Tuesday, 3 March 2015


It's March! Just when you were thinking how it's been dark for toooo long, and that everything was still sleeping.....you notice a little crocus, the catkins seem longer, the birds are singing just a bit more cheerily. And you remember the seed order you still haven't settled on. What colour sweetpeas this year......??
I'm waiting on a delivery of colours from Jamiesons of Shetland, so I can knit up some new jumpers in time for Wonderwool Wales at the end of next month. I've been taking inspiration from tweedy weave drafts for pattern, and colours from the shorelines along our part of Cardigan Bay.

While awaiting arrival of the big yarn cones, I have plenty of sample balls to knit up into some Springshiney hand warming mitts, to guard against the chilly March winds! Not on the website yet, but some will be in The Old Electric Shop in Hay on Wye at the weekend. Or message me! sue@llynfitextiles.co.uk

Friday, 30 January 2015

Introducing: A Very Special Fabric

So here we are! It's been a very long held dream to commission our own 'locally grown' wool fabric. Wales has an abundance of sheep, and excellent weaving mills still clatter away in scattered valleys.
People often ask if we keep the sheep, spin the wool - you know, a bit like the comedy sketch...write the song, sing the song..

No! We just don't have all that time. Our passion is for turning the yarn and cloth into clothing, and although that also necessitates its own skill in knowing which wool for which purpose - we're happy to leave the actual sheep to the experienced shepherd, and the processing to those who make it their business. After all, utilising each others skills and knowledge is what makes the world go round.

Our starting point was our own brief to ourselves: the wool had to be from Wales, Mid Wales ideally; we wanted to end up with two shades of grey, with enough tonal difference for patterning; one of the greys had to be pale enough for dyeing, should we wish; the fabric had to be suitable for clothing, not blankets, and the economics had to stack up. We realised that to make the job worthwhile, we would probably be looking at a goodly quantity of wool...

Who to go to? We settled on Natural Fibre Company who understood just what was needed and rose to the challenge of sourcing. We consulted at the same time with our weaver, and the fleece and spinning specs were settled. Then....just the waiting! There's a good reason why designers and manufacturers work up to 2 years ahead; especially with wool, it's a seasonal product and lead times need to be worked into the planning. Our first 50 metres arrived mid November - in time for design work to start for this year's pieces.

And what a beautiful fabric that fleece has turned into! The greys are spot on, making a subtle, and ever so slightly 'shimmery', herringbone pattern. We chose a small classic herringbone for this first run to see how the wool and the shades would work. Part of the bolt is woven with just the pale grey to make a length of plain contrast. With minimal processing, no enzyme treatments or nasties, just a beautiful job done.

And the fleece? Well, that's what makes this fabric really special to us...and, we hope, our customers. The white fleeces are from the Llanwenog breed of sheep, and these particular Llanwenogs live on a farm in .....Llanwenog Parish. Not too far away from the knit studio and just a few miles from the weaver. The grey tones are supplied by Black Welsh Mountain sheep from two farms, one near Brecon and one in Carmarthenshire. Both breeds have fascinating stories, and the connection of Llanwenogs to this part of Wales - with its own tales - is irresistable.

And what will the fabric become? Well, there will be a jacket to start, and probably a skirt...in Llynfi styling of course!

Or, if you'd like to make up your own special item, we are also retailing this fabric by the metre. Another weave pattern is in the pipeline, and may be available in time for Wonderwool Wales. In the meantime - stock is limited! At 150cm wide, this medium tweed weight is £50/m - do get in touch if you are interested.

Find out more about the breeds of sheep used:


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Cambrian Mountains Wool Project

So let's start off 2015 with this - 'cos there's a great Challenge involved and the deadline for your submissions is looming up very quickly!

What's it all about? Well, find out lots more from the website but here's a potted history:

a few years ago now the Cambrian Mountains Initiative was set up to work at promoting, encouraging and stimulating the very rural economy of Mid Wales. The Initiative started out with lamb and has done a fantastic job of raising the profile of farmed products. Wool has also been part of the scene for most of that time, but there wasn't a clear way forward.

Two seminars for all interested people, including reps from the British Wool Marketing Board, to explore possibilities were held, and research carried out by the Textile Technologies Project....much groundwork was underway.

Having found a source of very beautiful yarns, grown to very high standards in the Region, my Wensleydale knitwear was accepted as the first to qualify for licensing - using the quality mark for products from the Cambrian Mountains Region.

The Steering Group, of which I am a member, began to look further, with the Wool Board, at the possibilities of buying and processing traceably Welsh wool - harder than you may think and a whole different story. But look! We're doing it, and presenting you with a Challenge - check it out and share far and wide...the closing date is 2nd Feb so no time to lose!

