Home from the Mill Open Weekend

John Arbon Textiles Mill Open Weekend - Marketplace & Cafe - Friday 10th to Sunday 12th 9.30am to 5pm - large banner tied around ancient building column

Massive shout out to everyone at John Arbon Textiles for putting together a brilliant Mill Open Weekend last weekend: it was a real treat to be involved and to see so many friends after so long.

The marketplace was just the right size where you can find moments to chat, and where there’s enough space to really appreciate the heart that everyone is putting into their work. The full John Arbon Textiles range was on display – deep bins filled with combed tops; carefully thought-through yarn-ranges in distinctive worsted-spun blendy joy; and the ombre magnificence that is the Knit By Numbers range. Guest vendors included Rachel of Daughter of a Shepherd with an abundance of sheepy yarns and the finest displays of books I’ve ever seen in a crafting marketplace; Fay Dashper-Hughes of Provenance Craft Company with her amazing range of beautifully-made and traceable crafting tools; and Katie Green with her immediately-recognisable illustrations printed onto washi tape, zines, patterns – and even a fetching jumpsuit that Katie had made herself and was wearing (and there are few things more amazing than a sheep-covered jumpsuit). It was so nice to chat to other makers and small business-owners, as incidental conversations with fellow business-owners in this industry are something I have really missed across the past few years.

Rachel's amazing collection of books

Katie Green's incredible sheep-covered tea-towel design (white background, covered in gorgeous illustrations of different sheep breeds)

I’ve also really missed teaching in person and it was wonderful to do this again after ages of only doing it online! Shout out to my students, who came to play with Knit By Numbers in my class, and explore the ideas behind FLOMBRE in your own preferred colours. Here is the beginning of Pat’s swatch, in bottle green and red.

pat holds up a swatch on which there is a small pink flower, worked in two shades of pale red, against a ground of dark bottle green

It was also great to get up and talk to such a warm and welcoming audience about the work I have done exploring colours in the context of stranded colourwork design. Thank you, Nicky, for getting a picture of that.

Felix stands holding a microphone in one hand and her EDIROL-inspired swatch in the other; she is wearing a red dotty top and wide green pantaloons; behind her is a screen on which, very blurrily, can be seen a projected image that relates to the talk

I had a brilliant time putting my slides together. I always get horribly nervous and overprepare and have too much to say, but the process of sitting down and writing out my ideas and sifting through old projects and making my slides always helps me to put in context what I have been doing, and to notice how different creative experiments feed each other and lead on to new ones. I especially enjoyed thinking about the different approaches to colour that have transformed the motif I designed and used for the Cherry Blossom version of the Efflorescent Shawl in the Playbook

Efflorescent cherry blossom shawl, hanging in the trees in the Harris Gardens

…into the Flombre Accessory Set for the KNITSONIK & Friends: Colour to Knit Club (and forthcoming eBook).

Flombre - a woman with blond hair wears matching hat, cowl and mitts, all featuring a shimmery ombre gradient worked in blues and pinks

There were lots of bits like this that involved looking back over several years and the long slow path through which I’ve solved a problem, or revisited and transformed, a different creative idea. More generally, it was really affirming to reflect on making and embracing mistakes; being generous when things go wrong; and looking to daily life rather than sublime or peak experiences as a source of creative inspiration. I talked about eggs, tester strips, bad knitting, Aleatoric Fair Isle, listening hats, Alice Starmore and shade cards, and had wonderful conversations with everyone afterwards. Hurrah for playing with colour – and sharing our adventures (and mistakes) with one another.

multi-coloured mess of a hat, with the word LISTEN emblazoned across it

Relatedly, and something I’d forgotten from The Before Times, it was very joyous to meet so many people who have done – and enjoyed – the KNITSONIK Bullet Journaling Course. Because I bring it everywhere, I always bring my journal to classes, and had forgotten the joy of people spotting it and asking WHAT IS THAT???!!! (the reason why I built my online course in the first place). As well as being a handy place for testing out the right pencil shades for my class, writing down class admin stuff, and working out what I needed for my talk, my journal proved an ideal place to play with new Katie Green Bean stamps last weekend.

a page of coloured-pencil swatches and tests

a page covered in drawings, washi tape and a winsome cat stamp designed by Katie Green Bean

When not working, it was brilliant to take a mill tour around the amazing John Arbon Textiles Mill and to hear from John himself about his favourite machines; the decisions taken over the years that have led to the popular JAT yarn and fibre ranges; and the exciting future prospects for the mill. I first met John in 2008 when he was working at Coldharbour Mill. I was enthusiastic then – as now – about his passionate and practical approach to reviving, repairing and repurposing dismantled mill machinery for creating relevant and inspiring woolly wares. It’s so amazing to see the incredible business that has grown out of all of this, and the story of how John Arbon Textile yarns are made, how the machines are maintained, and where our wool comes from will never grow old.

John Arbon describing his work with wool in front of his favourite mill machine

Daisy speaking about the various machines upstairs in the mill, where the yarns are skeined and wound for sale

If you are one of the folks who signed up for Knit Stars 6 and bought one of the kits for doing my class, your yarn was spun, skeined, wound and tied onto labels right here at this mill.

ALMA THOMAS tags in a box, propping open a door for the mill tours

As if this wasn’t already a wonderful woolly adventure, going to the Mill Open Weekend last weekend was made extra doubly special because I was able to share it all with my friend Muriel.

Muriel on the beach, arms open wide, wearing her knitting, shoes in hand

You may know Muriel as one of the creative voices in my KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, as my collaborator since 2020 in our shared project – Yarnadelic Remixes, and as the designer of the sublime Knit Loud Mitts and Cowl set. We’ve shared journaling, ideas, Zoom calls, music box compositions, messages and many lovely parcels over the past few years, but there is nothing quite as fine as sharing time.

to the beach - a sign to Woolacombe beach

Thank you Muriel, and everyone at the Mill Open Weekend, for reminding me of the good things I have missed. For raucous laughter, shared meals, stories, yarns and creativity, friendship and fun,


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