Lab Goddess Fibre Club - 2017 Second quarter round up

With the third quarter of the 2017 Lab Goddess Fibre Club about to kick off, I thought I'd share the last round of club colourways. First up is April: Olduvai on 56s English wool blend, inspired by paeloanthropologist Mary Leakey (1913 - 1996).



Mary Leakey was a world-renowned archeologist and paleontologist, who spent most of her career excavating at digs around the world, particularly in central Kenya and northern Tanzania. In 1959 she discovered the 1.75 million year old skull of a hominid that was later named Australopithicus boisei. She and her husband, Louis, discovered some of the first specimins of Homo habilis in 1960, one of the earliest hominid species to use stone tools. Over the course of her many years in the field, Mary Leakey discovered fifteen new species and one new genus. 

This colourway inspiration comes from images of the Olduvai Gorge, where Mary Leakey spent more than 20 years excavating and some of the images from our holiday in April. The overarching theme to the palette is earth tones – browns, tans, oranges, rusts – that reflect the different layers of the gorge’s walls.

Next up is May's "Visual Thinking", inspired by animal scientist Temple Granding (1947- ).

VIsual Thinking on superfine Falkland Merino

VIsual Thinking on superfine Falkland Merino

Temple Grandin is an animal scientist who revolutionised animal slaughter technology by putting humane treatment and reduction of stress at the forfront of livestock handling and the slaughterhouse industry. Diagnosed with unspecified “brain damage” at the age of two, Temple's mother came across an autism checklist when Temple was a teenager and hypothesised that most of Temple’s symptoms could be explained by autism. She was formally diagnosed as autistic in her 40s.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in human psychology, Grandin went on to complete a master’s degree and PhD in animal science. Her research was some of the first to report that animals are sensitive to their surroundings and that animals that remained calm during handling had higher weight gain. Her work also showed that an animal’s previous experience with handling would affect how it reacted to being handled later on,  in stark contrast to the view of livestock at the time.

Dr Grandin has said “I think in pictures, I don’t think in language…my mind works like Google images.” This idea of a visual language made me think about what colours might run through an internal movie reel of Temple Grandin’s work, and came up with this combination as a starting point (although many other combinations are possible).

Finally, we have June's club colourway, inspired by Russian biologist Vera Danchakoff (1879 – ?).

Pluripotent on 70% grey Shetland/30% Tussah silk

Pluripotent on 70% grey Shetland/30% Tussah silk

Vera Makhailovna Danchakoff was born in St Petersburg in 1879 and went on to become the first woman professor in Russia. Although little is known about the personal details of her life, her years as an active researcher and scientist have influenced generations of biomedical researchers.

Dr. Danchakoff’s initial research was focused on blood cell development. In a 1916 lecture, she described studies in several species that led her to postulate a common source for all the cellsmaking up mammalian blood, a cell that has since become known as a stem cell. She also hypothesised that this common mother cell was preserved after embryological development, and could give rise to pathologic conditions later in life.

Since the early 20th century, scientists have filled in the gaps in stem cell theory, and stem cells are now widely recognised to be important potential treatments for disease, and may hold the key to treating brain damage, spinal cord injury, type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and a wide range of other conditions. In graduate school, I learned that the most important differentiating characteristic of stem cells was the fact that they were pluripotent, or capable of becoming many things. A neural stem cell isolated from the brain might become a neuron in one environment, but in slightly different circumstances, it might become a glial cell. A haematopoietic stem cell might become an oxygen-packed red blood cell, or it might become a bacteria-eating macrophage. It all depends on what that stem cell experiences as it differentiates.

In some ways, spinning is a bit like the process of stem cell differentiation: we may start with the same dyed fibre, but depending on how it gets prepped and spun, and how it gets used in the final item means that the possibilities and ultimate results are endless.

That wraps up the second quarter of the 2017 Lab Goddess Fibre Club. If you're interested in joining us for the third quarter, running from July - September, you can sign up now. Sign ups will close on 15 July, so don't wait too long to get yours!

In which I am very, very late, otherwise known as "hey, the Tour de Fleece starts on Saturday - want to spin with me?"

The last 6 weeks or so have been a completely ridiculous blur of very long work days, coupled with trying to get fibre club out the door and keeping up with a bunch of tech editing that all seems to have landed at once. In other words, complete chaos.

