Prior to the launch of Handmade in the UK, we are featuring each of the dyers who we are working with on the collection, beginning with Skein Queen, who produces magnificent hand-dyed yarns in her royal workshop in deepest Berkshire.
If you are of the opinion that MORE is MORE FUN (and I tend to be!) you will love the veritable kaleidoscope of colours and yarns that Skein Queen creates.
Why Handmade in the UK?
I am a newcomer to the UK – I arrived in Edinburgh in June 2011 – and the historic city of cobblestone streets, gothic cathedrals, narrow medieval wynds twisting upward to a fairytale castle is an amazing aesthetic inspiration. Perhaps this is a creative leap, but these new picturesque, romantic surroundings made me want to knit lace. And while Alexa and I have worked with several Canadian yarn companies (SweetGeorgia, Tanis Fiber Arts and Sweet Fiber) we hadn’t yet had the chance to work with the amazing yarns being produced in the UK. While developing the idea for this collection, I spoke with Susan Cropper of Loop, London about her favourite indie dyers, and she put me in contact with (among others) Debbie Orr of Skein Queen.
SKEIN QUEEN : a kaleidoscope of lux yarns and yummy colours
For Debbie Orr (Skein Queen), hand-dyeing began with a 3-month search for the perfect blend of cashmere and silk. Her passion for colour grew, the yarn began to pile up, and it became increasingly clear that there was no way she could knit up this rapidly expanding stash. From her studio in Berkshire, Debbie began with a small Etsy shop in 2007 and grew to becoming a full-time dyer with customers all over the world.
What I find most unique about Skein Queen is the magnificent variety of colours and bases she creates. For example, how many shades of red does one really need… the Skein Queen answer would be more than you can count! Hers is definitely a MORE is MAGNIFICENT aesthetic, and I love it!
When I asked Debbie why she chose to go in this direction and carry such a wide variety of yarn bases and colours, she answered, laughing, that she simply “can’t help it” – her primary dyeing method is experimentation, and this enthusiasm for variety carries over into her business.
Another special thing about Skein Queen is her yarn club. The monthly club colours (one semi-solid and one variegated) are inspired by books or movies. November’s inspiration was The Unseen by Katherine Webb, which as Debbie describes is “…part Downton Abbey, part murder mystery and explores issues such as the suffragette movement and theosophy”.
And as if full-time dyeing, yarn shows, and reading the classics weren’t enough to keep Debbie busy, she is also a designer, with several beautiful sock designs; check out her work here.
Some of Skein Queen’s most popular yarns are Opulent Cashmere (100% cashmere), Delectable (Merino / Silk) a heavy laceweight, high-twist Entwine and Entwist sock yarns, and Voluptuous (80% British Exmoor Blueface, 20% Organic Merino). But she has a very extensive range, including cobweb and bulky yarns: something for every project! Check out the Skein Queen Shop here.
Voluptuous in ‘persimmon’ and Opulent in ‘cloudless’
Voluptuous is a great sweater yarn; it’s a woolly wool with a subtle sheen and slight bloom. It comes in REALLY BIG skeins (200g / 560 yds), so a sweater is a 2-skein project. Knitting up into a lovely fabric at 20 sts / 4″, Voluptuous has excellent stitch definition, which was one of the reasons I chose it when I designed Lush. As you can see, the details of the lace yoke really spring to life in this yarn!
While Voluptuous is a great basic, Opulent is exactly as described! The exquisite buttery softness of cashmere + Skein Queen’s luscious colourways = knitting bliss.
At 200 yds / 55 grams, Opulent falls somewhere between a 4-ply and sport weight. ‘Cloudless sky’ is the perfect colourway for the organically flowing lace featured in Loch, a hat and mitten set.
Meet the Royal Dyer: Unravel and Edinburgh Yarn Festival
Skein Queen will be attending Unravel at Farnham Maltings on 23rd and 24th February and the Edinburgh Yarn Festival on 16th March (Tin Can Knits will be there too). This is a great opportunity to squeeze and stroke Skein Queen yarns in person, and meet the woman who wears the crown!
What other yarns were used in Handmade in the UK?
I was very fortunate to have the support of several UK dyers and yarn producers on this project. In the process of writing the book, I am speaking with and blogging about each of these great businesses – click the links to learn more!
Would you like to be notified when Handmade in the UK is available for purchase? Get our email updates to hear about our patterns and tutorials as they are launched.
Perfect patterns for hand-dyed yarns: