Monday, January 1, 2018

one word 2018

I love the calm, coffee-soaked days between Christmas and New Year’s. Days spent cozying up at home, reflecting on the year that’s passed and planning for the one to come. I’ve got a few exciting goals & projects planned for 2018 and I’m so excited to see how they turn out. One of the practices I most look forward to is picking a guiding word for each year. 

Last year I really struggled to pick a word. For the first time ever, January began and I still hadn't decided. The truth is, at the beginning of this past year I didn't have the faintest idea where I was heading- there was no flicker of a vision or direction on the horizon. I was feeling lost both in my role as a mother and my place in this corner of the world I currently call home. I not only did not know where my path was leading- I could not see the path. In the end I chose the word GROW because I knew I wanted to move forward, even if at the time I was completely unsure what that would look like. 

In some ways GROW was a good word- I certainly grew a lot. I watched my baby grow into a toddler at some point over the last 12 months (HOW did this even happen..?!). But during the course of the year, it was the word PURSUE that resonated. It chose me. This year was an incredible adventure of putting myself out there, taking risks and going after the things I wanted. From something as simple as starting the book club I'd always wanted to be a part of, to making new friends and digging deeper into a community here, to of course launching r&s yarn and taking on a new job.(much of this last point I owe to my work with Making Stories, as I shared over on IG here

This year’s word is SUSTAIN. I’m excited to see how this theme plays out over the weeks and months ahead and already have goals set in line with it. In 2017 I added a lot of new things to my life both personally and professionally, and now is the time to really sink into those things, to make sure that I'm able to sustain them all in a healthy way for both me and my family. This has a lot to do with time management, obviously but also with finances and self-care and mindfulness. 

Another angle on this word that I'm excited to explore is the whole sustainability aspect. In 2017 I had a lot of discussions (and learned a ton) about environmental issues. I've set a few very concrete goals for our family to hopefully reduce our ecological footprint and live with a little more kindness to our planet. I'm super excited to unpack this a little more over the next few months (probably via Instagram). 

So welcome 2018. I sincerely wish you all the best for this new year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Year in Books

every year I do a little reflection here on the blog of my favorite books that I've read this year. This year I set a goal to read 24 books (2 per month) and was a little more intentional- I aimed for 50/50 fiction & non-fiction. I managed to meet this goal, and quite enjoyed picking the books for each month, though I did find it a little restricting at times- I didn't read any series this year, which is something I certainly missed. I also was sharing over on Instagram using the hashtag #whatruthisreading2017 which was fun, but not something I think I'll do again (I'll probably just share the highlights...) This year I'm also going to shoot for 24 books as it feels like a good number for me right now (not easy, but not unrealistic either) though I think I'm going to plan less and absolutely let myself read (and finish!) some series... and maybe do a bit more re-reading (Harry Potter audio books anyone..?)

So as per usual- here are my own personal "book awards" for this year. (If you're curious to see all the books I read this year, I've listed them all under my reading challenge on Good Reads- there were certainly some duds, but I did read a good many more that didn't make the below list that are worth checking out!) 

best re-read: Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery)

most surprised to love: Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)

hardest to put down: Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie) (though I feel like I also have to mention John Krakauer's Into Thin Air here, which was definitely most likely to send you down a Wikipedia rabbit trail...)

most likely to change my daily life: Present Over Perfect (Shauna Niequest)

most quoteable: Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

most in my wheelhouse: The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)

most heartbreaking: Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Chris Cleave)

best memoir/biography:  Lab Girl (Hope Jahren)

best crafty related book: WOODS (Making Stories)

the one that kept me up at night: Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) 

the one I'm still telling everyone about: Wonder (RJ Palacio)

So what's up next? Well, I'm currently reading Little Women for my bookclub and am hoping to finish before the new year. Then I'm planning to read The Crosswicks Journals by Madeleine L'engle (and maybe also re-read A Wrinkle in Time to get ready for the movie...) What about you guys? Read anything good lately?  

Monday, November 13, 2017

R&S Yarn Update!

If you follow me over on Instagram, you've probably seen that we are in the final stages of launching Raincloud & Sage Yarn into the world. YAY!! 

Honestly you guys, I can't believe we made it this far. That sounds a little trite to say, but it's the honest truth. I could never have imagined when I started this blog (almost 5 years ago now!) that this is where my path would lead me, but it feels so right and I'm just thrilled to be here. 