But this morning (a full week and a half after finishing the work thing that took over my life), I finally felt like I had a) some breathing room, and b) had recovered enough to be able to think a bit about other things. Imagine my surprise when I realised that the Tour de France starts in a mere five days! So I've started the Team Porpoise Fur 2017 thread on Ravelry, posted to the wildcard thread in the Tour de Fleece group and spammed the Yarn in the City group hoping to drum up some team mates. 

The whole thing is very simple: set yourself a challenge for the duration of the Tour de Fleece/France (1st July - 23rd July) and go for it! Some people pull vast piles of fibre out of their stash and commit to spinning pounds of yarn, some people challenge themselves to learn a new technique or try something outside of their comfort zone, some people aim to spin a little bit every day. Whatever is a challenge for you is all good!

Once again this year, my Tour de Fleece is going to be somewhat impaired by a bit of travelling, but my goals are as follows:

  1. Spin the four exclusive TdF colourways from this year
  2. Spin up at least four of my oldest Hello Yarn Fibre Club offerings
  3. Spin at least a little bit every day

If you'd like to get some of this year's TdF colourways, this is your last chance! The pre-orders are supposed to close today, but given my lateness, I'm going to leave them open until the end of the day tomorrow, 27 June. You can find them here, and all the details on the inspiration here.

I can't wait to start!!!!

Lab Goddess Fibre Club March 2017

I've come back from two weeks on holiday to discover that while I was away, the leaves have come out and spring is truly arrived! (As my hayfever can attest!) What better moment to share the most recent Lab Goddess Fibre Club colourway?

Surinamensium on Bluefaced Leicester

Surinamensium on Bluefaced Leicester

Surinamensium is inspired by entymologist and scientific illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian, who lived from 1647-1717. Trained from childhood as an artist, Merian painted her first images of insects and plants at age 13. Her first book of natural illustrations was published in 1675 and in 1699 the city of Amsterdam gave her a grant to travel to South America, where she spent the next two years travelling through the colonies, sketching.

In 1705, her most famous work - Metamorphosis insectorium Surinamensium - was published, and was one of the first books to detail insect metamorphosis, a process which had been largely ignored as insects were considered unworthy of scientific interest. 

The image that inspired the colours used in the March Fibre Club.

The image that inspired the colours used in the March Fibre Club.

I wanted greens for the March colourway, but coupled those with blue, brown and mauve from the moth's wings. I can't wait to see how this colourway spins up, as the contrast in the depth of shade of the different colours should make for some interesting pops in the finished yarn.

This month marks the start of the second Fibre Club of 2017 and slots are still available - they will be closing as of early tomorrow morning, so if you'd like to join in please don't wait! I'm off to enjoy the fresh spring greens and start spinning up my Surinamensium - happy bank holiday to you all!

Lab Goddess Fibre Club, Q4 2016

So somewhere in the haze that was October-December, I managed to completely forget about a) this blog and b) sharing the monthly fibre club colourways. What this means is that I now get to do one biiiiig blog post about all of them, and remind you to sign up for the first quarter of 2017, which is currently being dyed...;-)

First up: October's lovely Alchemy on moorit Shetland, inspired by Irène Joliot-Curie:

As the Lab Goddess Fibre Club came around to its one year anniversary, it seemed appropriate to highlight the daughter of the inaugural Lab Goddess, Marie Curie. Like her mother, Irène Joliot-Curie worked on radioactivity. However, her path to scientific success took a different route. Her scientific studies were interrupted by World War I, and she spent time with her mother running the mobile field hospitals equipped with the first X-ray machines used in the field. After the war, she returned to Paris to study at the Radium Institute, and met her husband, Frédéric Joliot. They combined their efforts to study atomic nuclei, identifying positrons and neutrons.

In 1934, the Joliot-Curies made the discovery that would later earn them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935; they converted boron into nitrogen, aluminium into phosphorus and magnesium into silicon, all through the use of radioactive irradiation. In their successful conversion of one element into another, the Joliot-Curies realised a long-held dream of natural philosophers for hundreds of years: alchemical transmutation. The transformation of aluminium into phosphorus is, perhaps, not as impressive as turning lead into gold, but the actual conversion of one element into another is a stunning achievement.

For the colour inspiration, I found an image of a poster for a modern musical by Clive Nolan, a progressive rock musician and composer, called Alchemy. The colours were a perfect match for the fibre I chose for this month’s club – swirling dark black, blues and greys, with pops of red and orange.