New Year (again) New Resolutions (again...)

This is one seriously neglected Blog people! And we were doing so well.....But now - it features on the front page of our website so extra incentive to keep you updated with the interesting textile-y stuff in our lives : )

Lots to write about after all:

our beautiful new fabric, first run of several we hope, from traceable local fleece (and we'll also be selling it by the metre...);

our involvement with Cambrian Mountains Wool and the fantastic Design Challenge;

plus work on upcoming additions to our collection.

Monday, 10 February 2014

2014 Additions: New Friends, Fabric and Victorian 'Wheelwomen'

For a long time now, we have limited ourselves to working with British organic wool and Welsh Flannel (and organic cotton for want of a sustainable lining material). We wanted to keep our supply chain small so that we knew the processes and journey behind our materials. But, every now and then, you come across something that you just have to support…

image curtesy of www.esamskriti.com

Over a year ago we met a lady called Rashmi Bharti, during her research trip to the UK. She was interested in how we use natural dyes in our collection, as she wanted to make her project in the Himalayas accessible to a European market. And what an amazing project it is!

Avani is a voluntary organisation that began as the Kumaon Chapter of The Social Work and Research Center, also known as the Barefoot College.
In this Ted talk, Bunker Roy, the founder of the Barefoot College, explains the concept and reality simply and beautifully, If you can spare 20mins it really is worth a watch.

Kumaon is the central region of the Himalayas, bordering Tibet. The changing politics and economics of the area have made this isolated community's already subsistence way of life even harder. They needed a way of bettering their lives and opportunities whilst remaining self-sufficient. Avani was conceived in answer to these needs, their vision to develop conservation-based livelihood opportunities, by using renewable energy and other appropriate technologies, which should bring positive qualitative change in rural life.

Images curtesy of Avani https://www.facebook.com/pages/Avani-Kumaon/209775252389596?ref=profile 

A large part of this vision was the development of the traditional crafts of hand spinning and weaving and natural dyeing of wool and silk. Trying to compete with mass produced yarns in the local economy was impossible, so a new market had to be found where their textiles could be sold for a fair price. Cue Rashmi's visit to the UK, and our introduction to the story.
I asked Rashmi if she could send me some samples of the fabrics they had been working on.

The samples arrived, as most things seem to from India, in a cotton bound package, stitched up and wax sealed -almost too pretty to unwrap, but the lure of the contents was far too great. I carefully slipped out the booklet and there in my hands was an Aladin's cave on A4 sheets of copier card.
Ah! How on earth could I choose!? There was no doubt; Avani fabric was definitely going to feature in the collection!
We finally made our choice; a beautiful herringbone of Tibetan wool in a shimmer of pinks, purples and reds with lichen grey weft. The order was made and then began a four-month wait for the yarn to be spun, dyed, woven and then shipped. Four months to dither over designs and work the rest of the collection around our exciting new fabric!


It arrives!! A giant replica of my first little sample packet, all stitched and wax sealed. Suppressing an inner squeal of excitement I peel back the layers to find... something totally different to what I was expecting! Aghh!!

Well, all right, not totally different. The colours were right, and it was a herringbone, but the scale of the pattern, the tension and drape? Not quite...!

Back to the drawing board to tweak some designs! My original plans were not really going to work in this fabric, but hey! That’s part of the beauty of working with hand made, traditionally crafted materials, and why I was so excited to work with Avani in the first place! Besides, designing to fit the fabric is not a new challenge for us; limiting ourselves as we have done to British and organic wool makes our choice of materials very small –for both knit and dresswear- so we have to work with what we can find.

The biggest challenge offered by this fabric however, is that it moves; the tension varies throughout the bolt, so once you cut a piece out, it changes shape!! To tie in with our softly tailored look, this means interlining and stay-stitching for a bit more stability and shaping.
It is great fun to use this fabric, and I have loved designing for it. The flannel that I am used to is SO well behaved in comparison –I think this herringbone is still half wild!

After designing our Bicycling Jacket I am still obsessed with women cyclists and the difference bicycles made to women’s freedom and independence. I discovered an article from as far back as 1896 in the Lady Cyclist. The author writes how the bicycle offers women freedom from dependence, dispelling the stigma of helplessness due to the inferiority of their sex.
At the same time, appropriate clothing was being fashioned so that women might be free to ride bicycles whilst maintaining their dignity. The centre image below from the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows a cycling suit featuring a bifurcated skirt.
My personal favourite, however, was the bloomer suit!

