Thursday, 8 December 2011


Email for further info! (if you haven't noticed our address on our website, Talgarth is near Brecon in Powys, Wales)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

'Pop-Up' Shop Weekend

Our first solo event was a huge success - many thanks to everyone who came along over the two days. Originally we had been looking for somewhere in Hay to stage a 'pop-up shop' but nowhere seemed available. Then it suddenly struck us that, of course, we have a perfect venue now in Talgarth - right on the doorstep - in Talgarth Mill. But would anyone come?

Talgarth has suffered from an unjustified negative reputation in its local area; this probably stems from the old Victorian asylum days and it's taken a very long time to subside. But over the last few years several local groups have been working very hard to reverse attitudes - the Festival Group started with organising a local annual festival some 16 years ago and from this also grew a Christmas Lights group and Talgarth has the best Christmas lights in the area, especially the coloured globes zig-zagging along over the little river. The Festival of the Black Mountains now takes place every August Bank Holiday and is a wonderful, old fashioned and traditional event rather like a vicarage garden party on a whole village scale. And it's free! Then a regeneration committee was set up, a monthly market was re-started and a project completed to renovate the old watermill. Slowly, Talgarth is finding it's place again. And rightly so because it is a pretty little place in a stunning location.

Anyway! Back to our weekend in the Mill - it turned out to have been absolutely the right decision and we are so glad to have chosen Talgarth as our first event. In fact - we are planning now on setting up regularly, say March, September and December on the first weekends in those months to coincide with the market. (June is tricky when you sell mostly wool....!) We'll also look at expanding what we sell to include organic Welsh wool yarns and maybe some fabrics from the Welsh weaving mills. If you'd like to be kept posted, sign up to the mailing list on our contact page on the website - you won't get bombarded, it's only done maybe once a month.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Comming Soon!

Just wanted to share a quick photo of our new Tail Coat...

As seen (on it's very first outing!) at Compton Marbling Christmas Fair a couple of weeks ago, the new design is all ready to go -just got to get our models in for a bit of posing and then get it up on the website!
It is made in our favourite combination of Welsh flannel with organic, naturally dyed cotton lining. A-symmetrical, light weight and fairly close cut, it is designed to be worn as a top layer with a light shirt or dress. We will also be offering it in the lighter grey with green lining.

We will have some at our pop-up shop (Talgarth Mill, 3rd & 4th Dec) and at the Winter Gathering Craft Fayre and Art Sale with Arts Alive (The Old School, Crickhowell 9th Dec).

So, anyone wanting one in time for Christmas, do come along or get in touch as the order book is filling up!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Organic Textiles - how can you be certain?

I've been trawling the internet for certified organic cotton, both yarns and fabrics. And time and again I think I've found something but when posing the question 'can you supply copies of your certification' the answer is 'we don't have any'.

In the States textiles come under the same ruling as food - they can't be described as 'organic' unless certification is in place up to the point of sale. In Europe, while this applies to food, there is no such ruling for textiles and clothing.

Currently, yarns and fabrics can be marketed as 'organic' by the very fact that they contain organically grown fibres. Many retailers buy certified organic fabric and yarn in bulk and then rewind and repackage it under their own label, describing it as organic. Of course, it still is what they say, but the traceability system has stopped at the point at which the company takes delivery. And a fabric and yarn can still be described as 'organic' simply because it is spun / woven with certified fibre. Under Organic Standards all processes are monitored and recorded and only permitted dyes and spinning oils and detergents are allowed. If a company is not signed up to the Standards, then there is no compunction to use only permitted substances or to keep records of traceability.

 If you buy an item and it has the 'GOTS' symbol or similar on the label, then you can be sure of it's provenance. Does this matter to you? Or do you find the whole thing just a tad confusing?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Coming up...

Tomorrow evening sees us showing some of our collection in the Hay on Wye fashion show at The Swan. This is a fund raising event for the old Butter Market in Hay, and features outfits from the lovely independent clothes shops in the town. 7pm start, £10 entry.

In two weeks time we'll be off down to the Wiltshire/Hampshire border for Compton Marbling's Autumn Fair. 18th - 19th Nov. We went for the first time last year - which was when the snow started - and had a lovely two days. (note to self: get some better tyres put on the car...just in case)

Two weeks after that, it's the first weekend in December, already! 3rd - 4th Dec, 10.30am - 4.30pm, we'll be setting up shop at Talgarth Mill; we'll have clothing and accessories, organic wool and throws, displays about wool and natural dyeing and hope to get some knitting activities going as well! On the Sunday it's also the Talgarth Christmas Fair, organised by Talgarth Markets Group, and of course, the lovely Mill cafe - The Baker's Table - will be open.

The following Friday, (9th) it's down to Crickhowell for the Art Alive! Winter Gathering, 3pm - 9pm. There'll be refreshments (and mulled wine and live music in the evening) and a small, but select, range of art and craft delights on sale.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Perceptions of Organic Dyeing

The terms 'organically dyed' and 'dyed organically': what does this mean to you? Natural dyes or synthetic, or simply processed to organic standards?  Does it matter?

We use 'natural' dyes for the yarns we use for making our knitwear; our process is certified by the Soil Association to Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS). GOTS also allow dyeing using low impact synthetic dyes. This is necessary - it is economically and practically impossible, and probably unsustainable, to use natural dyes for everything. 

But - very often, customers are taken aback when we talk to them about what we do and our colours, and learn that most organic textiles use synthetic dyes. There seems to be an assumption that organic wool, particularly, is coloured with plant dyes, and often disappointment on finding this may not be the case. 

Of course, in the world of the chemist, the term organic is a little different to consumer understanding, too. 

We describe our wool as 'dyed to organic textile standards'. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

More Penpont Pics

Penpont House, in common with most old country houses and estates, has a huge walled garden. Produce from this Soil Association certified garden is sold in the little shop at the back of the stables.

 Flowers are also grown and make a lovely splash of autumn colour

I love the combination of this echinacea with the agapanthus.............

Monday, 5 September 2011

Big Skill at Penpont House

Another lovely weekend festival at this amazingly beautiful estate near Sennybridge in Powys. A lot more visitors than last year so we're hoping it will go from strength to strength - it's one of our favourite events. This photo was taken early in the morning from the little bridge over the River Usk; the main house is to the left in the background. Fly  fishing was one of the activities on offer and what a lovely setting to try.

We were lucky to have a big space in the old stables, a building that has been restored and converted into a multi use facility while retaining all it's character. Traditional building materials give it a real charm and softens and we loved 'playing shop' with our area! A long bench gave seating for knitting and chatting and our old travelling trunk made an impromptu 'coffee table'. Wouldn't it be marvellous if this was really our shop?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

News for the Autumn

Yesterday we were at the Centre for Alternative Technology Summer Fair - many thanks to all of you who visited the stand we had in collaboration with Ystrad Organics.

 We were really encouraged by the response to our plans to start running workshops on knit design - we're hoping to hold these at the newly restored and working Talgarth Mill (some of you may have seen it on BBC's Village SOS programme). The Mill is such a wonderful example of a community regeneration project, using local produce for the stunning cafe, and local wheat for grinding into flour. Anyway - we anticipate that a Saturday workshop will be around £40 plus lunch (we have to work that out with the cafe girls), and if wanted, we could also have a group tour of the mill.

The workshop will be starting at the beginning from taking accurate measurements through to why you should learn to love tension swatches and drawing up a basic block and schematic to use for your very own knitting pattern. If you would like further info or would like to be kept in touch about workshops, email

Also coming up: The Big Skill at Penpont House, Sennybridge, Powys. This a new Craft Festival with a difference. Taking the idea of a music festival - you can come and camp - with lots of exhibitors and craftspeople willing to share their skills, instead of sharing the music. It's all about getting visitors to have a go.

