Sunspun Fine Yarns


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Meet the Maker: Kylie Robson from Whisky Bay Woollens

We are thrilled, proud and everything in-between to have the Sunspun family’s Kylie Robson for the first of our new occasional series, Meet the Maker, which celebrates the wisdom of the creative makers in our midst.

Kylie’s new adventure is Whisky Bay Woollens, a tightly curated series of seasonal knitting patterns, and are they a beauty – evocative, very wearable and uses lovely yarns that render the experience of making them a true pleasure. We thank Kylie for giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how Whisky Bay Woollens started, from a germ of an idea to this first collection.

ocean path

Come away with me …

What a beautifully evocative name Whisky Bay Woollens is. Where does it come from?

Thank you so much! When I was searching for a name to publish under, I knew I wanted to evoke a moody, coastal vibe, so I started playing with different concepts. Whisky Bay is part of Wilson’s Prom, which has been a special place for me all my life, and whisky and wool – well, they just go together, don’t they? As soon as I put them all together, I knew I had my name.

ptleo_rockpools

Point Leo.

What is your background?

I have a long history relating to knitting, being taught by my paternal grandmother when I was just five years old. Both grandmothers knit prolifically (and beautifully!) and one also spun her own wool and did a lot of natural dyeing.

My mum would also knit wonderful Fair Isle jumpers in Icelandic Lopi and one of my dearest auntie is an artist. Surrounded by these gorgeous, creative women, it was probably no surprise that I was obsessed with woolcraft.

I also went to uni and completed a Fine Arts degree in painting. Unlike the great art vs craft debate, I found both creative fields complemented each other well, with mutual influences.

We love your story about coming back from the Craft Sessions and deciding to take the plunge to back yourself, and commiting to creating your own designs. So many of us dream, but do not follow through. How did you feel when you realised you had a first collection and when the website went up?

Completely overwhelmed! I was so excited to see the dream come alive, and I was extremely fortunate to be working with a web designer who really got where I was coming from with my vision for the site. Claire, from engelDesigns, was a godsend.

I think I held my breath for the first hour when we went live! The initial response has been so positive and amazing; I have truly been blown away by the support and I’m so happy to see it all come together.

How long did each piece in the collection take to come to you? Do they come to you resolved or are they all in the knitting and re-knitting, in the un-venting, as Elizabeth Zimmerman may put it?

Definitely not resolved. There are many, MANY hours of knitting and re-knitting and changes and tears! The Squeaky Beach mitts were a great example – that lace panel had four incarnations before I finally settled on the final version.

squeakybeach_main

During the evolution of the collection, there were some lovely inter-relations too. The texture in Balnarring was initially slated for the mitts, but it really seemed to work better on a larger scale, so I swapped it. I was very lucky to have some good friends put their hands up for test knitting too, and their input and advice was invaluable.
Balnarring_mainWhat have the challenges been? And what have you loved about this grand adventure?

I think the biggest challenge was having the confidence to back myself. For a long time I questioned if I had the competence to write original patterns, and would people like them or want to knit them.

Finally I decided that I needed to trust my instincts and my skills and just start. From that point on, it has really been such a wonderful experience and I was excited daily about getting to work on the development of the designs and the website.

How did you choose the yarn for the projects?

I wanted to showcase texture for this collection and that was a big factor of the yarn selections. Isager Tvinni was chosen for its loft and beautiful heathered texture. I just love its woolly nature and knitting it doubled produces a beautiful warm fabric with a very tactile surface.

Cascade 220 worsted is one of my favourite workhorse yarns and it shows off texture in such a fantastic way. Plus their colour palette is so comprehensive, you can’t beat it.

The inclusion of the Shibui Pebble and Cima in Woolamai was deliberate, to use a laceweight and a light fingering weight to create a lightweight, soft fabric with interesting texture. There are a few different luxury fibres within the combination of these two yarns, including alpaca, silk, cashmere and wool, which adds to the tactile pleasure of the knitting process.

Woolamai_main

The trans-seasonal focus of your pieces is genius. Plus, layering is so much more fun! Can we expect more from you in this space? Because, apart from the occasional few days in the southern states, aran or bulky garments and accessories can be too much for most of Australia’s winter, can’t they?

I think finer knits are more wearable, and I’m all about the layering! I am committed to the trans-seasonal concept and it will definitely be an ongoing part of my design process. Even living in Melbourne, which is always reported as cold, I know I only get about a fortnight each winter to wear all my heavier knits.

What and who inspires you?

Oh my goodness, so many things. I think my years at art school definitely trained me well as far as how to see inspiration every day. I keep a visual journal on me at all times, and it’s full of notes and imagery and other random things.

The natural environment is a constant source of ideas for me. I just love being out in the elements and taking it all in. Leaves and seedpods are a current favourite. I see them everywhere and can’t resist picking them up.

I also have huge admiration for my creative circle of friends, who exist both in real life and online. I think it’s just a marvel of the internet that so many beautiful creatives can now be connected, and I’m often in awe at the calibre of what people are making everyday. So many talented people are out there, it really does blow your mind and I love how supportive this community is of each other.

What can we expect from Whisky Bay Woollens in the future?

The intention is for new collections to be released quarterly, in line with the seasons (but not wholly dictated by them). The next collection should be landing around November 2015, and is already well into production.

I’m excited about these new designs. My focus remains on accessories, with a couple of new categories that will be added to the mix.

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Well … doesn’t that make you want to run away and follow your heart’s desire? Thank you, Kylie, for your insight. We look forward to November!


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Slow Craft

If you are here, it’s very likely because you like to make things. You know that the rewards of working with the hands are inestimable, and satisfying in a way that the other job – the desk job, the cubicle job, the production-line job, the housekeeping job – cannot quite match, critical though they may be for keeping the wolf from the door. So, this week, we look at those who make, and who make … it … slow. Gridjunky is a master of slow craft. An upcycler, he goes through the trouble of collecting old jumpers with good yarn, patiently unravelling, then washing and skeining them again for reuse in his knitting projects. His slow sewing projects with thrifted jeans and fabric are also quite something to behold, featuring sashiko techniques and hand-stitched hems that give the work an unparalleled finish. 150423Tote01

Source: Gridjunky

Jules has a wonderful post on Woollenflower about the romance of the long-haul project, in this case an Isager jumper in Spinni. (She also has a new lot of tweed pouches ready for sale. Please hurry, so we don’t buy them all.)

Isager-Winter1-944x1024Hi Jules! pouches-686x1024

Thrifted/vintage tweed, some of them Harris.

If you are a blanket or quilt maker, you may have encountered Chawne from Completely Cauchy in your travels. Her work is so fresh, bright and painstaking, and her eye for colour is unmatched. Awe-inspiring. 6797856935_143c6cdf2a16828850216_dcc2cb5e55

Source: Completely Cauchy

Crochet lovers already probably know of Cypress Textiles. If you don’t, have the crochet hook and yarn ready first, because this site will get your brain whirling. Lots of patterns, lots of step-by-steps, lots of ideas. cypress

Source: Hexagon love at Cypress Textiles

Victoria Pemberton is a one-woman show in Melbourne who runs Bind | Fold, which offers plant-dyed textiles and yarn and indigo shibori. One of our favourite designers is Hannah Fettig, whose book Coastal Knits is instore. She is the creator of the much loved Featherweight Cardigan, and we can’t wait to see her new book, Home & Away, soon. How lovely is that jumper on the cover? 1430416265962 Have you seen Swedish artist Camilla Engman’s work? Her blog shows the extraordinary in the everyday, and also her whimsical, insightful and more than a little humorous illustrations. For book lovers, the Penguin Threads are a must. These special editions of classics such as Little Women feature cover art by Jillian Tamaki and Rachell Sumpter. The illustrations are hand-stitched in needle and thread, and the finished books are embossed for a tactile finish. And guess what’s on the inside of those covers? 9780143106654littlewomen

The reverse side of the cover gatefold.

Another series worth noting are the keepsake editions, designed by Allison Colpoys, of the Penguin’s Australian Children’s Classics, which include treasures such as Seven Little Australians and I Can Jump Puddles.     9314994088809And finally, a reminder that the Hand Knitters Guild will be holding their annual yarn and craft market at the Coburg Town Hall, 90 Bell Street, on Saturday, 23 May from 10 am to 3 pm. See, touch and purchase yarns from small suppliers around Victoria, including Ixchel Angora Fibres & YarnsNanny’s Spin on ThingsDyed By Hands Yarns; Cat & Sparrow; Lara Downs; Spin Addict (Fibres of the Yarra Valley) and more plus assorted Guild member’s stalls. Entry is free.


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New Isager yarns and patterns

We just received a shipment from Denmark with some very beautiful new Isager yarns and patterns!  Just in time for our warm months, we hope that they will inspire and encourage our local knitters to get knitting light-weight garments…

First up, we have Bomulin, a lightweight 4ply blend made up of 75% cotton and 25% linen that is spun and dyed in Italy, has 210m/ 50gm and comes in twelve rich colours. Bomulin is ideal for summer tanks, tees and jumpers, as well as lace, lightweight throws and holding with other Isager yarns for heavier-gauge knits.

 

Isager Bomulin

Isager Bomulin

 

Along the same lines is Hor, a pure linen, lightweight 4ply that is also spun and dyed in Italy, has 160m/ 50gm and comes in natural, gunmetal blue-grey and black. Hor is ideal for soft furnishings and bags but also works beautifully for summer garments and held with other yarns.

 

Isager Hor

Isager Hor

 

Our third new Isager yarn is Palet, a fun, speckly tape yarn from Italy that has 160m/ 50gm and knits to a 4-8ply tension, depending on needle size and stitch pattern. Perfect for summer tops, we’d love to see a tee in this- think Japanese style and Julie Hoover designs such as Marly and Leigh

 

Isager Palet

Isager Palet

 

And our final new yarn is Jensen, a sturdy yet soft 100% wool yarn that works equally well as a 6 or 8ply, has 250m/ 100gm and comes in 15 soft colours dyed over a grey yarn base, giving them a beautiful, heathered texture. Jensen is ideal for lightweight but warm garments, as well as accessories and blankets.

 

Isager Jensen

Isager Jensen

 

And, lastly, we have the brand-new Isager pattern book, the Map Collection! Isager is known for their incredibly beautiful, simple designs and wonderful work with colour and this collection definitely follows that tradition… It’s full of very wearable, stylish women’s garments and accessories that are mostly knitted using two strands of yarn, which adds not only warmth and texture but also a great depth of colour.

We have quite a few favourites already…

 

Kashmir Cardigan

Kashmir Cardigan

Siberia Anorak

Siberia Anorak

Normandy Sweater

Normandy Sweater

Shetland Cowl

Shetland Cowl

We hope that you enjoy these beautiful yarns and designs as much as us!