Saturday, 18 December 2010

And it's Snowing....Again!

Here we are all in the grip of the white stuff again. In Mydroilyn it was only possible to get out of the village in a 4-wheel drive - so glad I have a pick-up, even if it is a bit of a jalopy! The snow plough came through last night, so the road is usable with care, but there are steep hills out of the village on every route. And it's a very long walk to a shop!

Getting parcels out has been made more difficult by these problems, combined with the PO shut at unpredictable times - burst pipes, staff shortages, bocked roads - it's all been happening.

But the compensation is all the prettiness. And it is very pretty:

Left: This is the mill pond in it's winter outfit
Below: last summer's sedums disguised as giant mushrooms...

 And snow clouds heading towards the village....


Thursday, 9 December 2010


Our new mitts are proving very popular this Autumn. While the Hopscotch mitts go on and on, with their warm and practical double layer cuff and two tone colours, the 'DSGs' are perhaps a little more dressy. The scrunchy cuffs are warm and cosy and they still have the same thumb shaping which makes our mittens fit so well. A hit! I'll have to come up with a hat to go with them for next winter....maybe something a bit retro, bit 50's, rummage through my vintage books and patterns. Hmm. Paper and pencil time. Although.....maybe after Christmas!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Forms in Ice

 The continual dampness of a watermill comes into it's own when the temperatures plunge. It's been jolly cold indoors - we have yet to turn our attention to the kitchen here and its been 5c in there lately! But there's been enough of interest outside to keep my mind off it.

 The water leaks out from the pond and goes through a pipe over the top of the waterwheel. It splashes down into an old barrel and overflows into the tail race - with freezing temperatures the water is transformed into magical forms.

At the end of the leat (where the water comes down to the mill) there is a water pipe that drains the surface water from the road and the field across the lane. With a drop of about 3 feet, splashing onto rocks and stones, the water again freezes into the most intriguing forms and coats everything around with a layer of ice.



Sunday, 28 November 2010

Fairs and Exhibitions, Design and Development

We have just got back from a lovely two days exhibiting at the Compton Marbling Autumn Fair, in Wiltshire. It was extremely cold, in a barn by an open door! But such a great atmosphere - created by both fellow stallholders and the visitors, who braved snow and ice to get there down country lanes. Many thanks to all! Driving home to West Wales, the temperature dropped to -13 C. Glad to have had a modern vehicle with a good heater.

One of the best things about such events is the feedback on our clothes and seeing them on a range of different people. Standard sizes are just an average and, of course, no-one is an average. When designing a piece we have to decide on the ease, line, style and figure type of the possible wearer. And the more people who try on a finished item, the clearer some decisions and directions become. Making an item in every variation to suit everyone is impossible unless we went down the made to measure route, but constructive comments and detailing issues are noted and taken into account for future developments and evolvement of a design.

We now have one more event in 2010 - at Penpont House , and then we'll be planning for 2011. Already in the pipeline is Wonderwool at Builth Wells in April, and we are considering the International Horse Trials at Glanusk at the end of June. If anyone has any ideas of a good event that they would like to see us at, let us know!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Computer age Dressing up Dolls

Remember those paper dolls that you played with as a little girl? The ones that had cut out clothes so you could mix and match outfits. On the 'Vogue' website I found this link It's the new age version!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How Green is my Valley

It's hard work walking here - whatever direction you take from the village the first thing you have to do is go up a steep hill, but the reward is fantastic views, and on a clear day these stretch as far as the Cambrian Mountains and on into the start of Snowdonia.

I think - I'm lucky to live in a place like this. But then, actually, it's the result of years of hard work and no holidays. But then - living here, why would you want to go away?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Country Living magazine

November's issue of Country Living magazine has a feature on wool to coincide with the Campaign for Wool. Turning the pages I was surprised to see a photo of the tea- and egg-cosies I make for Damson and Slate in Narberth! Damson and Slate is a small shop selling a range of knitted and woven and felted woolly lovelies, several of which are in the feature. Do look out for it.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Colours with Madder

A year ago now I did some experimenting with Madder, and so it's about time I posted something about it! I was interested to see what effect different water qualities would have. Whenever we are at a show, we get comments about the lovely bright reds we get - commonly people seem to get 'tomato soup orange'. My dyeing 'bibles' are three old books: and one thing shines through in these - water quality. The old dye-houses were in areas where water produced the best results. Madder does best in hard water, but Talgarth is in a valley of old red sandstone (not that I'm a geologist or anything - that's what is always mentioned when local agents are selling a farm....).