You can pick and choose what to try your hand at from pole lathe turning to pottery. Woolcrafts feature of course, and we'll be running an all-day 'knit clinic' to try and help you with your knitty problems and queries! We'll also be holding an informal chat about natural dyeing, so if you've ever wanted to have a go at this but not quite known where to start, come along and join in. Or, if you are already a dyer - come and share your knowledge with others.
more info here:

And then! At the end of September it'll be time for the Llandovery Sheep Festival... See you there too!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Talgarth Mill

So, finally a day off... and with perfect timing the newly renovated Talgarth Mill opened it's cafe properly for the first time last weekend. The space is a perfect blend of old industrial and contemporary design; the rough stone walls and corrugated tin lend an honesty to the beautifully crafted and finished oak windows and globe lighting.
All the way down the length of the cafe the huge windows slide open, so while you are sat enjoying your James' Gourmet Coffee and home-made orange polenta cake, the stream burbles below you and the dippers, swallows and yellow wagtails carry on their merry way as if you were never there.
The small yet seasonal menu is made up from local ingredients and suppliers, including the Black Mountain Smokery, Georges of Talgarth and Primrose Farm just to mention a few.
So, if you are ever in the area, or need a further excuse to come and visit, here it is! I just cant wait until they get the wood fired pizza oven up and running!
To find out more about the Talgarth Mill project:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Next Event....

Next week sees the 2nd Glanusk International Horse Trials and Country Fair at the glorious Glanusk Estate, nr Crickhowell here in Powys. It starts on Wednesday and runs for four days, so we're hoping for a bit of summer weather (even though we're selling wool) 'cos there's nothing like a bit of sunshine to cheer everyone up. For more info. see the website:

We're working hard to make sure we have examples of all our designs in each size, ready for trying on and ordering. It's a big stand so there'll be plenty of space for a 'fitting room'. Making pieces to order means we only make what's required - saving time and wasted materials, so there's no 'fast fashion' here! We should also have some samples for Autumn designs - colour grown cotton for shirts and more local Wensleydale yarn for knitwear (yes, we know Wensleydale is in Yorkshire so not local to Powys - but we mean the flock of  the Wensleydale breed of sheep kept by our friend in Carmarthenshire!)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


This morning I managed to grab a rare opportunity to do some printing. It seems like forever since my last session, and so of course the first few prints did not make the grade ...but perseverance pays off!
There is something so satisfying, almost alchemical, about peeling back the fabric to reveal the newly transferred image; the moment when one thing changes into something completely different. Magical :)
Hopefully these prints will become part of our new hemp dress design -I will keep you posted!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Busy, Busy!

Well - here we are, a month on - no, more! - and rapidly speeding to our very first 'Open Studio' event this coming weekend. We've had a bit of a sort out, a good reason to find time to clear out all the bits and pieces that accumulate over time - the things that 'might be useful', or 'could be re-used' but deep down you know you never will use them.
Getting some examples of designs made up has been another challenge. We make to order, but, of course, need to have a range on show for those of you who may want to try on. An order from a new boutique in Helsinki came as a pleasant surprise, and the opportunity to send items down to the Old Truman Brewery in London as part of Nokia's E7 launch couldn't be missed, but all will be ready for the weekend.
On Monday we had two photographers come along, which caused some confusion as we were only expecting one! Fortunately, they didn't arrive at the same time.....However, here's the result of one :

Some we like, some we not so sure about! The Bearded Dragon is called Elvis; he belongs to another family member but lives in the entrance hall to the building we're in. The photographer was very taken with him.....and he co-ordinates with Emily rather well!

The Open Studio Weekend is organised by Crickhowell Tourist Information and there's lots of info here:

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Wonderwool photos

Just in case you didn't make it to the show, here are a few photos of our stand, including some of Ystrad Organics' beautiful wensleydale yarn, carded bundles and sweetie bags of glossy curls...

