Monday, 15 June 2015

A chat with Louise Scollay from KnitBritish and an exciting KAL announcement

Hi Louise
Many thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for BritYarn.  If you are sitting comfortably with a beverage to hand lets begin!

Could you introduce yourself to BritYarn’s readers...... 
Louise of KnitBritish
Hello, BritYarn readers *waves* , it's nice to be introduced to you!
I'm Louise and for the last two years I have been knitting British. That is to say that for every crafting project I undertake I only use wool that has been grown, spun or dyed in the UK. I talk about the journey through connections of Britishness in wool and knitting on my blog and in my podcast.
When not working from home on all those things (sat at a computer or mic in close vicinity to the cat and thelovelyfella) I can be found (for the meantime) in Shetland, working in the local library.   

How and when did the KnitBritish podcast and blog start?
The whole concept of KnitBritish came to me on a train journey from Aberdeen to Edinburgh. I was knitting with a yarn that was very local to me in Shetland and as the train passed through fields of sheep I was really struck by the idea of discovering more of the breed yarns available in the UK.
I worked on the concept for about 4 months and did a lot of research into British sheep breeds, the yarns available and also British based dyers and mills  - it was like someone turned a massive bulb on for me – there was a whole world of wool that I hadn't fully appreciate. I had never bought wool based on these things before and there is a huge treasure trove in the UK.

The blog came first, in December 2012 - it was really just a personal challenge that I thought I would set myself for a year, to only knit and buy British and promote the yarns I was using through the blog. I thought that by blogging about the journey it might inspire more people to also think about things like buying local, wool miles and championing local industry. 

Quite soon I realized that I wouldn't be able to stop at a year, with such a woolly wealth of resource on our doorsteps KnitBritish had truly become a lifestyle for me, rather than a challenge.

The KnitBritish podcast grew out of the blog naturally and I started a year after I started the KB journey. I really enjoy podcasting and enjoy it more with every single episode. The podcast has really helped the KnitBrititish community to grow too and the best thing about podcasting is the peope. I keep saying this, but I have never met such like-minded and interesting people through anything I have done before and I doubt I will through anything else I am likely to do in the future.  

What are your favourite woolly / fibre crafts?
I love knitting and after a lengthy sabbatical after primary school, I re-taught my self to knit in 2007/8  when I gave up smoking (the first time). I am constantly amazed at how knitting is a permanent learning curve – there is always something new to master. 

I also love spinning on a drop spindle (but do not do it enough and have given myself a self-imposed fluff buying ban til I spin what I have). 
I have recently bought a wee sample loom too and really enjoying exploring a new woolly craft.

Everybody works in different ways… are you a traditional pen and paper person or do you prefer making full use of modern technology? 
After I publish a podcast episode the pen and pad come out and I jot down the schedule for the next one. There is a podcast every other week, (sometimes they are more frequent). I jot down content ideas, my to-do list and also a note of important links for the show-notes.

Who can really resist a lovely notebook, bright clean pages and a sharp pencil? It's part of the creativity, I think. “Creative” is probably a good word as there isn't a page of my notebooks that doesn't have doodling in and around the notes! I also like to strike things out if they are not right (even in pencil) as its part of the creative process. I love looking back at podcast notes and looking at everything I wrote, stroked out and drew. The podcast is pretty much all pen and paper, apart from the recording, of course, and for my KnitBritish schedule and admin, which I do use a spreadsheet for,  as it is nice to see the whole month set out and all the planned content, reviews and interviews in one place.

As a total opposite, when writing blogs I usually go straight into the post and bypass the pen and paper stage. Any research I do is long hand, but I prefer writing and editing in the blog. 

If you were only allowed to knit / weave with one British grown base what would it be and why? (a blend or 100% pure)  
That's proper minxy question, Isla! *Isla cackles in the background* What if all my other British yarns hear? I get asked this a lot and it is really hard to answer with one as I have a favourite longwool, a favourite down breed, a favourite primitive, etc...then there is, of course, other British bred fibre, such as alpaca and mohair. They all have wonderful qualities in terms of their different textures, structures, ability to wear....
I think I love texture the most and particularly garter stitch and lace – If I were knitting something that required that I would go for a sheepy Shetland, or a Corriedale yarn. If I wanted to knit something soft and drapey I would go for a BFL or alpaca...But I don't think I could be drawn on one favourite.  