Next up: November - Hive on superwash Bluefaced Leicester, inspired by nuclear physicist Eva Crane:

Eva Crane (née Eva Widdowson) obtained her doctorate in nuclear physics, and was a lecturer on nuclear physics at Sheffield University, beginning in 1941. The following year, she married James Crane and they received a swarm of bees as a wedding present – the giver hoped the hive would help supplement their wartime sugar ration. Dr. Crane soon became fascinated with the hive and joined a local bee club. This unusual wedding present sparked an interest that dominated the rest of her life.

Dr. Crane wrote over 180 papers, articles and books on bees. They ranged from the history of beekeeping through beekeeping methods and the nutritional aspects of honey. Her studies took her all over the world, to more than 60 countries, and she was regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on apiculture. The US Department of Agriculture used her research to help bees in Louisiana develop resistance to mites that had been devastating the local population by breeding them to the Russian mite-resistant bees mentioned in her book.

With the arrival of winter, I was craving some bright, summer colours on my wheel! Enter this colourway, inspired by the buzz of summer: there’s dark amber for sweet, sticky honey, some really dark brown and bright yellow for the stripes of the bees, and some paler tones to even everything out.

Which finally brings us to the last instalment of 2016: Typhi, inspired by toxicologist and occupational health pioneer, Alice Hamilton.

Alice Hamilton was born in New York City and raised in Indiana. She received her medical degree in 1893, and developed an interest in public health, bacteriology and pathology. These interests found common ground when, in 1897, she moved to Chicago to take a position at Northwestern University and became a member and resident of Hull House.

Hull House was founded 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, and based on the Toynbee Hall, a centre for social reform in the East End of London. The mission of Hull House was to provide social and educational opportunities for working class people, particularly recent immigrants.

During her time at Hull House, Dr. Hamilton focused her efforts identifying the causes of typhoid and tuberculosis in the surrounding community. Her work led to an overhaul of sanitary practices in the city. In 1908, she was appointed to the newly formed state Commission on Occupational Diseases, and focused on industrial poisons. Their report resulted in the passage of occupational disease laws in a number of states. She continued working on occupational health for the rest of her career, as well as continuing her efforts for the wormen’s rights and peace movements.

In 1919, Hamilton was offered a position in the new Department of Industrial Medicine at Harvard Medical School. In going to Harvard, she became the first woman to be appointed to the university faculty in any field.



The colourway for the December club was derived from an image from the CDC of multi-antibiotic-resistant typhoid bacteria. The bacteria in the image have been depicted as pink, a somewhat fluffy colour for something so deadly. I found the black/pink contrast too stark when I tested it though, so I paired pinks and burgundy with shades of brown. These supplemental colours also reflect the places in the human body where the Salmonella typhi bacteria live – the blood and intestines.


So that's the overview of the fourth quarter of 2016 from the Lab Goddess Fibre Club. Spaces are still available in the next round, running from January-March - the first colourway is in progress and will be shipping out the week of 16th January. Fibre club sign ups will close at the end of the day on Friday the 13th of January, so don't miss out!

Yarnporium is coming!

You may or may not have seen some details over the past few weeks about a little show I'm going to be vending at this coming weekend - the brand new Yarnporium!

The Yarnporium kicks off on Saturday, 5th November at King's College London on the Strand at 10am (unless you've booked a workshop) and will run through 4pm on Sunday afternoon. If you are looking to do any holiday crafting this year, this is the show to go to! There will be yarn and kits and all sorts of lovely, beautiful treats for the crafters in your life (or for yourself, when you get right down to it!) Allison has been doing an amazing job sharing previews of vendor goods on Yarn in the City, but I thought I'd do a bit of my own sharing.

So what am I bringing to the Yarnporium? Well...first up will (obviously) be fibre. Lots and lots of fibre...

Clockwise from top left: Haematoma Humbug BFL, Willow Hearth Romney, Hoard Falkland, Shetland/Suffolk Victoria Sponge batt, Alpaca/Ile de France Victoria Sponge Batt and Quantum Dots BFL.

I'm also hoping to have a few more gradients for the show, including a very last minute one inspired by this gorgeous autumnal vine I saw over the weekend.


I'm also planning on having quite a few spindle kits available - if you've been wanting to learn how to spin, or know someone who wants to learn, these make great Christmas presents! You get a drop spindle, instructions, and four 1 oz/28 g bundles of different fibres to try out for £20. I'll have them with a wide selection of fibre colours and types, so do come by and check them out!

Tickets for the Yarnporium are still available at the early bird price (£8 per day/£12 for a weekend ticket) until tomorrow. After that, the prices will go up to £10/£15 respectively, so don't wait! It should be a great weekend and I'm looking forward to seeing you there!