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episode 62 – The Border Mill

Welcome back to the podcast after a lovely wee break. I am jumping straight back into the action with a really wonderful tour of The Border Mill. 

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You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!

John and Juliet Miller decided to make a career change 5 years ago. They already had a 2 acre walled garden where they kept their growing herd of alpaca and, after long waiting times to have the fleece spun (and often large minimum batch size requirements) they decided they would set up their own small scale fibre mill, specialising in alpaca. John and Juliet take minimum fibre batches of 1.5kg and as soon as they opened it was clear that there were a lot of clients who also wanted to spin small batch alpaca fibre, sheep wool and other fibres.

It wasn’t until 2013 that they started to produce their own alpaca yarn, for the first Edinburgh Yarn Festival and their own range has grown exponentially since then. The Border Mill range now includes a lopi-style yarn, blended with Falkland merino, alpaca and mohair, alpaca and BFL, alpaca tweed and the forthcoming alpaca and silk. The Border Mill also works closely with clients to ensure that the fibre they send to the mill becomes the best possible yarn for their needs. Their clients include Sariann Lehrer, who produces the single breed, single flock Chopped Ginger project and Hooligan Yarns, who sell single sheep yarns – if you have worked with, squished or seen these particular yarns you will be well aware of how special these yarns are. 

John gave us a tour of the mill and the entire process. Please listen in to the episode and join is on that tour – grab your WIP and drink! Read More

Episode 112 – What’s the name of that yarn, Louise?

[top image: close up lace swatch by drygardening]

This is the final show of the year – I am trying to dispense with the C word in this episode. There are plenty of great people writing great things about gifts for knitters and doing podcasts on this and also on last minute gift knitting, etc. There’s none of that here – other than our own small gestures swap – just a bumper crop of wooliness and japes with me! (think of this episode of the festive edition of the Radio Times, but for wool!)

↓Listen to the podcast

You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!

Thank you for your feedback on the last two special episodes – my report from the North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference and also my episode with Mica Koehlmos on Machine Knitting – I am so glad you enjoyed these and it was lovely to hear from those who have been beguiled by domestic knitting machines too!

| Chat with Pip Venall on the love of Swatching 
from 11 min, 12 sec Read More

Episode 111: Machine Knitting Demystified

Welcome back to the podcast. Today we have an interview and deep-dive into the world of machine knitting, with Mica Koelhmos.

Image: Jeni Reid / Edinburgh Yarn Festival

Many of you will know Mica as one half of the duo behind Edinburgh Yarn Festival , but did you also know she is also really lit up about knitting machines and what you can make with them?

↓Listen to the podcast

You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!

The first I knew about Mica starting to machine knit was when she gave me a lovely dog-tooth Fair Isle cowl that she had made and she told me about her growing collection of machines! Skip forward and last year she attended a summer school at Heriot Watt University. I think that is when my friend became truly enthusiastic about creating fabric and designs on a machine and also wanting more people to know about it! Read More

Inflamed about wool?

I was both amused and frustrated to read the wonderful Louise Tilbrook’s latest blog post, On Wool – And Other Thoughts.

Louise is hosting a KAL, which is just one online, community event which is carrying forward the Wovember torch this year. You may have read that the Wovember blog is not continuing, but Team Wovember truly believe that #Wovember can continue on social media, and in the wool-loving community in the form of KALs and other events.

Louise’s #WinterWoolKAL is running for the month of November and as long as you are using 100% wool, you can join in and knit anything. Using 100% wool is totally alligned with the aims of Wovember, to promote and recognise wool, sheep and wool work and creatively pushing that the term “wool” is only applied to fibre from actual sheep. (all wool is yarn, but not all yarn is wool!) – WONDERFUL! YAY, LOUISE! Thank you!

My amusement and then frustration came when I read this paragraph in Louise’s blog.

“It was a bit of a surprise then to be greeted with, what a friend laughingly termed a ‘wool backlash’. I received a steady stream of emails, PMs and messages suggesting that my focus on 100% wool (the original Wovember principles) was somehow elitist and risked alienating a large number of knitters.”

(Perhaps a strong dose of the Wovember back catalogue is the best medicine for this malady?)

Alas! I am not surprised. I’ve also been criticised for talking about wool and that apparently talking about 100% wool, grown, spun or dyed locally is somehow (SOMEHOW) a bad thing.  Read More

Episode 110 – North Atlantic Sheep and Wool Conference

Welcome to this special episode of the podcast, which focuses on the North Atlantic Sheep and Wool Conference, which I attended in Uist, in September.

↓Listen to the podcast

You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!

The North Atlantic Sheep and Wool (NANSW) conference was founded in 2011 by Karin Flatøy Svarstad, a felt artist and self-confessed “woolly lady”, from Norway. Karin wanted to put focus on the native wool in Norway, which was seen as worthless and which was being disposed of, rather than used. Karin saw that areas of the North Atlantic were seeing similar issues with their primitive or native breeds; sheep which she calls “viking” and which are part of the Northern European Short-Tailed group. Read More

Woolly Mucker Review: Lore from The Fibre Co

Look, everybody! It’s a blog post…it’s an actual blog post!

If you listened to the last episode you will know that the last few months have seen a lot of personal upheaval. That hasn’t meant that the world of KB has stopped –  I recorded for two special episodes and there was yarn to tell you about too. Sadly moving house was not conducive to yarn reviewing, but our wondrous woolly muckers were keen to assist again. I am very grateful.

It was really lovely to get an email from Claire, from The Fibre Co , who wanted to tell me all about their new yarn, Lore and she offered a skein for woolly mucker road testing! Read More

Episode 109 – A very quick catch up!

Hello! Welcome back after a late summer break!

I’ve not had any time to rest on my laurels and I’ve recorded for 2 special episodes which will be coming out over the next few weeks. I felt that we needed a very quick catch up before those, as it may be a wee while before our next regular show!

Just a few quick things to tell you about, no notes or links today.

Grab a WIP and a wee beverage and let’s have a quick catch up!



| Important information

Music: Singin’ in The Rain (demo) by David Mumford – On FreeMusicArchive and shared under Creative Commons Attribution license.



Episode 108 – From a little van of woolly hopes & dreams: Louise Spong & South Downs Yarn

Dear listeners, this month I am delighted to introduce you to Louise Spong.

I say “introduce”, but I mean “to the podcast, for the first time!”, as some of you will already be acquainted with Louise and her company South Downs Yarn; you may have bought her yarns and maybe you read her articles at Wovember last year.  I’ve been chatting to Louise online for a long time, but only met her last month! I’m very happy that she agreed to sit down and chat with me for the podcast, we talk about the Southdown breed; Louise’s draw to the breed and the impetus for her starting her business; we discuss the need to understand slow as a concept in the wool creating process and we dip into some of the issues wool explorer’s may have found in sourcing Southdown for the exploration this month.

I heartily enjoyed chatting with Louise and I think you chaps will really enjoy listening and perhaps learn some interesting stuff too.

Read More

Natures Shades Prizes Klaxon

There are less than 2 weeks left for our Natures Shades Along? How did that happen ?

Firstly I need to say, as ever, your enthusiasm for this has rocked my hand-knit socks. I love your love for natural wool. I am not very active in the thread (up to our eyes in packing boxes), but lurking and reading, Your work is amazing and so many great FO’s already.

I already know I am not going to be too present around the end of this KAL (But I will send out reminders of the deadline, etc) but I thought it would be nice to give you a wee carrot on a stick, to help get your WIPs to FOs for the deadline and announce some of the prizes.

| Prizes from Generous Donators!

Louise Spong, from South Downs Yarn, has given us a Chalky Way shawl kit! The shawl is designed by the very talented Orlane Sucche and uses 6 x 30g skeins of the beautiful Ridings Flock southdown, from South Down Yarns. You will get 6 skeins and a code to download the pattern. Thank you so much to Louise and Orlane.

Tune in to the next podcast (out *sometime* soon!) and hear Louise and I talk all about southdown breed and South Downs Yarns. I had a lot of fun chatting with Louise. Read More