Trying new things

Over the past weeks as I've been preparing for Yarndale at the end of the month, I've been playing around with some new dye techniques, and finding some fantastic ways to put colour on fibre!

Back on the podcast a little while ago, Allison suggested that I should try speckled fibre. As someone who has been slow to get on the speckled yarn bandwagon, I was a little bit dubious as to how that would look on fibre and then again as handspun yarn, but I've been trying it out and I am really pleased with the results!

Sand Creatures on Merino d'Arles

Sand Creatures on Merino d'Arles

Sand Creatures as a 2-ply

Sand Creatures as a 2-ply

What's even more interesting is that the speckles on the fibre in Sand Creatures ended up blending in the handspun yarn in ways I didn't expect.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how these colourways look spun up in different ways as other spinners put their own touches on them.


While the process I've developed for speckled fibres is more time-consuming than my standard dye process, it does allow me to layer on colours in ways that end up very unexpected sometimes!

Anakinra, the August Lab Goddess Fibre Club colourway

Anakinra, the August Lab Goddess Fibre Club colourway

I'm working on a few more different variations in the run up to Yarndale (including [left] Sunshower on BFL and [right] Gorse on Superfine Falkland), so if you're intrigued, please come by and have a squish in person! I'll be on Stall 163, and I hope to see you there!

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!


I've been re-reading the Game of Thrones series recently, and am excited to add another GoT-inspired colourway to the shop update this weekend - this is Weirwood, which joins Drowned Gods and The Red Woman.

This is what I was going for a while back when I posted on Instagram about some fibre that hadn't come out quite as I wanted it too...

I'm much happier with the newer version, which will be in the shop update on Sunday! The update will go live at 10:00 am Sunday, but newsletter subscribers get first dibs on Saturday night from 9pm - sign up through the link at the bottom of the website.

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!!!!

Tour de Fleece 2017

The Giro is underway and the days are getting longer, which means it must be time to get ready for the Tour de Fleece! This is the third year I've done special colourways for the TdF, and I'm excited to share them with you.

First we have the colourway that highlights one of the stages not in France: this is Christkindlmarkt, to honour the start of this year's race in Düsseldorf. One of the great events in the Düsseldorf calendar is their annual Christmas market, so this colourway blends warms reds, pinks and oranges with a hint of bright green.

Christkindlmarkt on Charollais.jpg

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia (the source of all true facts, I'm sure!), this year's Tour was originally scheduled to start in London, but that TfL pulled out a week before the announcement of the location. Too would have been fun to do a London colourway, but hopefully there's another chance!

Moving on to Stage 4, we have the gradient colourway, this year drawn from legends around La Planche des Belles Filles, which translates to "board of the beautiful girls" and is the mountaintop finish of Stage 5. There are two stories around the origin of this name. One is that it comes from the local environment and the preponderance of beech trees; in the 16th century, the area was described as having many "belles fahys" (beech trees), which was then corrupted into Belles Filles. Planche (board) is derived from the name of a nearby small town, Plancher-les-Mines.

The other, more disturbing story, comes from the time of the Thirty Years' War (1616-1648), and holds that young women from the town fled into the mountains to escape approaching Swedish mercenaries. Rather than surrender, the girls chose to drown themselves in the lake. One of the soldiers engraved an epitaph for "les belles filles" on a board as a memorial. Needless to say, I used the beech tree image as the inspiration for this year's gradient, Fagus.

Fagus on Charollais.jpg

Next up is the obligatory wine-inspired combination: this is Cabernet Franc, inspired by the black grape variety grown in the wine growing region of Bergerac, which the riders will visit on Stage 10. This colour was drawn from images of the grape itself rather then the deep reds that it is used to make.

Cabernet Franc on Charollais
Cabernet Franc

Finally, we have Brigantium, inspired by the start of Stage 18, where the riders will begin in the high  mountain village of Briançon, and climb up to the top of the Col d'Izoard. This colourway blends the blues and greys of the mountains and sky with the orange of some of the older architecture. The name is taken from the name of the original Roman settlement in Briançon, which was mentioned by Ptolemy in his writings.


All of these colourways will be dyed to order on Charollais, this year's exclusive base. As they are dyed-to-order, I'll be shipping weekly only so there may be a bit of a delay in receiving your fibre, but I will do my best to get them out as soon as possible!

The Tour de Fleece 2017 colourways will be available from 10:00 am on Sunday, 21 May through Sunday, June 26 only, so that I can get the last batches out for the start of the race on 1 July. To get first crack at the TdF2017 colours, sign up to the newsletter below for early access to the shop update from 9:00 pm Saturday night. And I hope to see lots of you spinning away with Team Porpoise Fur for the Tour de Fleece!