Whilst thoroughly getting lost in this era, I came across a brilliant quote from a Victorian book titled Hints to Lady Travellers by L C Davidson, written in 1889. Her advise for women on cycling tours was to ‘Wear as few petticoats as possible; dark woollen stockings in winter, and cotton in summer; shoes, never boots; and have your gown made neatly and plainly of flannel without loose ends or drapery to catch in your [bicycle]... Grey is the best colour, or heather mixture tweed, which does not show dust or mud stains...’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1378848/Tips-lady-travellers-Victorian-age.html#ixzz2svLZC3Gu
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

How perfect..!?

So with a nod to the daring ‘wheelwomen’ of the 1890’s, the intrepid tweed-ed travellers and a lick of contemporary style, the Penny suit was born! Both pieces are going to look great teamed with other wardrobe items for general wear, but, when occasion presents itself, the two together as an outfit is just so much fun!

The new pieces are about to go up on our website, and will feature in a brand new photo shoot in the coming weeks (exciting stuff!) along with some new knitwear and accessories.

You can find out more about Avani on their website 
and on their facebook page

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Our New Collection

Much of our small range of clothing has grown and developed as we have gone along, inspired by the countryside around us and the materials we work with. We're not part of the scene that produces seasonal launches of new collections - there's only the two of us for starters! But, back at the beginning of this year, we decided it was time for an overhaul. 

There has been much design work and pattern cutting, frustrations at getting yarns and fabrics delivered to the right specs....and the wait for them to be delivered!

But - we're there! Inspired (as we often are)by the 1930s and 40s, times of change for women and a period when clothing had to become practical as well as stylish; we got hooked into how flying and cycling and skiing had become hugely popular with ladies, and by the skills of women aviators - unsung skills during the war years.

And then we have been extremely fortunate in our friends, with the resulting photo shoot against the backdrop of the Black Mountains Gliding Club here above Talgarth. Photography is by Rosie Prosser, a Talgarth girl with a great talent. 

The Jacket (above) is knit from Shetland wool in it's natural undyed shade of grey. The stitch is slightly textured, the shape is fitted and it works beautifully over our wool flannel bias-cut dress. Perfect afternoon elegance!

With a nod to the flying jacket, our knit version has a jacquard pattern of......aeroplanes! Inspired by a wonderful old photo of a model airshow, with planes of all shapes and sizes laid out ready for take off. Brilliant with the new wool flannel trousers, easy over the hips with buttons to fasten, and narrow rumpling (?) ankles.

The pattern on the jumper (left)is derived from a single aeroplane ....in pink!A deep ribbed welt and plain sleeves give it a lovely vintage feel. 

This image (left)shows the pretty shaped neckline of the bias dress. It's all fully lined too, in silky bamboo.

The collection will be up on our website in time for the start of Autumn, but if you can't wait then do get in touch to find out more. We are also keeping our rail stocked in The Old Electric Shop, Hay on Wye, Powys with a selection of the new pieces.

Photography: http://www.rosieanneprosser.com/ 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Organic Wool Wales - coming together

It's just 3 weeks to Wonderwool Wales where we'll be setting up the Organic Wool Wales exhibition with completed report and a short 'farm to finish' video. 

To recap:

The Organic Wool Fabric Project is a collaboration between designer makers, Llynfi Textiles, and organic wool producer, Ystrad Farm. It is part funded by Better Organic Business Links, Wales. It aims:

  • to raise the profile and explore the potential of organic wool
  • to establish a broad community of interest that spans wool producers, designers, makers and the general public
  • to showcase the potential for organic wool and the quality, innovation and commitment to sustainability of designer/makers in the UK.

Check the previous post to see the list of makers, who are all busy completing their contributions. We are starting to receive finished items now, and it's getting very exciting. The techniques being employed are stunning, including a needlefelted British hedgerow scene on a dress, blackwork embroidery, felting, screen printing, bootmaking....it's going to be an inspirational collection, and all will have been produced from the same cloth.

Here are a few photos of some of the work so far -

There'll be red patent leather boots, lined with the wool, from Ruth Emily Davey and Rose Wood:

Beautiful needlefelt work from Lou Tonkin:

Traditional embroidery techniques from Roseanna Jiggins, KIAB Textiles, on an outfit inspired by a 1920's bra and pantaloons:

Superb pattern cutting from Robbie Higney Paterson, Second City Glasgow:

A collaboration between Suzi Park, Emma Burgess and Clare Baumfield who will be combining their skills in menswear design, embroidery and felting:

Helen Hickman at Nellie & Eve will be using her handspinning and crochet skills to embellish her cushion designs:

More photos as they arrive! In the meantime, do check back to the previous post and look up the designers own blogs and websites for more information about them all. 

Wonderwool Wales is on at the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys over the weekend of 27th-28th April. If you love natural fibres , you'll love this show!