Monday, October 9, 2017

Summer Book Report


So I actually don't have quite as long of a list of Summer Reads as I had hoped to. A few abandoned books definitely found their way into rotation and I just ended up reading a little less than I had thought. BUT that being said, I read some real gems this summer- some of the best books I've read all year, and I wanted to share a little round up with you today of what I did manage to read.

So, here goes:


Present Over Perfect // Shauna Niequest
This has been on my TBR list for what feels like ages and ages (it only came out last summer...) When I saw it was a pick for the Solly Baby book club, I was reminded of it and am so glad I was! It was a perfectly timely read for me. I mistakenly thought going in that this topic was one I had already wrestled with and had a handle on- NOPE. Still so much to learn. This book was written with so much wisdom and grace- I cried my way through and will definitely be picking it up for a re-read in the not too distant future.

Murder on the Orient Express // Agatha Christie
Our book club summer read. I breezed through this in 3 days and really enjoyed it. I didn't have much prior experience with Agatha Christie and after reading this, I'd love to pick up a few more titles.

Wonder // RJ Palacio
Another book club pick. Wow you guys- this book. Not only is it a great story well told, but it's also a great conversation starter (and would be an excellent book to read with kids, or to discuss with them...) This is the sort of perspective-giving book that can really make a difference. 

Big Magic // Elizabeth Gilbert
So I basically highlighted and bookmarked and dogeared my way through this entire book. So much good stuff- this is the sort of book that makes me wish I still kept a physical quote book so that I could jot down all the wisdom I gained from it! 

Yes Please // Amy Pohler 
A bit of a bonus pick, I read through this quick, fun read while in Berlin. I wouldn't say it was the greatest book I've ever read (not even my favorite comedian/celebrity memoir) but I did enjoy it and appreciated Pohler's perspective at several points throughout. 

So that's a wrap. I am ALL about Fall reading and closing off this year of books strong. I'm on track with all my reading goals for the year and have a few picks for the next few months that I'm really excited about (I'm currently reading the books in the photo above) How about you, fellow bookworms? How's your reading life these days? 

Friday, October 6, 2017

creative chat: Emma of Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company



It's been awhile since my last Creative Chat interview, but I've got something really special to share with you all today. This past month I had the chance to talk with Emma from Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company. Emma is a photographer and fiber artist living in Northern Ireland where she works with natural woolly fibres in the form of knitting, spinning and natural dyeing. From the moment I discovered Emma on Instagram I knew her work was something special, and I'm so super excited to share this interview with you all today- especially because she is currently in the process of opening her shop, which will launch later this month. 

So grap a cuppa and join us for this inspiring chat: 



1. If we were having this conversation in person, in a cafe what would you be drinking? Are you a coffee or tea person?

I am most definitely a tea person- no coffee for me! I would probably be drinking black tea with milk, or Earl Grey. Or if I’m feeling summery I will have a fruit tea! My current favourite is peppermint and liquorice. 


























2. Tell us a little bit about what you make/do. What got you started on this particular creative journey?

I am an architectural photographer by trade, and occasionally I have pockets of ‘bad weather’ time I like to fill up, where I can’t be photographing outside. I like to craft/ make in these in between moments. More specifically I love spinning on my wheel, dyeing with natural dyes and knitting socks. I got started on this creative journey when I was at art college in London- I was studying on the photography course at Camberwell College of Art and I met a lovely crafter/ illustrator lady by the name of Kim Smith (@kimsmithhappy/ @aushopuk). We became great friends and met up most weeks to catch up and craft together, sometimes meeting at her house, sometimes at her cousin’s pub down the road. 

I arrived at her house one night for some craic (as we say here) and a bit of craft and I noticed she had a spinning wheel. I was very excited and had to learn the skill myself- Kim is an awesome teacher! I purchased my own wheel on eBay, and went on the train to collect it. I began spinning on my own, playing around with different types of wools and techniques, and really enjoyed the process. Around the same time I created an art project where I visited several sites around London, picked various dye materials from the environment, and dyed with them. I then wove a small mat on a frame loom, which included all the dyed fibre from around London. 