What has been your KnitBritish highlight so far?
Wow! I think it's got to be The Podcast Lounge at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. It was a brilliant atmosphere, we had a great weekend of sessions and laid-back chat. The feedback was just wonderful and I got to meet so many listeners, many of whom told me how much the podcast means to them in terms of the wool they buy and over and above a woolly level. It was an incredibly strong community event and one that will stay with me for a long time. It really cemented in me that I love what I do and I am going to keep on doing it.

The Hapalong KAL, which you are currently hosting, has been hugely popular.   People all over the world and across all age ranges have been casting on their haps and sharing their progress on the KnitBritish Ravelry group.   What do you think it is about the hap that has captured peoples interest? 
I have been blown away at how people have embraced the hap. The amount of hap action has really knocked my socks off. 
For those who don't know, a hap is a shawl traditionally worn in Shetland; square or 'half' (triangular) the design usually starts with a central panel, after which a lace section is knitted, followed by edging. It can be knitted in pieces and grafted together, or the stitches can be picked up around the central panel to continue knitting the item in the round. 

My aim in hosting the KAL was to bring a traditional Shetland garment into the limelight a little and also give a little of the history of the hap on my blog. If you look on Ravelry you can find traditional hap patterns, but also find that that hap has inspired designs by Kate Davies, Jared Flood, Gudrun Johnston, Kat Goldin and Ysolda Teague. I think that there is enough inspiration – whether traditional or contemporary – to grab crafter's interests and make it a KAL that people have been excited to get involved with. 

I recently went to the Shetland Museum and took a look at some of the haps in the collection there and wondered what the hap knitters of the 18th century would think of this interest and innovation in hap knitting in the 21st century!

Are there any future KnitBritish plans / projects you can share with BritYarn?
Hmmm, well I am very, very good at keeping secrets and do like to spring surprises on the podcast, but you and I have some plans coming up, don't we?

Shall we spill the beans? Lets do it!!! 

In July we are co-hosting the Scollayalong, knitting the wonderful Scollay cardigan designed by Karie Westermann. I know that lots of people have been eager to cast this on and I am utterly delighted that we are working together on this. We will all be casting on Friday 17th July and there will be a cast on virtual party that evening.  The KAL will end on Friday 25th September so perfect for some summer knitting!   

The KAL will be hosted in the BritYarn and KnitBritish Ravelry groups.  The sign up thread will open on Monday 22nd June in the KnitBritish group.  The chat (and party) will move over to the BritYarn group on Friday 17th July.  The chat thread will then move a week later, on Friday 24th July, to KnitBritish where it will stay for the week before hopping back to BritYarn for a week etc.  The FO thread will be in the KnitBritish group so make sure you post pictures of your finished Scollay's there to be in with a chance of winning a prize.  Prizes will be announced nearer the time but we can say there will be a prize for the Best Scollay made in British grown wool.

The pattern can be purchased digitally from Ravelry or here if you prefer a paper copy. 
There is a special BritYarn Scollay-along discount code for 10% off any DK yarn from today, Monday 15th June until midnight Sunday 28th June -  scollaykaldk15

More big news is that KnitBritish is being sponsored for the first time ever and the sponsor is none other than BritYarn! I am so proud to be associated with BritYarn, a company whose vision and aesthetic is very similar to my own. I look forward to working with you to bring the listeners and readers of KnitBritish and readers and fans of BritYarn a new and exciting podcast/sponsor collaboration.

In addition to all that I shall also be working on other projects, so watch this space!

How can people best keep up to date with the latest KnitBritish news?
You can go to the website and you can subscribe to email updates straight to your inbox when there is a new episode or blog post. 
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, listen on the podcast app, on Stitcher Radio and on PlayerFM.
Anyone interested in KnitBritish can also join the group on Ravelry and that is a really good place to catch up with what's happening with the KB community – KALs, British wool projects, questions, suggestions and general chat.

Images used with kind permission from Louise Scollay and Karie Westermann.


  1. So nice to see you working together, as your goals are in such alignment! Synergy rocks!