Natural and Organic Awards

We were delighted to have had our knitwear chosen as one of the three finalists for the Soil Association/Natural and Organic Awards Best Organic Textile. The winner was Organics for Kids who make a very lovely range of babywear.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Wonderwool Wales

A quick posting just to say a big thankyou to the organisers of Wonderwool and all those who made it such a great weekend! We really enjoyed it, the sun made everyone happy and now we're ready for a day off (we wish!). A big thankyou too, to all those who visited our stand and left us feeling very much encouraged and inspired!
Having decided last Autumn to concentrate on clothing (our first love), and not continue with selling yarns etc., we weren't sure about exhibiting at Wonderwool - but you all proved us wrong in our doubting.

See you next year when, hopefully, we'll have a bigger stand.......and a proper mirror! In the meantime, don't forget our Open Studio event over the late May Bank Holiday weekend.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Old and new: life in the garden

This time of year is always so exciting; seeing the world come back to life!
I wander around my little garden, musing over developments with my morning cup of tea. I love the anticipation; looking for much loved plants beginning to emerge after their sleepy winter, and equally the surprise of seeing something for the first time, especially having completely forgotten that I had planted it in the first place!
I had picked up this simple little primrose for 50p from the charity stall in the market last autumn, having no idea of the colour at all...!

My garden is now three years old, and I feel an enormous satisfaction seeing autumn plans come to life over the course of the following year.
However, one of my favourite happenings in the garden at the moment is a quite serendipitous combination of the bright new pulmonaria flowers and spotted leaves seen through the burnt, rusty coloured sedum heads, left from last year.

We are always inclined at the start of the new year in January to sign off on the last and start a fresh. And yet here in my garden is a beautiful demonstration of how the remnants of past seasons go on to inform the developing masterpiece; nothing is ever really over, or ever really forgotten.
As I sit and ponder this with my morning tea I feel happily comforted. Life is a collection of experiences, one informing the next, and still the most beautiful moments are always the ones that happen by accident.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Show dates 2011


9th - 10th April
Wonderwool Wales, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys

We'll be sharing a stand with Ystrad Traditional Organics under the heading 'Organic Textiles Wales'. Llynfi clothes will be available, as well as a selection of horn and bone buttons, and some baskets of 'ends of runs' of naturally dyed organic wool yarns. Ystrad will have available natural and naturally dyed organic Wensleydale from the farm's flock - fleece, curls, carded and yarn. Also some rather lovely certified organic woven throws.

28th - 30th May
Studio Open Weekend, Talgarth, Brecon, Powys

We'll be holding open days as part of the Crickhowell Arts Trail around the Black Mountains. This is also the first weekend of Hay Literary Festival, so if you're going to the Festival come and visit Talgarth too - we're only 6 or so miles down the road.
The restored Talgarth Mill should be open by then too. This has been a major community undertaking, winning funding from the Lottery Save our Villages project. For more info see the Mill's Facebook page:

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Yarn I've Been Dreaming of Has Arrived!

Have just got my hands on some beee-a-uuu-tiful worsted Wensleydale in Chocolate (of the darkest bitterest sort), Grey (dark and silver at the same time) and white (soft and shimmery). Fully certified organic of course, and grown here in Wales. Cannot Wait to get making with it! It will be expensive I'm afraid - naturally coloured Wenselydale like this is quite rare, and worsted spinning in itself is a costly process. And add to that the fact that you don't get many metres to the kilo, so a small jacket will be quite heavy. But fabulous! Will ad some pics later.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Spring Developments

...longer days and fewer layers; spring must be on its way!

Through the cold and dreary winter months we have been working on our staple collection.
We have tweaked some designs here and there as well as added some brand new ones!

At long last the collection is finalised and patterns almost all drafted.

So now, on to making and then photography!

Friday, 4 February 2011

A Can Of Silk Worms...