Of course, starting this yarn label has come with it's challenges in different shapes and forms. I'm so glad we stuck with it and that I can finally hold the finished product in my hands, but in many ways this is only the beginning. 

As many (all...?) creatives, I have a lot of fears surrounding putting my work (and ultimately myself) out there. Honestly, every time someone purchases a pattern from me my very first feeling is fear- what if they don't like it? what if they find a mistake? Regardless of how much effort and energy and love goes into creating a thing, I think these feelings are somehow always connected with sharing creative work. And I'm sure battling them with this yarn- what if people hate it? what if it's too scratchy for them? Or perhaps even worse- what if nobody even cares...?

My husband recently told me that I need to stop describing our yarn in terms of what it isn't (in other words: it's not soft) and focus on what it IS. Because the truth is, I am incredibly proud of what it is: rustic, sheepy yarn with a story, grown by sheep who are raised with care, spun locally & sustainably with mindfulness for both the materials and the environment, packaged by us with a ton of love and then (hopefully!) sent to knitters everywhere so that they can continue this story we've started. 

I've seen the sheep who grew this wool. I've visited the mill, seen the machines that spun our yarn and the river where it was washed afterwards. To be involved in something like this is nothing short of amazing. 

No it's not soft- and it's not for everyone. It's not even for every knitter. But I'm putting it out there anyways, because I believe this is a story that deserves to be told. 

If you're curious- here are the two colorways all swatched up. I'm calling our first base Origin and it's a 3ply yarn, woolen spun at a light worsted/DK weight. For whatever reason, the grey is scratchier than the cream, which is actually quite soft and would totally work for a hat for someone who's not afraid to wear a little wool. Otherwise I think this yarn would be great for outerwear sweaters, and of course mittens or even a good thick pair of mucklucks or outerwear socks. 

All further info can be found on our website- // That's also where you'll find the links to our Newsletter and Instagram, both of which will keep you up-to-date on what's happening. Thanks as always for being here. It means so much. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November's Quote

sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up. 
-Brené Brown

It's no secret how much I adore BrenĂ© Brown, and this quote speaks so perfectly to what I'm going through right now- in my parenting, my work and my creativity. It's hard to continuously show up and put yourself out there day after day after day. But it's worth it. Man oh man is it worth it. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Autumn Drizzle Shawl

Today I am so super excited to share with you all my latest pattern: the Autumn Drizzle Shawl. 

The Autumn Drizzle Shawl is a small, triangular shaped shawl featuring garter stitch stripes and plenty of squishy texture. It's designed with a shallow fit for easy wear while out enjoying favourite Autumn activities: apple picking, hiking in the woods or crunching through fallen leaves. 

This shawl features plenty of garter stitch, as well as some stripes and a simple chevron stitch pattern to keep things a little interesting. It's perfect cozy evening knitting, with a cup of tea and your favourite Fall movies- Harry Potter of course, or perhaps even a little Gilmore Girls

The design itself is actually quite simple but I spent ages trying to get it just right. The final finished object looks quite different (and much better even) than the original idea as it came to me. When I saw these two yarns lying side by side in my stash I just knew they wanted to be together- and boy was I right. 

A little more about the yarn: the speckled yarn is Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in the Urchin colourway and something about the colours and the distribution of the speckles reminds me of fallen Autumn leaves. The beautiful caramel yarn is Madeline Tosh Merino Light in the Glazed Pecan colourway. Personally, it reminds me of caramel drizzle (you know, the kind that you get on Pumpkin Spice Latte, of course) which is where I originally got the name from. 

Several weeks ago on a beautiful sunny late September day I had a photo shoot with my lovely friend Simone (of Ink and Soil). I just love how the photos turned out and am so excited to finally share them all with you.

I am really really proud of this shawl and hope you love it too. The pattern is available on Ravelry as of today, and I am offering a little coupon code as a celebration of it's release. Just use the code autumndrizzle15 when checking out to receive 15% off until this Sunday, October 22. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Summer Book Report

So I actually don't have quite as long of a list of Summer Reads as I had hoped to. A few abandoned books definitely found their way into rotation and I just ended up reading a little less than I had thought. BUT that being said, I read some real gems this summer- some of the best books I've read all year, and I wanted to share a little round up with you today of what I did manage to read.