Using Madder extract at 10% weight of goods, I dyed samples on various shades of Shetland wool, using water from three sources, using observations around the water source as a guide to the sort of quality to expect:

1. Our spring at Pontithel, just along the road from Talgarth. This used to feed a pond for the Victorian lime kilns and charcoal ovens, now demolished to foundations, and for years was left to run through a pipe in the wall from where it drained through the ground and down to a stream. The end of the pipe had a great limey crust, so I wondered if this meant the water would produce even better reds.

2. The water running from an underground pipe at our mill near  Newquay, Ceredigion. The deposits accumulating around this pipe are very rust coloured, and the soil is on the acid side of neutral. The stone in the buildings often has rust-red colouring, and wherever water runs (and being an old water-mill there's quite a lot!) it leaves orange stains.

3. Tap water from Talgarth. This is what we usually use, and what I would use for a 'cold' dyeing and dyeing at different temperatures.

The wool was all mordanted with Alum at 8% and Cream of Tartar at 7% (Cream of Tartar can also affect Madder, some people prefer not to use it)

Pontithel: the slightly darker/duller sets have had iron added towards the end of dyeing. the photo doesn't do the colour justice - the reds are very full and a beautiful colour. This means that I am going to have to have large conatiners to fill from the spring every time I want to dye with Madder...

Felin: You can see the difference though, especially in the lighter red in this set of samples (below). Adding iron made the wool a little harsh - probably because of iron already present in the water. On fawn and grey yarns, the Madder produced some lovely terracottas. So - now there's 24 shades!

 Different temperatures also affect Madder. The best reds are gained by controlling the temperature at 60%. For this set, I used a precision temperature controller and dyed each of the yarn samples at the temperature indicated for 45 minutes, adding iron as before to get the darker colours. Another 6 shades!

 Finally, how much colour can you get just by soaking at room temperature? This last set were left at intervals as on the cards. The dye pot was stirred up daily and left in the dark. I wound some of the yarn afterwards onto a second set of cards and left them in the west facing window. I was pleasantly surprised to find little difference in intensity of colour after 2 months. I really must do some simple washing tests though as well.
This test was interesting - Madder takes time and patience to get a really good colour, lots of attention and slow raisin of temperature. Leaving it cold to it's own devices gave an even colour and left me time to do other things!
My old books have several other recipes and notes for madder, so I'm not quite done yet.....

Monday, 4 October 2010

Dilemmas on using Colour

It had been on my mind that I needed to order more cochineal. It's a very economical dye to use, although expensive to buy in the first instance; after obtaining deep red or magenta colours, the same dye-bath will give deep pink on a second batch of wool, then paler pink and, with luck, a fourth shade. The shades obtained, including all varieties of purple and lilacs when a touch of iron is added, are among the most popular we do.

Imagine, then, my dismay to find that our dye supplier has not only sold out, but there appears to be a world-wide shortage that won't be rectified until next year's harvest. And then I discovered that cochineal may be put on a 'red list' by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards organisation) and may be disallowed as a dye because of it's environmental impact, although need to find out more about this.
It raises all sorts of questions again about the whole sustainable / organic / ethical etc etc movements. Not just textiles, but anything that needs to use colour to sell a product.

As humans, we are addicted to colour - there's not much that we use that doesn't have colour added. And it has to come from somewhere. But whether it's from 'natural' sources or the laboratory, as consumers we think little of it's application. All dyeing is a chemical process and involves additional chemical input if the end product is to meet with modern requirements and expectations.

Maybe it's time to put much more value on colour? When planning our collection, we try to use an equal amount of dyed colours to natural shades, at least with the knits. I think it makes the colours stand out more and reduces our use of  dyes and mordants. It's not so easy with fabrics. Knits are created from scratch by us, from undyed yarns. Fabrics are dyed 'in the piece' or woven in a larger quantity from already dyed yarns - one day we may be big enough to commission our own fabrics! In the meantime, we have to choose from the best options available.

Just because something is 'environmentally friendly' or 'sustainable', it doesn't mean we can carry on using it at will. What we really need is better quality, longer lasting items that make good use of limited resources, and to vastly reduce our have it all, throw away culture. But where would that leave our economies? Is there an answer or have we gone just too far?

