We know you love the subtle variation and depth of colour hand dyed yarns give – and so do we! New at Loop are some gorgeous hand dyed beauties from Cowgirlblues. We now have their plump double knitting and the delicate lace weight for your knitting delight. Cowgirlblues has inspired our Spring window display and some new knits too!
We caught up with owner Bridget Henderson to find our more, plus make sure you read to the end of the post to find out how to enter our Cowgirlblues giveaway! This giveaway is now closed, but we’ll have lots more in the future!
Tell us how Cowgirlblues started and the story behind the name
I worked for many years as a corporate strategy consultant, in South Africa and in Europe, specialising in organisational change, did an MBA in one of the top European business schools, worked at big corporates, travelled extensively, and burnt out completely. So I took a time-out to find myself again, and started “playing” with craft.
My strategic consulting brain kept telling me that their had to be a business opportunity given the large pool of fantastic quality local natural resources (merino wool and mohair, South Africa is the worlds’ biggest mohair producer) to which very little value is added locally. Most of our fibres are exported and processed internationally then sold back if you want to buy knitting wool for example.
So I continued exploring and decided I was going to try and start a business.
The name came next. I’m a big fan of Tom Robbins, a quirky American author, who wrote a very quirky book called ‘Even Cowgirls Get the Blues’. It was an inspiring re-read, one of the themes is about a return to a stronger connection with nature, and it has some interesting feminist ideas too. I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager, so “the blues” is an important element of my personal story. And I saw this photograph of me, taken on a summer holiday on the Wild Coast, and it kind of all came together and “cowgirlblues” it was …
I started working with finished product … scarves, shawls, bags, etc and still do a lot of that. But at the first Wool Week in South Africa in Johannesburg in 2013 there were a lot of people asking for knitting and crochet yarns. They liked my colours and so I started experimenting with the yarns. In early 2014 Michelle from Scaapi approached me about export, and it’s grown from there.
The palate for your yarn is very distinctive, how did you develop your colour range? And what inspires you regarding choosing colour names?
The colour range is quite interesting, again, I allow it to develop very intuitively. I play with colour a lot, it’s extremely therapeutic – colours talk to moods, feelings, states, ambitions, dreams, hopes, and I try to capture those things in my colours. So the colours often emerge. I don’t like to waste colour at the end of a dyeing day, so will often put not-exhausted dye bath water together and interesting things happen. Recreating the happy accidents isn’t always easy, but it’s working so far.
Customers also can be very inspiring – they will ask for things I wouldn’t necessarily consider, and that leads to new thoughts and ideas about colour.
The names can be difficult – I try to find names that mean something to me, associations with the particular colours, often natural ones, often food and plants. Living in Cape Town at the foot of Table Mountain I spent a lot of time walking on the mountain. Our fynbos floral kingdom is quite spectacular and different seasons yield colour shades, tones and combinations that are very inspiring.
Tell us more about the yarn base you chose.
My yarn bases are all South African. I work with several local suppliers and to a degree am driven by what they have available as I’m still a very small customer so haven’t yet been able to develop my own blends, but hopefully that will come. And I believe in using as much local content as possible, only good quality yarns, and we have plenty of that available so I guess I’m very lucky.
How does living in South Africa inspire you?
I’m inspired both by living here and by opportunities to travel, which are as much about the travel as they are about giving perspective on SA from a distance.
We have an extraordinary access to wild open spaces here – on the Cape Peninsula I’m surrounded by ocean, mountains, fynbos, the desert is close. And we’re in a fairly precarious position at the end of a continent, quite buffeted by wild storms, strong winds, harsh sun. It’s a very real place to live. You can’t avoid the humbling reality that as humans our position on the earth is fairly tenuous.
I’m inspired by the wildness and intensity of life here and I think that reflects in my colours – they kind of reach out to you and you want to touch the yarns.
What’s on your needles at the moment?
I’m currently knitting several things … I always have a bunch of projects on the go.
This one is a crochet project, it will eventually be a blanket, made from Cowgirlblues Lace …
Thank you Bridget for taking the time to answer our questions.
Another reason we’ve fallen for this yarn – it’s superwash! Of course you won’t be machine washing your lace knits, but the reassurance that a project will survive a cool wash in the machine makes it ideal for baby knits!
We used three balls of the DK to make the 6-12 months size of the adorable Little Boy Blue cardigan. A simple slip stitch rib makes a charming detail on the yoke, perfect for a little boy or a little girl.
Just for display, we finished it off with an Acorn and Will brooch, though cute it is not the best idea for a little one! The pattern uses a little button tab to close the cardigan – check out our button blog post if you need some inspiration!
Also starring in our spring window is the prettiest spring shawl, Ishbel by Ysolda Teague. Loopette Fiona, who knit this sample, used a contrast colour to show off the fine lace and make a striking two colour shawl.
A two colour Ishbel takes one ball of each colour of the Cowgirlblues lace, with enough to make a second shawl with the colours reversed.
This competition is now closed! Fancy trying out this new yarn? Well you’re in luck as we are giving one lucky reader the chance to win two balls of the Cowgirlblues Lace, perfect for lacey summer shawls like our Ishbel sample above! To be entered into the competition, just leave a comment letting us know which shade of Cowgirlblues Lace is your favourite – and if you can’t chose just one, let us know which two you’d use for a bi-coloured knit!
This competition will close at midnight GMT on Wednesday 8th April. The winner will be selected at random and announced on next weeks blog post – Good Luck!
Happy Knitting and Happy Easter!
P.S. Remember we’re closed Easter Sunday – 5th April