So, here goes:

Present Over Perfect // Shauna Niequest
This has been on my TBR list for what feels like ages and ages (it only came out last summer...) When I saw it was a pick for the Solly Baby book club, I was reminded of it and am so glad I was! It was a perfectly timely read for me. I mistakenly thought going in that this topic was one I had already wrestled with and had a handle on- NOPE. Still so much to learn. This book was written with so much wisdom and grace- I cried my way through and will definitely be picking it up for a re-read in the not too distant future.

Murder on the Orient Express // Agatha Christie
Our book club summer read. I breezed through this in 3 days and really enjoyed it. I didn't have much prior experience with Agatha Christie and after reading this, I'd love to pick up a few more titles.

Wonder // RJ Palacio
Another book club pick. Wow you guys- this book. Not only is it a great story well told, but it's also a great conversation starter (and would be an excellent book to read with kids, or to discuss with them...) This is the sort of perspective-giving book that can really make a difference. 

Big Magic // Elizabeth Gilbert
So I basically highlighted and bookmarked and dogeared my way through this entire book. So much good stuff- this is the sort of book that makes me wish I still kept a physical quote book so that I could jot down all the wisdom I gained from it! 

Yes Please // Amy Pohler 
A bit of a bonus pick, I read through this quick, fun read while in Berlin. I wouldn't say it was the greatest book I've ever read (not even my favorite comedian/celebrity memoir) but I did enjoy it and appreciated Pohler's perspective at several points throughout. 

So that's a wrap. I am ALL about Fall reading and closing off this year of books strong. I'm on track with all my reading goals for the year and have a few picks for the next few months that I'm really excited about (I'm currently reading the books in the photo above) How about you, fellow bookworms? How's your reading life these days? 

Friday, October 6, 2017

creative chat: Emma of Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company

It's been awhile since my last Creative Chat interview, but I've got something really special to share with you all today. This past month I had the chance to talk with Emma from Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company. Emma is a photographer and fiber artist living in Northern Ireland where she works with natural woolly fibres in the form of knitting, spinning and natural dyeing. From the moment I discovered Emma on Instagram I knew her work was something special, and I'm so super excited to share this interview with you all today- especially because she is currently in the process of opening her shop, which will launch later this month. 

So grap a cuppa and join us for this inspiring chat: 

1. If we were having this conversation in person, in a cafe what would you be drinking? Are you a coffee or tea person?

I am most definitely a tea person- no coffee for me! I would probably be drinking black tea with milk, or Earl Grey. Or if I’m feeling summery I will have a fruit tea! My current favourite is peppermint and liquorice. 

2. Tell us a little bit about what you make/do. What got you started on this particular creative journey?

I am an architectural photographer by trade, and occasionally I have pockets of ‘bad weather’ time I like to fill up, where I can’t be photographing outside. I like to craft/ make in these in between moments. More specifically I love spinning on my wheel, dyeing with natural dyes and knitting socks. I got started on this creative journey when I was at art college in London- I was studying on the photography course at Camberwell College of Art and I met a lovely crafter/ illustrator lady by the name of Kim Smith (@kimsmithhappy/ @aushopuk). We became great friends and met up most weeks to catch up and craft together, sometimes meeting at her house, sometimes at her cousin’s pub down the road. 

I arrived at her house one night for some craic (as we say here) and a bit of craft and I noticed she had a spinning wheel. I was very excited and had to learn the skill myself- Kim is an awesome teacher! I purchased my own wheel on eBay, and went on the train to collect it. I began spinning on my own, playing around with different types of wools and techniques, and really enjoyed the process. Around the same time I created an art project where I visited several sites around London, picked various dye materials from the environment, and dyed with them. I then wove a small mat on a frame loom, which included all the dyed fibre from around London. 

From there I left university and started my photography business, and hadn’t been crafting as much as I’d have liked. I knew I wanted to make more with my hands, since most days I was sitting on a computer or behind a camera in the digital world. I then joined the Ulster Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers and that helped spark my interest and hone my skills. I learnt about different sheep breeds, qualities of different fleeces and different dyeing methods. They are a lovely group of ladies with so much knowledge to impart! 

In May 2017 I had a serious creative itch, and knew I had to do something about it. I was knitting a lot, and starting to dye again. I knew I wanted to experiment more with natural dyes in a bigger quantity but I couldn’t unless I had a suitable outlet. That’s when I came up with the idea of opening an online shop to sell my naturally dyed and handspun yarn. I placed an order with the wonderful Laxton’s Mill in Yorkshire for some of their lovely fibres- BFL, Masham, Wensleydale, Falkland Merino in different weights and I couldn’t wait to get started in dyeing them! During September 2017 I used a mixture of foraged and extract materials to dye with- a process I absolutely loved! I experimented with blackberries, elderberries, onion skins, logwood, madder amongst other things with some really nice results. I have also purchased some local alpaca fibre which I plan to spin up for the shop opening- it’s really exciting to work with local suppliers!

3. What does your daily routine/creative process look like? How do you structure your creative time? 

Every day for me is different- I wouldn’t enjoy doing the same thing all the time! I don’t really structure my creative time as such- I usually just have a list of things I have to complete that day and I try and get them done. I always find it helps if you have an end goal in mind- e.g. a shop opening, an exhibition planned, a collaboration etc as this provides some motivation to get things done! In general I try not to separate creative time/ other time too much, or to really think about it too much as I feel it stifles my creative process a little, especially when it comes to dyeing. “Think through making”- that’s what tutors used to tell us at art college. Sometimes with natural dyeing, you get unexpected results, and want to explore those options more, and end up making a batch of colours you hadn’t planned on. You should able to do this without making yourself feel guilty for enjoying it!  In general, if I’m having a ‘dye day’, I have everything set out the night before- dye baths soaking, pots at the ready, yarn soaking. This makes the process of getting started a lot easier! I then make my to-do list and get on with dyeing or collecting materials from my local area. Sometimes there are other bits and bobs that need done- Instagram posts, labelling, photographs which is all part of the creative process too. At the end of the day, about an hour before I want to finish, I start cleaning up work area (currently my kitchen!). 

My knitting usually takes place at night, in front of the fire in our front living room- not during the day!

4. I'd love to chat a little more in depth about your tools/workspace. Do you have a designated work area, or any special tools/favourite fibers to work with? 

I do have a designated work area for crafting, but somehow it infiltrates the rest of the house! I usually tend to craft wherever feels good that day. Generally it’s not my actual workspace because it’s so messy and unkempt- it’s not even slightly pretty! When I’m dyeing I’m in the kitchen a lot so I end up staying there to check on the temperatures etc. When I’m doing admin I go to my office and sit at my computer and turn it off when I’m finished. That where all my photography equipment, books and architecture journals are kept. 

My Frank Herring spinning wheel is quite unique- it is made in Dorchester, England and has a definite 70’s vibe to it- it is made of bent plywood. It’s quite a petite wheel, easy to throw over your shoulder to take to a demonstration. I’ve never met anyone else who has this wheel. 

I also have a noddy-noddy handmade by a local wood worker, which I love, and a ball winder given to me by my Great Aunt, which is invaluable! 

 As for fibres, I love single breed, non-super wash wool, and my current favourites for spinning are Swaledale, Gotland and BFL. All of the yarns in my shop will be non- superwash (read more about the process here and fully woolly! 

5. I'm also curious about how place affects your creative process. Can you tell us a little bit about where you live and how/if this affects your work?  

I live near the North Coast of Ireland in an old Georgian terrace house (which we are renovating) in a medium-sized farming town. Every room has a different feel, particularly at different seasons of the year, so it’s lovely to have the choice of where to work on a particular day. The weather here is temperamental, and we often see the four seasons in one day. It’s often raining. This forces a lot of indoor time, so the fire gets stoked and the dye pots get going. In saying that, I like cycling and walking and the mountains- so I am sure that this has an influence on me too. 

Although I lived in London for three years while completing my degree, the heritage and traditions of coming from a farming background in rural Northern Ireland affects my work more than anything else. It makes you aware that nature and the landscape are not always picturesque and gentle, as well as teaching you to look after what you have and to make things rather than always buying them. My great Granny used to make all sorts of concoctions and potions out of things she foraged from the hedges and country lanes, as well as having amazing crochet skills- her lace work was beautiful. I suppose all of these things have influenced me- I love colours derived from our landscape, small cottage industries, living a simple (as possible) life and working with my hands. 

6. What are you currently up to? Anything new and exciting coming up?

I am currently preparing to open my online shop Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company on October 31st! I have been busy dyeing and spinning wool, as well as getting the website ready. You could say it’s a mammoth undertaking! You will be able to find the yarn shop at from October 31st and you can find me at @woollymammothfibres on Instagram. 

Thanks so much Emma for taking time to chat with me and share more about your work. If you enjoyed this interview, make sure you visit Emma over on Instagram to say hi and mark your calendars for her shop opening on Oct 31! 

note: all photos provided by Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company