‘Its a complex world like woven fabric, where we can not just pull one thread.’

Krishna Jha

At the Llynfi studio there is always something in the pipeline –whether it’s a nagging idea in the back of the mind or designs in progress…

This one has been brewing for quite some time, and has finally come to fruition –well, nearly!

Revered for centuries, the properties of silk are well known. In particular I have always loved spun silk; it’s intriguing character gives it an honesty and almost humbleness that appeals beyond the glamorous luxury of reeled silks.

However, finding some silk fabric that I was happy with on a sustainability level was not so simple, and the more I found out, the more complicated it got!

Most commercially produced silk involves heating the cocoons to kill the pupa inside before it hatches, thus allowing the unbroken cocoon to be reeled. Any left over bits would then be lumped together and spun, which is how most spun silk gets onto the textile market.

The alternative to this method is ahimsa or non-violent silk, so this is where I begun my research. These are marketed as being a vegan alternative to commercial silk, being produced without harming the pupae inside the cocoon by allowing it to hatch naturally. Because the cocoon is broken, it must be all spun rather than reeled.

Without having any first hand experience of silk rearing, I must admit that I had a rather idealised view of the whole ahimsa process. I pictured village communities wandering out into the forests to collect the spent cocoons from wild silk moths, then spinning and weaving the silk into magical lengths of shiny cloth… hmm.

When you stop and think about it, that’s just not very realistic. Not only would that method be impossibly time consuming, the cocoons would likely be far too damaged from the damp of the forest floor to spin a reasonable thread.

In reality, ALL silk comes from farmed moths, but there is still a distinction to be made; the small, rural silk growing initiatives are as different to the intensive commercial set ups of big companies as the comparison between free range chickens and battery farming.

It is true that some silk is even cultivated in a forest environment, but like all farming, the caterpillars are monitored in a controlled area so that they can be fed easily and gathered up efficiently once they have finished spinning their cocoons.

Next comes the more difficult bit…

A silk moth can lay up to 1000 eggs. If all the eggs hatch, grow, pupate and then mate, and each lays another 1000 eggs… that’s a lot more caterpillars! A lot of caterpillars need to eat an awful lot of leaves.

If a caterpillar does not find food within a day of hatching, it will die.

If the moths were released into the wild, the combined number would be so huge; their offspring would strip the forests bare.

So, if we want enough silk to supply demand, however it’s done, at some stage in the

cycle, caterpillars or pupa will die.

In general practice, only the number of moths needed to breed the next generation of caterpillars are allowed to hatch naturally and mate.

In NE India the other pupae are cut out of their cocoons and usually sold as food. The practise of eating pupae is an ancient tradition of many Indian tribes, particularly in these forest regions home to native silk moths.

Although my initial reaction to learning this was shock, I was quickly able to put it into perspective. In the western world the idea of eating insects is so far removed from our experience, it is hard to understand. However, can we really say that eating lamb and using the fleece is any different, or cows and leather, or geese and feathers… the list goes on. In fact, the families that farm silk moths in NE India (where many of the small ‘ahimsa’ enterprises are found) make easily as much money from selling the pupae as they do from the cocoons. Without a market for one, the other would not be sustainable.

So it turns out that not only is peace silk not free and wild, it is produced from farmed caterpillars, which still have to die. To say that I was disappointed puts it mildly. All the issues I uncovered can be reasoned out, but I still felt lied to and cheated. All these words like peace, non-violent and wild are simply marketing tools, much like the word tussah has been abused by the fashion industry to describe any un-even looking silk, rather that actually from the tussah (or tussar) silk moth.

Even companies claiming to sell ‘true ahimsa silk’ are producing it from the spent breeder cocoons brought from other farms. Yes those moths have hatched, but they only exist as part of the wider industry, and their offspring will suffer the same fate as every other. Does that make it peaceful?

