Helen Lockhart

I have been wanting to do a really colorful blog.  The trees are still vibrant in color but the weather is changing and the rain is beginning to break the leaves off the trees.  We are getting into that November time which is just a bit more gloomy and the vibrant foliage from the trees is fading or landing on the ground.  With that in mind, I found this delightful yarn site.  I dug out my own knitting out last night and have enjoyed having the fire on and sitting beside it with my wool and knitting needles.  I’m not making anything profound but I found this absolutely marvellous wool a while back and it seems a sacrilege to have it sitting there in its brown paper bag still as a skein.  As you can see by the picture, I have made a stunning purple scarf and will now endeavour to make the same thing in green.  I amaze myself.

In comparison to my feeble efforts with this fantastic yarn, Helen Lockhart of the Highlands creates some really beautiful yarn and knitting kits.  Helen is a dyer of wool and provides her yarn to Scotland and beyond to Canada, Australia, Finland, Spain, Denmark, the USA, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa.  Fine luxurious alpaca/silk/cashmere laceweight yarn, 4ply wool/nylon sock yarn and UK sourced bluefaced leicester double knitting yarn are among some of her products, in a variety of  weights and bases.

Helen uses the web as a marketing tool.  ‘The website is my main route to market, that’s how retailers find me,’ she says.  Shops in England and Scotland sell her wool and knitting kits for socks, shawls or a hat and gloves.  Her kits are small and come with everything needed to complete a project.

  

 

Helen’s business is called Ripples Crafts http://www.ripplescrafts.com/ and has been around since 2008.  She began by selling only from her online blog http://www.ripplescrafts.com/dropone/ and at local craft fairs but she decided to expand the business by setting up online as well.

Her creativity is inspired by the views she sees daily from her house in the Highlands.  Helen says “The natural beauty of the area makes it very easy to be inspired. I am constantly being asked by my customers about my life in the Highlands and so I keep an online blog to keep them up to date with life this remote part of the country. It helps customers understand the inspiration behind some of the colours I use.”

“Taking the step of moving to a very rural and remote area meant taking a leap of faith, and we had to come up with a way of making a living. I found I was thoroughly enjoying dyeing yarn, and when selling the yarn at shows I was getting great feedback from people who seemed to love the colours. That’s when I realised it would make the perfect business for me.”  She also says, ‘This one is a mix of summer sky blues, this one is a winter fireside, this is the golden colour the bracken turns just before it goes brown.’

These two hand dyed yarns shown above are for making socks … absolutely fabulous!  Who wouldn’t want a pair of socks knit with this wool? 

Her beautiful work even inspires people to come to Scotland to drop by and see her in Assynt where she lives.   ‘I had someone knock on the door to show me the socks she had made’, says Helen, ‘and one of the members of my yarn club now books a holiday home here for three weeks of year and comes to watch me dyeing!’

It’s not that easy to find Helen’s house.  It is so off the grid that all their electricity comes from solar panels and a small wind-power generator.  She makes her dyes on a small gas stove and the yarn dries naturally.  ‘I use acid dyes, based on citric acid, the stuff used to make bath bombs, nothing at all fearsome.’ 

This low-footprint approach has a big effect on her colours. ‘A lot of dyers use microwaves, but I mostly use immersion dying. The yarns are in water for at least 20 minutes so the colours can get very intense. Alternatively, I soak the wool to open up the fibres and then use dry powders that spread in unpredictable ways, so the colours can be completely different for each hank.’

I leave you with a picture of Helen’s landscape-inspired yarn aptly named “Heather”.

If you live in the Edinburgh area, Helen will be hosting a workshop in November at the K1 Yarns Knitting Boutique http://www.k1yarns.com/news.php

Beginners Cable Workshop, Friday 19 November. £34.99

Cabled hats, scarves and jumpers are the height of fashion! If you have never tried knitting cables then this workshop will get you started and show you just how easy it is! This workshop is suitable for knitters who have basic skills. If you can cast on, knit, purl and cast off then this workshop is suitable for you! You will be taught a variety of knitted cable techniques and the needles and wool are included in the workshop price!

89 West Bow, Edinburgh EH1 2JP – tel: 0131 226 7472

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