From there I left university and started my photography business, and hadn’t been crafting as much as I’d have liked. I knew I wanted to make more with my hands, since most days I was sitting on a computer or behind a camera in the digital world. I then joined the Ulster Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers and that helped spark my interest and hone my skills. I learnt about different sheep breeds, qualities of different fleeces and different dyeing methods. They are a lovely group of ladies with so much knowledge to impart! 

In May 2017 I had a serious creative itch, and knew I had to do something about it. I was knitting a lot, and starting to dye again. I knew I wanted to experiment more with natural dyes in a bigger quantity but I couldn’t unless I had a suitable outlet. That’s when I came up with the idea of opening an online shop to sell my naturally dyed and handspun yarn. I placed an order with the wonderful Laxton’s Mill in Yorkshire for some of their lovely fibres- BFL, Masham, Wensleydale, Falkland Merino in different weights and I couldn’t wait to get started in dyeing them! During September 2017 I used a mixture of foraged and extract materials to dye with- a process I absolutely loved! I experimented with blackberries, elderberries, onion skins, logwood, madder amongst other things with some really nice results. I have also purchased some local alpaca fibre which I plan to spin up for the shop opening- it’s really exciting to work with local suppliers!



3. What does your daily routine/creative process look like? How do you structure your creative time? 

Every day for me is different- I wouldn’t enjoy doing the same thing all the time! I don’t really structure my creative time as such- I usually just have a list of things I have to complete that day and I try and get them done. I always find it helps if you have an end goal in mind- e.g. a shop opening, an exhibition planned, a collaboration etc as this provides some motivation to get things done! In general I try not to separate creative time/ other time too much, or to really think about it too much as I feel it stifles my creative process a little, especially when it comes to dyeing. “Think through making”- that’s what tutors used to tell us at art college. Sometimes with natural dyeing, you get unexpected results, and want to explore those options more, and end up making a batch of colours you hadn’t planned on. You should able to do this without making yourself feel guilty for enjoying it!  In general, if I’m having a ‘dye day’, I have everything set out the night before- dye baths soaking, pots at the ready, yarn soaking. This makes the process of getting started a lot easier! I then make my to-do list and get on with dyeing or collecting materials from my local area. Sometimes there are other bits and bobs that need done- Instagram posts, labelling, photographs which is all part of the creative process too. At the end of the day, about an hour before I want to finish, I start cleaning up work area (currently my kitchen!). 

My knitting usually takes place at night, in front of the fire in our front living room- not during the day!



4. I'd love to chat a little more in depth about your tools/workspace. Do you have a designated work area, or any special tools/favourite fibers to work with? 

I do have a designated work area for crafting, but somehow it infiltrates the rest of the house! I usually tend to craft wherever feels good that day. Generally it’s not my actual workspace because it’s so messy and unkempt- it’s not even slightly pretty! When I’m dyeing I’m in the kitchen a lot so I end up staying there to check on the temperatures etc. When I’m doing admin I go to my office and sit at my computer and turn it off when I’m finished. That where all my photography equipment, books and architecture journals are kept. 

My Frank Herring spinning wheel is quite unique- it is made in Dorchester, England and has a definite 70’s vibe to it- it is made of bent plywood. It’s quite a petite wheel, easy to throw over your shoulder to take to a demonstration. I’ve never met anyone else who has this wheel. 

I also have a noddy-noddy handmade by a local wood worker, which I love, and a ball winder given to me by my Great Aunt, which is invaluable! 

 As for fibres, I love single breed, non-super wash wool, and my current favourites for spinning are Swaledale, Gotland and BFL. All of the yarns in my shop will be non- superwash (read more about the process here http://woolful.com/fiber-conscious-superwash-wool/) and fully woolly! 



5. I'm also curious about how place affects your creative process. Can you tell us a little bit about where you live and how/if this affects your work?  