Armed with my new found knowledge, I entered into a conversation with one of the Indian companies marketing this silk. I have to say I was delighted by their honest response. They accepted everything I had found to be true, but argued that their aim when starting the project was ‘to provide a better platform to these self employed traditional eri weavers’ (eri are the type of moth native to NE India).

The ahimsa project was begun in 2005 by Ms. Maneka Gandhi (MP in India) as a way of raising funds for 'People for Animals' and to develop an international platform for those traditional weavers in remote areas of India. The project has since been taken on by another group, focused on organising and marketing this unique product, whilst still supporting P.F.A. through its profits.

Obtaining a better price for the silks being produced enables rural communities to earn a fair wage from age-old skills, which will now in turn be passed on to the next generation.

In the complicated world of textiles, there is always more to learn. As far as silk goes, I am certain that I have only scratched the surface. Without going to see for yourself how something is produced, and then following how that affects the local and then global economy, you can never really know that what you are using meets the standards you set.

For now, I know that buying this fabric supports small producers, utilizing an indigenous resource. It encourages the maintenance of the natural environment and promotes the traditional skills of the area. The profits feed into a sustainable industry, which caters for the employment of women, as well as the extremely poor, offering them independence and opportunity.

The pale straw-coloured fabric I have settled on is fairly substantial in weight compared to many dress silks. It has a beautiful, subtle herringbone weave that is picked up in the light. With an almost cotton-like softness yet the unmistakable gentle sheen of silk, this fabric should be warm and cosy and age comfortably into a drapey, cuddly favourite, with just a hint of something special.

Just one thing still irks me; with such valuable, fundamental social benefits and clear sustainability, why is this fabric still marketed under a false banner? It isn’t necessary, so why?

Further reading:

Fantastic information detailing the sustainability of the silk industry in NE India

A fascinating piece, written from experience (and a generally fascinating website to go with it)

Retailing some very beautiful naturally dyed silks in the US

Thursday, 20 January 2011

New Designs : Old Ideas

January; a time for sorting, throwing things out, and starting fresh....but isn't it funny the things you find!?

I decided it was finally time to sort through all of my old college and uni work -you cant keep everything so time to be selective. Ah memory lane, all that work! and whats this? my old war project from my first year of college...

Some designs; some samples; a dress and a skirt ...that bears remarkable resemblance to the AW10 pleat skirt I designed!

I remember the original project began with a poem that my sister wrote. It was a reflective poem written from the perspective of a soldier having served through WW2. The pain, the horrors, and most of all the personal sacrifice. I wanted to communicate that juxtaposition of the defiant, hard, determined and austere front that was the national war effort, against the hearts and souls of real people; people that hurt, loved and lost. The real people underneath the shell.
I actually developed the pleat design by re-modeling a heavy, dowdy work skirt that I picked up in a charity shop. I re-fitted it, moved the pleats and darts and embellished the utilitarian fabric with tiny, delicate red silk roses.

Isn't it funny how some things remain in your subconscious. Even though I began at a different point when designing the pleat skirt for Llynfi, I somehow worked my way back toward a design that I loved back when I was 16.
...I wonder what else will resurface

Monday, 10 January 2011

New year, new plans, new label......

New Year - new plans! As we have to order some more garment labels, we thought it a good opportunity to rethink the design.

The Llynfi logo was originally 'Llynfi Angora', referring to my little herd of angora bunnies and the yarn and items made from the fluff. That was over 10 years ago, so it was about time for a revamp. And we have to go to a different company for these labels - as anything going into a certified organic item has to meet Global Organic Textile Standards.

Anyway! This is what we came up with, although the colour reproduction here isn't quite right. But you get the idea:

It was quite a mission to find a company to produce a small quantity at a reasonable price, and I finally found one in Dublin. A bit of a shame, as there are 2 or 3 here in West Wales that I would have preferred to use, but they couldn't fill in the risk assessment form. All gets a bit too complicated sometimes, and much of the organic system is geared towards major manufacture, at least where textiles are concerned.