Know your yarn. 

The beauty of being a small business is knowing EXACTLY where your materials come from. And that it REALLY is ethical and compassionate.

Sure, you can buy commercial, mass-produced fibre. But you’ll have no idea if it’s from factory farmed animals, has been chemically treated, or made using unethical trade/labour. But it’ll probably be cheap.

I like to know EVERYTHING about my yarn, so you can too. ❤️👍🏼 The fibres are meticulously hand-selected from small local farmers. (Some are right here at Hill Shadow!) My dyes are sourced from a small business based in outer Melbourne VIC, who supplies ethical, organic and fair trade products. All labour (washing, combing, spinning, dyeing) is done by ME. By hand. At my hearth, in the Yarra Ranges, VIC.

So, I’d like to introduce you to one of my business’ cashmere suppliers.

Everybody: George. George, this is everybody.

Dye me a rainbow…

Today’s efforts…

275g of beautiful hand spun Corridale fibre went into the dye pot today. I wanted to see if I could dye a rainbow gradient with natural dyes (why spoil a beautiful natural fibre with a chemical dye, huh?!)

This was a few hours of scouring, drying, carding and then spinning already, so I really hoped it would turn out beautifully!

I mixed up my potions like a crazy alchemist:

lac* for red,

lac and pomegranate for orange,

Himalayan rhubarb for yellow,

Pomegranate and indigo for green,

indigo at 2 different concentrations for light blue and indigo,

indigo and lac for purple.

All at different precise concentrations, mixed with the required amount of vinegar.

I mordanted the wool for an hour, then handpainted on each colour, wrapped it and steamed it, rinsed it and rinsed until no more dye ran.

Gee it was a process. But gee it’s worth it. ❤️

*Not hugely keen on using Lac or Cochineal for dyeing, due to them being ‘natural’, but made from ground up beetles. Doesn’t feel right. Doesn’t feel kind. So I’m just finishing this little sample pot off, and I’m going to try a plant-based alternative for red: Quebracho! Its made from a Mexican tree! Results TBA!

It’s about more than just wool.

No one ever makes something without an intention. And no one ever knits or crochets an item without someone or some purpose in mind. I’ve long been inspired by that, and by the chain of hands yarn goes through in the process of becoming ‘someone’s’. A chain of creativity and intention.

I love the way fibre craft connects me. I sit down, my mind slows, and I create. I can just be. I think about my Nan and Pop – they passed away when I was seven – and Nan was a very ill lady for a long long time. She couldn’t get out and do much. But she sat down, and put her hands over mine, and she taught me to knit. And my pop taught me to crochet. and I think many many people who knit and crochet were taught this skill by their grandparents, and aunties, and uncles. It’s probably one of the few skills still passed down this way. Generation to generation. Hand to hand.

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See, the thing I love about handmade items is their uniqueness. Their flaws. But also, their ‘story’. I love to imagine all the hands, all the skills, all the intentions that have gone into a handmade item. I’m just a link in the chain of something really special. I add my chapter of the story, then I pass it on to the next person, and they add theirs.

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It’s part of the reason I prefer to buy raw fleece from small scale farms, rather than commercial roving dyed in huge dyelots. I like to know the whole story. I like to know that this was Wilma’s fleece; a rescue sheep from Daylesford. She belongs to Linda. Linda collected and sold her fleece, and I add my hands to the story. And then I will hand it along to the next person, who will add their chapter to the story; knitting a blanket for their grandson, a beanie for their Nanna, a scarf for Uncle John. A chain of love, and creativity, and intention.

There’s something magical about that.

So that set me to thinking: I want to activate the yarn. I want to imbue it with healing qualities. I want to capture the spirit of ‘connectedness’, of ‘ancestry’, of ‘specialness’ and  healing’ that I see in yarn. And so I’ve been lead to create “Activated Yarn”.

So here’s my creation unfurling. This first attempt at a fledgling idea. I bathed my crystals in the light of the lunar eclipse. I cleaned, processed and handspun a soft Corridale fleece, into a DK weight yarn. I smudged it with White Sage to remove any negative energy, and used natural organic plant dyes to dye it a beautiful healing green. I then put it into a steeping blend of homegrown Eucalyptus and Lavender -picked from my garden – and Clear Quartz, Amethyst, Aventurine and Ruby Fuschite for healing, soothing and purifying. This cauldron bubbled away over a white candle, opening the pores of the fibre and allowing the properties of the crystals and plants to seep in. Lastly I added a tail hair from my horse Will, as an animal totem. He broke his leg as a foal, but defied all logic to not only heal, but to then go on and win races. A miracle horse. His racing name was ‘Once a Blue Moon’, so rare and miraculous his recovery.

My healing yarn is now out drying in the moonlight. What I do is not Witchcraft. It’s not Magick or anything mysterious. I work only and always from a place of love and light. It doesn’t fit into a box or a definition. All I have done is filled this yarn with love, focus and intention. Its art. It’s a special creation. My hope is that someone buys this yarn and makes something special. I hope they think about their Aunty while they make her some mittens, and that they add their chapter to the story. And that when they give the mittens to their Aunty, she feels the hands and the energy that has been put into this special creation, and it makes her heart feel good. That’s all.

It’s not magic. It’s not going to cure cancer. It’s not going to change the world.

But it’s my art. And I hope you like it. – And it’s also ok if you don’t 🙂

And you know, if you’re sick, this healing yarn wont ‘cure’ you. But I hope that if you’re going into battle, you’ll wear my armor. I made it with my heart and my hands x

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Why I’m not “A Vegan”.

I had an interesting learning experience last night. I made a post on a vegan forum (one that claimed to be inclusive, peaceful, and accepting of all questions) – “If you could source yarn knowing it’s origins (from rescued/pet sheep, organic, spun by hand in Australia, dyed naturally with plant dye) would you choose it over synthetic fibre? Asking for business research. All comments which are positive/constructive will be appreciated and respected.”

Some people said “Yeah sounds good!”

Others said “Mmm I personally wouldn’t, but my mother in law is a keen crafter – she’d love it!”

Some said “Nah. Not vegan. Any animal product is not by definition ‘vegan’. Have you thought about cotton or hemp?”

I learnt so much, and most people were so lovely and positive.

Others were downright viscious.

I had no right to call myself vegan. Stupid people ask stupid questions. This question has no place on a vegan forum. I dont really care about people anyway.

These reponses are why I shy away from saying the word ‘vegan’ when talk to people. Why I hesitate, holding my breath for the uncomfortable silence that inevitably follows, and watching the other person prepare their defenses. I dont want to be associated with extremists. (Wait… is this how it Muslims feel?!?!)

So I learned something. I eat vegan food that does not come from animals. I try not to wear leather (unless it’s 2nd hand). I believe cruelty and exploitation of animals is wrong.

But would I choose commercially produced, environmentally unsustainable, chemically treated, possibly sweatshopped synthetic fabrics over the fleece my goats have shed and I have handspun, just for the ‘no animal fibres’ principle alone? No way.

I dont believe in “ethical perfection”, and I dont have one philosophy. I wouldn’t choose animals over environment, animals over humans, or humans over animals. I dont think it’s that black and white.
I ride my horse. Therefore I’m not a vegan. I vaccinate and desex my dogs. Therefore I am not a vegan. I feed my dogs meat. My kids wear their cousins’ hand-me-down leather shoes rather than buying new. I buy and cook local free range meat for my husband (but not often!), because I respect him as a person and respect his choices. I adopt ex-battery hens rather than have them be killed, and sell their free range eggs cheaply, so that others will have an alternative to caged supermarket eggs. Therefore I’m not a vegan.

One forum member put it beautifully:

“I just try to do the ‘most vegan thing’ in each situation”.

Perfect. That’s my mantra. Well nearly: “I just do my best to be kind. What is the best, most compassionate thing I can do here?

I dont think vegans are wrong. I dont know whats right or wrong. I’m not an expert. I’m not the Messiah (“Im just a very naughty boy!”). I dont need a definition, a title, or a ‘box’ to put my beliefs in. I just do my best. We’re all just trying to do our best.

Respect and love to everyone who’s just trying to do their best.

xx

And the farm grows…

We finally did it. We bought 2 goats. 

Well, I bought 2 goats. I was a little flu-ey and delirious at the time. But these are our new boys, who will hopefully start helping us control our weeds & lawn with out sprays.

Meet Jerry and George. They’re cashmere. 

The chickens are also loving this gorgeous warm weather we’re having – spring has sprung! 

And after the goats have a good go at our overgrown veggie patch, I’m getting some seedlings in! 

My favourite thing at the moment is to take my tea and a good book and lay on the trampoline in the gentle warm sun. Bare feet on warm grass. And the hum of the Hill Shadow Ferals working on our fruit tree blossoms. 

I love being on the verge of abundance, don’t you?! So blessed.