I live near the North Coast of Ireland in an old Georgian terrace house (which we are renovating) in a medium-sized farming town. Every room has a different feel, particularly at different seasons of the year, so it’s lovely to have the choice of where to work on a particular day. The weather here is temperamental, and we often see the four seasons in one day. It’s often raining. This forces a lot of indoor time, so the fire gets stoked and the dye pots get going. In saying that, I like cycling and walking and the mountains- so I am sure that this has an influence on me too. 

Although I lived in London for three years while completing my degree, the heritage and traditions of coming from a farming background in rural Northern Ireland affects my work more than anything else. It makes you aware that nature and the landscape are not always picturesque and gentle, as well as teaching you to look after what you have and to make things rather than always buying them. My great Granny used to make all sorts of concoctions and potions out of things she foraged from the hedges and country lanes, as well as having amazing crochet skills- her lace work was beautiful. I suppose all of these things have influenced me- I love colours derived from our landscape, small cottage industries, living a simple (as possible) life and working with my hands. 



6. What are you currently up to? Anything new and exciting coming up?


I am currently preparing to open my online shop Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company on October 31st! I have been busy dyeing and spinning wool, as well as getting the website ready. You could say it’s a mammoth undertaking! You will be able to find the yarn shop at woollymammothfibrecompany.com from October 31st and you can find me at @woollymammothfibres on Instagram. 



Thanks so much Emma for taking time to chat with me and share more about your work. If you enjoyed this interview, make sure you visit Emma over on Instagram to say hi and mark your calendars for her shop opening on Oct 31! 

note: all photos provided by Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October's Quote


"Put yourself forward in stubborn good cheer, and then do it again and again and again...The effort is worth it, because when at last you do connect, it is an otherwordly delight of the highest order. Because this is how it feels to live a creative life: You try and try and try, and nothing works. But you keep trying, and you keep seeking, and then sometimes, in the least expected place and time, it finally happens. You make the connection. Out of nowhere it all comes together."
-Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic


You guys- IT'S HERE. I cannot even begin to describe in words what being a part of this project has meant to me (though I do intend to give it a decent try- stay tuned for that...) This month I wanted to share this quote from the book Big Magic which I just finished reading (and highly recommend!) that speaks to my experience in working with WOODS. If you don't know what I'm talking about make sure you check the book out here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Let's Talk About Hats!


After a summer full of fingering weight shawls, I have completely embraced the start of Fall and with it- HATS! 

You guys, hats are awesome. First of all, they are so fast to knit, it's unbelievable. You can just crank those babies out one after another...well, not quite. But that's the feeling I have after all those miles and miles of fingering weight...

I have big plans for hat knitting over the next few weeks and months. The truth is, I haven't had the best of lucks with hats in the past. I've chosen the wrong yarn or the wrong pattern or made the wrong size and I actually have very few hats that I'm completely happy with. So my goal this year is to change that. I've been on the hunt for patterns and have found some gorgeous ones. Today I thought it would be fun to share a little list of those with you all- my hat queue, if you will: 

1. Braddock
This is a super lovely chevron-y hat with a double brim, knit in dk weight and designed by Christina Danaee. I'm seriously in love with the photos- if you haven't seen them yet, you really must check it out. I've got a skein of dk weight in my stash, from Mineville Wool Project that I've been hanging onto for ages, in search of the perfect project. Perhaps this is it...? 

2. Vanilla Fog
This is a two-tone hat, knit in squishy brioche designed by Andrea Mowry. I've been itching to knit more brioche after finishing my shawl and a hat seems like the perfect thing to make next. I love the two tones that the sample is knit up in and actually have the perfect yarn in my stash for this- colorwise but not weight-wise sadly. I'm wondering if I can make a worsted weight version of this pattern...?

3. Picos de Europa 
Designed by Verena Cohrs (of The Wool Club) for the WOODS crowdfunding campaign, this is also a dk weight pattern, with a really lovely woodsy stitch pattern. It's been on my list since the crowdfunding went live, and I'd really like to get it knit up in the next month or two.

4. Mizzin 
So- colorwork. I've not done much of it, but I absolutely fell in love with this hat, designed by Claire Walls and I'm thinking I'm going to have to give it a go. This is knit using fingering weight- and I must say, I don't know that I've ever knit a hat using anything lighter than a dk weight, so I'm excited to try it! 

5. Skiff
This is a bit of an older pattern and I've seen some seriously lovely versions floating around on Instagram and Ravelry. Would love to make one myself, maybe in Quince & Co Lark, since I've got a few skeins in my stash. 

Bonus: Dubliner Hat (pictured above)
So this is my own pattern but I'm sharing it here because I really genuinely love it. I've just finished one for a friend and am thinking that I might need to make another for myself! 


So those are at the top of my queue right now but I also really love this this and this!! What about you guys- any hat patterns to recommend?? 

Monday, September 18, 2017

a recipe for early Fall: tomato couscous soup


Every year around this time we go crazy for soups. In fact, the past several years, I've shared a round up list of some of our favorites (see here, here & here).

This year is, of course, no exception. We've been making many of the soups on that list and experimenting with a few more. Today I thought I'd share one with you, in case it's chilly where you are as well, and you're in the mood for something healthful and warming. Enjoy! 


you will need: 
a lug of olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dried herbs (oregano, parsley or thyme work well!)
2 cups veggie broth
1 cup couscous
sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
generous handful fresh basil & balsamic reduction for topping


Heat your onion and garlic in a pan with some olive oil until the onion is slightly translucent and the garlic smells amazing. Add tomato paste and stir. Add your chopped fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes and sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Pour in the balsamic vinegar. Add your dried herbs and cover the whole thing in veggie broth, giving it a good stir. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add your couscous. Let the whole thing simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to insure the couscous doesn't stick. Add your salt and pepper and serve piping hot, topped with fresh chopped basil and a drizzle of your favorite balsamic reduction. 

(PS: In lieu of a whole separate 5 soups post, we're also enjoying this and this -found through Pinterest, looking forward to making this from last year, and are planning on Pumpkin Curry this week! Yum!)

Monday, September 4, 2017

September's Quote


"When we are who we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze"
- St. Catherine of Siena

Been thinking lots about how the best thing we can offer the world is ourselves- who we truly are and not who/what we think we should be. It's an easy concept to understand but a little harder to truly accept and live out, or so I'm finding.  

PS: I announced the giveaway winners for our MAL over on Instagram last week in case you missed it. Thanks to everyone who joined in, we had such a blast! The giveaway was sponsored by myself, Ink & Soil and Nailya Plaskey Designs- congrats to the winners!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

swatch diaries- brioche & my summer project



Today it's time for the second installment of my swatch diaries series- brioche! 

This summer I've been working on the gorgeous Briochealicious shawl by Andrea Mowry and it's been such a fun project. I've been wanting to try brioche knitting for ages and this seemed like the perfect introductory project- simple enough for a newbie like me and not so overwhelming thanks to the garter stitch panels in between. Not to mention it's wearability- and the fact that it's simply stunning.

Okay so onto my swatch: I used Tosh Merino Light (from Madeline Tosh) for this project (colorways: Antler, Glazed Pecan, Heartbeat and Venetian) purchased at Valley Yarns in Surrey back in March. I also took Nancy Marchant's brioche class on Craftsy back in June to give me a little more confidence in mastering this stitch. I would recommend that to anyone feeling intimidated by Brioche. 




In the Craftsy class I made a swatch, learning both brioche knit & purl stitches as well as one and two color brioche. It was such fun and really prepared me well for knitting this shawl. 

The funniest part of all this is that I don't actually have a photo of my swatch. When finishing it, I was too excited and cast on my shawl immediately, thinking I'd just snap a photo later. But I can't find it! So sad! But anyways, I still wanted to share about this swatch & project, so the photos of my WIP will have to do!

Have y'all tried brioche? What's been your experience with it?