting and working together with the kids on this project.

If all goes well, I’m hoping that we could take this project to other schools – we even managed to secure a bit of funding for it. I will start a blog on this project too.

ABOUT JENNIFER

Jennifer Lienhard is the owner of Woolfinch Studio, which provides all the materials you need to get started with needle felting, including beginners’ needle felting kits in two sizes. The shop also provides a starter pack of mixed merino colours in different sizes to experiment with wet felting, as well as tester bags, which include a selection of  plant fibres and interesting  animal fibres. Jennifer has also just launched a new solid colour range for 21mic Merino wool called Finch & Sparrow.