Friday, 1 October 2010

Autumn Knits

Oliver agreed to do some modeling for us - makes a real change to have a male model!

Here's our Pwll y Wrach pullover - in English this means 'Witch's Pool'. The water tumbles down from the Black Mountains above Talgarth, falling into a pool at the top of the woods before rushing on down through the trees in the valley. The whole of the wooded valley is a nature reserve - home to dormice, rare plants and much beauty.

As the sun shines through it creates splashes of brightness and dappled shade, reflected in the colour sequences in the patterning on the front of this pullover. The greens and yellowy golds come from weld, coreopsis, oak, and goldenrod.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Late Summer Colour

After all the wind and rain it's lovely to have August ending on a high. The sun was warm yesterday and the wind had droppped, bringing out a mass of butterflies into the garden to enjoy the last flowers on the Buddleias.

We have four varieties - Lochinch, Empire Blue, Royal Red and Pink Delight. I love the warm scent of them, filling the garden on a still afternoon and the flowers follow on perfectly from the June roses. And of course, they are a magnet for butterflies, bees and hoverflies.

As someone who works with colour, I have to say the marmalade shades of the butterflies are rather prettier on the bluer flowers!

There is a purple fennel self seeded amongst Lochinch and it's lacy acid yellow flowers look lovely with the pale lavender blue. And those huge berries on Arum italicum Pictum light up the black leaves of Viola Labradorica.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Yarn Windings

Our yarn offer in 'Country Living' magazine has been very well received, but more importantly how enjoyable to speak to and deal with so many lovely people! Unfortunately, the issue coincided with some of the wettest weather this summer here in Ceredigion - the rain and damp making it so difficult to get wool dry after dyeing and delaying getting orders out. And so many more orders than we had anticipated meant we ran out of yarn and have to had start a 'waiting list' until more to comes back from the spinners. But that's the nature of such small scale production which, hopefully, people understand.

With all the dyeing and winding and packing though - I have started to miss my knitting terribly, I can't wait to get back to my needles and my trustee old machine. Mittens and cardies here I come!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Cardigan Bay

On Sunday I had an afternoon off and went for a stroll along the Cardigan Bay Coastal Path. Well - it was going to be a stroll, but we forgot the map. Having decided not to go back for it - after all, this path is well promoted and therefore bound to be well signed - we carried on into Newquay. Fortunately, we had a hunch where the access point is to the path as there wasn't much signage going on. Once above the little town, there is a fantastic view back towards Aberaeron, and to Snowdonia on a clear day.

The path is quite steep in places, but very well maintained. There's a mass of wild flowers and butterflies, and the willowherb against the blue sky was quite stunning. Further on around a corner, the bay stretches off towards Cardigan with a beautiful coastline of cliffs and coves.

We had planned a short walk, but got completely distracted by a half hidden path appearing to lead down to a little cove. Of course, we had to investigate. It was quite a steep descent, and involved much growling at my Cocker spaniel to not rush on at the end of her long lead! I wasn't going to let her off - anyone who knows spaniels will know how they can disappear when they get a scent of just had to hope for the best.

Fortunately the tide was well out so we had lots of time to explore the rocks - and the geology is fascinating (not that I know anything about it, but I just love the patterns and evidence of all that upheaval; some of it seems quite violent!) the area at the base of the cliffs is smooth rounded pebbles, quite large, but not a patch on the rocks a few yards further on - massive boulders. Rock pools abound with baby lobsters trying to be threatening if you looked at them. And where streams form waterfalls down the cliff face and filter into the pools, rusty deposits colour the pebbles. Beautiful colours here! Just as we like at Llynfi - all those natural shades with sparks of rusts and acid yellows and greeny- olivey- greys.

