We’ve been staying with my partner’s mother for a couple of weeks, and her conversation is peppered with wise (though sometimes not so much wise as wisecracks) little sayings. This morning, she spoke about silver linings and clouds, which made me think of Kirsty Clarke of Wharfedale Woolworks, who has provided our KAL for Knit A Square with the yarn for the block sample designed by Diana Troldahl of Otterwise Designs.
I first ‘met’ Kirsty’s work while visiting Headingly, Yorkshire’s Baa Ram Ewe yarn shop. Entranced with her colorways and extraordinary base yarns, I sat and pet the yarns in the shop’s baskets for ages trying to decide which to purchase. (Oh, for that unlimited yarn budget.) I eventually settled on some truly gorgeous, lustrous and silky banana fiber yarn in sea greens and blues, but swore that I’d be exploring more of Kirsty’s work later.
Like many stitchers, Kirsty was introduced to knitting by her grandmother at an early age, and then knit on and off throughout her teens and twenties. “In my late twenties and early thirties I had no time for anything other than juggling kids and work and then an undergraduate degree,” she explains, “so I gave up knitting and forgot about it.”
“Eventually a couple of years ago when I was suffering from depression I picked it back up again and haven’t been able to stop since. Socks, scarves, hats, bags and baby clothes but nothing too big as I have a repetitive strain injury in my wrists which flares up when I knit anything too heavy.”
Eventually, as many obsessed crafters do, she became frustrated with her yarn budget and options. “I saw some lovely yarns available in shops that I couldn’t afford to buy. I was very tempted by some yarns but the colours weren’t quite right or the colour I wanted was on a different weight yarn to the one I wanted.”
So Kirsty read up on dyes and dying on the Internet, and decided to give it a go. “I ordered some dyes and some natural yarn and started dyeing. I began with pure merino, then moved on to alpaca, cotton, silk, and banana fibre yarns.”
“I take inspiration from a wide range of sources around me. Usually it’s landscapes, plants, and foods that give me my ideas.”
As people got a look at Kirsty’s work, they remarked on the beautiful colorways and yarns, and asked to purchase them for their own crafts, and Wharfedale Woolworks was launched.
Ah yes. The fibromyalgia. We’re finally onto that silver lining.
“On the one hand, I ought to be thankful for the fibromyalgia,” Kirsty says, “as, if I hadn’t suffered so much with it, I would never have left my office job and set up the dyeing business.”
“My symptoms have very definitely lessened since I gave up my job and started dyeing, but I still have very bad days when I am in pain and exhausted and don’t move around all day. The worst thing is that I am never quite sure when the symptoms will flare up so I can’t plan effectively.”
“On the other hand, as anyone with fibromyalgia will tell you, it takes over your life to some extent and lessens your life choices,” Kirsty explains. “The most frustrating symptom for me is actually the ‘fibro fog‘. This causes confusion and forgetfulness and I have real problems typing sometimes because I get all the letters jumbled up. I’m currently studying for a MA (Religion and Public Life) and it has meant I’ve had to extend my studies by a year. If I try to read anything too complex I start to fall asleep!”
“I’m hoping that my business will become better known and that my yarns may be used by designers. I don’t want it to become so big that quality is compromised or that I don’t enjoy it any more, though. I would hate it to become the daily grind. At the moment it is both enjoyable and therapeutic.”
Kirsty’s goal for her fledgling company? “I want my yarns to make people happy, whether customers knit or crochet, are young or old, or are beginners, experienced or even designers.”
“I got a lovely message today from a lady who did not knit but had ordered yarn from me for someone else to knit up into a soaker for her child. She said she had loved the yarn so much it had persuaded her to take up knitting herself, so she has just ordered some more from me. That really made my day. I love my dyeing work and if I can pass on the joy it gives me to others than I consider that to be a job well done.”
“I just follow my heart – if something feels good I do it, and if it doesn’t, I don’t!”
Kirsty has generously donated a skein of her Wharfedale Woolworks Dales Aran weight in ‘Oceanic’ colourway for our KAL for Knit A Square – take a look at the squares that were inspired by this lovely yarn, especially for our KAL and KAS knitters and crocheters around the world by designer Diana Troldahl of Otterwise Design!