With this weekend’s Yarnporium happening in London I was reminded that while I’ve done a Meet the Indie Dyer profile on the Countess Ablaze before, I’d yet to feature Eden Cottage Yarns. Since I’ll have both of these gorgeous yarn companies on my stand at the Yarnporium there’s no better time to profile Victoria from Eden Cottage. Happily, she took some time out from her busy dyeing schedule to answer my questions.
Tell us how you got started dyeing. Was there a specific creative spark that got you started on this journey?
I began dyeing my own yarn when I was a student in Dundee. I had taught myself to knit, including a very fetching hot water bottle cover and I wanted to try out new yarns. Hand dyed yarn was becoming popular at that time, although it mostly seemed to be crazy variegated colour ways and I just wanted a nice purple, so I decided to dye it myself.
It all kind of grew from there, really, and continued after I left Dundee and moved to Manchester. Eden Cottage Yarns – the brand – was born in a crumbling 18th Century cottage in the Eden Valley in Cumbria, where I moved to when I left Manchester and began dyeing full time. Eden Cottage Yarns now calls Yorkshire home and a lot of my colours are inspired by the beautiful landscapes and natural features found locally.
As you’ve grown ECY have your dye techniques stayed the same? What can you share about your process (without giving away any trade secrets)?
My colour ways have become more subtle and sophisticated since those early days in Dundee, that’s for sure, and I enjoy creating gentle tones now. That’s not to say I don’t love a good, strong colour way or the occasional variegated yarn, but they’re more grown up now, I feel. All the yarns are currently dyed in our kitchen at home and often can be seen on Instagram drying in the fresh air in our back garden. I don’t like to rush the dyeing process too much; my method ensures lots of depth and variation even in quite pale colours, which I think is important.
A lot of indie dyers seem to have a palette that is identifiably “theirs”. What I love about the ECY palette is how soft and romantic it is. Very vintage! What was the inspiration for your signature palette? And where does your inspiration come from for new colours?
As I mentioned earlier, a great deal of inspiration comes from the natural landscapes surrounding where we live in Yorkshire. Even within a simple domestic garden, there are a variety of shades, textures, plants and flowers to spark the creativity. That’s not to say it’s all about the flowers though; one of my most successful recent colour ways – Cromer Pier – was inspired by a man-made landmark. It’s very much a case of taking a variety of influences and using those to create something that is very much Eden Cottage Yarns style – relaxed, cosy and understated beauty.
In addition to your lovely hand-dyed yarns you also have a commercial mill-dyed range. Tell us about those yarns and how you decided to add those to the range?
My mill dyed line started with Milburn 4ply. This was a specially designed yarn that I created to my own specification. I am a huge fan of Bluefaced Leicester as a rule, and I added in 15% silk to the blend to get a yarn that had fantastic drape, a beautiful sheen and strength from the silk and depth of colour from the BFL. Primarily, it was to create the yarn I wanted but could not get in that blend anywhere at the time. Also, it was to help meet the demand for yarns from both retailers and from my own customers, which is constantly growing. Having the mill dyed yarns means it’s always in stock and available in quantity, and we’re very excited to be expanding the colour range this winter and adding more shades to the Milburn offering.
In 2014 we added Askham 4ply, Whitfell DK and Whitfell Chunky to our commercial range. These celebrate the wonderful properties of soft, fluffy baby alpaca. The Whitfell Chunky has been particularly popular for us, as you only need one skein for a snuggly hat. We recently managed to negotiate better pricing on the baby alpaca yarns, making them a great option for garment knitting.
What do you enjoy most about running Eden Cottage Yarns?
I love being my own boss and being able to choose where to take the business next. I love being creative every day – yes, hand dyeing yarn is hard work, there are no two ways about it, but I wouldn’t change it for anything else. Getting to meet our customers at shows and see their finished objects is also a big highlight for me.
If you weren’t dyeing yarn what would you be doing?
I’d probably be pottering round at a plant nursery making hanging baskets!
Any other upcoming news that you’d like to share? What’s next for ECY?
We’ve recently moved to a new house and there are exciting plans ahead for creating a larger studio space. Also, as mentioned, we have some new colours in the Milburn 4ply range which should be available very soon, as well as some really exciting top secret collaborations for next year.
Thank you so much to Victoria for taking the time to chat! I can’t wait to hear about those top secret projects! And if you’d like to see a selection of Victoria’s yarns in person, I’ll have them on my stand no.9 this weekend, November 5th and 6th at the Yarnporium at King’s College London, on the Strand. See you there?