So if you ever venture along the Coast Path - take a map! The path is signed, the exit points across the fields are a bit hit and miss. Our 2 1/2 mile walk ended up at over 5. Not that we minded. And it tired the dog out. No mean feat with a Spaniel...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Show Dates

Our next event will be Ludlow Green Fair on August Bank Holiday Sunday. We had a great time last year - the market place is choc full of stalls selling everything from veggie seeds to excellent coffee, t-shirts to recycled clothing, cycling to looking after churchyards - all with fair-trade and / or organic credentials. For more info see

Then in September, 17th - 19th, it's the Big Skill at the Penpont Estate, nr Brecon. It's the first year for this and it's going to be held over 3 days, with camping, music, comedy and a whole range of rural skills talks and workshops, plus exhibits by rural businesses. As well as our show stand with a selection of Llynfi knit and sewn clothing and accessories, we're going to be taking along one or two of our Angora rabbits, and will be holding a 'show and tell' about keeping them and using their lovely soft wool. The Penpont Estate is a lovely place down by the River Usk. Find out more:

and have a peep at the Penpont website too:

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Importance of a Garden

Knitting, apparently, is one of the less wise occupations to follow when you have a bit of a crooked back. The osteopath wags a finger and reiterates " no more than 20 minutes sitting at a time!". In practice it depends on what's being knitted ( I find). Hand knitting isn't so bad - a good seat that supports one's position, and concentrating on relaxing, rather than tensing every muscle in order to get the job done - and an hour can pass quite happily. Knitting at the machine is a different kettle of fish. It rather depends on the item. Small things, like mittens, aren't too bad, but get a wider piece on there and the trouble starts. You'd think it would be good exercise - all that side to side, waist whittling movement. But no...even the 20 minutes allowed seems too long. And that's where my garden comes in.

The garden is up a flight of steps, curving among ferns, primrose and London Pride, shaded by a sycamore tree. So that's the first bit of exercise, the first change of movement. Then a short slope continuing upwards, past the mill pond and through an old gateway. And into the garden proper. A brisk walk around soon puts things in order - but then......what a time waster! How hard to get back to the machine when William Lobb beckons with seductive shades of magenta and lilac and grey?

And Cornelia and Penelope vie for attention with their distinctive perfumes? And is that little day lily open yet? And you can't help but look into the huge poppy that has just unfolded, with still crinkled skirts round the frills of it's centre.

There's been some rain - poor Smarty, drooping in the damp like little hankies hung out to dry, hiding amongst the blue campanulas. But what a sweet scent, filling the air.

And then there's the beans to check - have they been safe from the slugs? - and the necessary Japanese Knotweed patrol. Our current approach is to not let it have any leaves, but it takes diligence! The slugs seem to like to graze on it, an unexpected observation, and it means we have to have a love/hate relationship with them, forgiving the ravaging of some more favoured plants.

Where was I? Oh - the knitting. See what a distraction the garden is??

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

New beginnings, sorting out and catching up

Well - here we are. After two years of planning and and weekend works and a winter of builders, half of the Llynfi team is now moved into Felin, Mydroilyn. Felin = mill in Welsh. Corn mill to be precise. And this is just plain 'Felin'. No qualification of Old or Upper or Lower or statement of place. Just 'Mill'. The situation is just right for us, being just on the edge of a pretty little village in a valley, 5 miles from Newquay. The Mill building still has all its machinery, and the water wheel is still attached to the side. But - it's all a long, long way from running again.

The Llynfi knit studio will eventually be contained in part of the old dairy attached to the side of the house. However, this still needs some glass in the windows, a proper floor putting down, and maybe some plaster on the walls would be nice. So in the meantime, I am working from the small parlour room. But it's so lovely to have a garden again, to wander in and see the seasons change.

Moving house is always a bit traumatic. All those boxes...and all those boxes from previous moves, stashed in the attic until a place is found for those precious belongings. Memories, attachments, things that make you who you are. Add in a studio move and lo! there's even more boxes of stuff. Projects and samples that never quite worked out. Experiments and ends of batches of yarns. Odd colours and blends. A mystery tool, some odd knitting needles. Time to be bold methinks! But then again....

Thursday, 29 April 2010

So. Here we are in 2010 and it's nearly a whole year since posting anything on this blog! Not that we haven't been busy - quite the contrary. And there is a Facebook page for Llynfi - Llynfi Textiles - that has photos and news on it too.

The madder experiments were really interesting and I have a beautiful range of real reds, russets, chestnut browns and pinks to draw on. Will post photos on here just as soon as there's a chance!

Meantime - last weekend was Wonderwool Wales and we exhibited with our friend Juliet Morris, who farms at Ystrad in Carmarthenshire. She produces lovely wool from her flock of white and rare black Wensleydales, and Hill Radnors. It was fun weekend and to cap it all we got awarded '2nd' rosette for our stand. Which was especially lovely as we didn't know there was any judging going on. Here it is: