Welcome to the Willow Knits blog.

I'm Anne and I'll be using this blog to let you know what is happening with Willow Knits during the year.

I'll include which Farmers' Markets and shows I'm going to be at, what I'm working on and general news and events plus a little about myself.

If you want to buy one of the scarves or some of the yarn featured, just look in our etsy shop (to the right of the page) or contact me and I'll reserve it for you.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

A visit to the Warner Textile Archive

Just recently, I was fortunate to enjoy a visit to the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree, Essex. The archive is held in the original nineteenth century mill buildings, now restored and adapted for use as a museum and store. A representative selection of the archive is on display, along with the history of the site.

The visit started with a talk about the history of the company, the site and how the archive came to be. I had wondered how Essex and East Anglia had become silk textile centres and it was fascinating to learn that it was a result of companies based on the original Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields, East London needing more space for their growing businesses and moving out. Weaving had continued on the site until the 1970's and after that the company had continued trading, weaving off site, until 1990.

The archive came about and grew as the Warner company, who specialised in furnishing fabrics, documented and sampled their own fabrics, as well as acquiring archives of companies they took over. They encouraged their employees to source inspirational pieces of textile that they saw on travels that could be used to develop their products. These items are known in the archive as "documents" and with swatches of woven and printed fabrics plus notes going back nearly two hundred years, it is now second only to the Victoria and Albert museum as a collection. When the company closed, it was transferred around different purchasers, fortunately never being split up, and eventually being bought and brought home to Braintree in 2004 as a wonderful heritage resource for academic study.      

After the talk and a break for coffee and some cake, we moved into the archive itself. We were not allowed to look through the many racks of boxes at random, which was so tempting, as some of the fabrics are of course very fragile, but we were shown, over a couple of hours, a selection of the different textiles held in the huge collection and found out how they were made. It covered most periods, methods (woven, velvets, printing) and budgets - from fabric used on the royal yacht "Britannia" to war time "utility".

After the tour was over, which seemed to go incredibly quickly, there was the opportunity to look around the public gallery and purchase some very nice quality souvenirs featuring designs from the archive.

What came across to me was that the company had done everything right over their two hundred years, putting quality, innovation and design at the forefront, establishing royal connections as well as mass appeal and keeping ahead of technical developments, but changes in demand as well as competition from cheaper overseas manufacturers put too much pressure on them in the end.

However, we do have this wonderful archive as a resource for posterity and some of the designs are still manufactured under license.   

Usually the tour is only for groups, but as an individual I joined a tour through the "Invitation to View" organisation. Invitation to View site - click here 

Find our more about the archive: Warner Textile Archive

Thursday, 28 April 2016


I'm home now from my trip to Wonderwool Wales and time to catch up with my much neglected blog.

This was my fourth year as an exhibitor and I've learn a lot in that time, mainly about improving the presentation of my stand. It's always great to look round the other stands and see what other people are doing that could inspire me to try for myself. Over the years the show has got busier for me, so whatever I'm doing must be working. I do enjoy meeting the customers and I love chatting, as anyone who has been to my stand will know! This year I had conversations on subjects as diverse as the design process to the plot of the Walking Dead. Be warned though - if you start talking about Star Trek you may never get away!  

One area I'm trying to expand is the range of pattern support available, especially as my yarn is mainly worsted weight and there aren't a lot of commercial patterns for that weight in the UK. My bolero is still going well and I'm soon to add a waistcoat with side vents - I'm having some issues with the shoulder shaping, so it's taking a bit longer than I had hoped, but it shouldn't be too much longer now.    

On the crochet side, Valerie Bracegirdle (agrarianartisan on Ravelry) has used my yarn for some of her designs and she has let me have a scarf pattern to distribute. It has proved very poplar and I had it on display at Wonderwool. I used one of my packs of five x 20g skeins to make the sample and was very pleased - it's a quick and easy make, but the tassels just give it a little some thing extra. I sold out of the "blue to green" colorway I had used pretty quickly, but will be dyeing some more!

My next big show is Yarndale in September, which feels like a long way away, but isn't!

Monday, 5 October 2015


The highlight of the autumn so far has been my first time as an exhibitor at Yarndale. The weather was perfect and although the journey up took longer than I had expected I found the venue without any trouble and got checked in quickly and ready to set up. Unfortunately the cable ties I had bought to secure my gridwall panels to the pen bars were too short, but I improvised with the trusty bits of useful rope that we keep in the boot of the car and got everything lashed in place. After an early start the next morning, I was all ready to trade when the show opened. Here's the stand.

I was pleased to find that the space was a bit bigger than I had envisaged - usually it's the other way round - bur the floor looked a bit bare, so next year I'll take a rug to make it a bit more homely and welcoming. That being said, after the first hour or so I was busy all day and was stunned at the end of the day to find that I'd taken more than I'd expect for an average entire show!

I was delighted to meet up with Valerie Bracegirdle,  agrarian artisanwho has used my yarn in several of her designs and lent me her sample of a simple crochet scarf to promote my yarn and the accompanying pattern. Needless to say the packs of 20g mini skeins sold out almost immediately and the scarf attracted a lot of interest all over the weekend. As a result I'm going to add more packs and "loose" 20g skeins to my inventory, so look out for these in the shop!

Sunday was quieter, but still pretty busy, and overall I had a great show. I treated myself to some John Arbon "Knit by Numbers" to make a mitred squares "gradient" blanket,
but apart from that I didn't really get the opportunity to look round much at all.  I did see some of the ladies I know from Knitting and Crochet Guild, who were manning the Guild stand and providing a very popular skein winding service, plus several people I've "met" online stopped by to introduce themselves which I appreciated. It was nice to relax in front of "Downton Abbey" when I got back to my hotel after packing up and I'd love to do it all again next year.

Now I'm focusing on my next show, which is November's Festiwool in Hitchin. A new delivery of yarn is coming this week and I've made a list of colours to start dyeing. Plus I'm at St Alban's Farmers market next weekend.      

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


Since my last post, where I anticipated having a bit of a rest, I've actually been quite busy!

I had an exam for my Open University course (Maths and Stats degree) in June and now that's out of the way, I'm feeling slightly less stressed. I've only got three more courses to do, so the end's in sight now and I've got way too far ahead to give up, although when I'm up against assignment deadlines I do some times wonder why I started it in the first place! Only a passing thought though - I enjoy having my brain exercised and the course has been full of so much interesting stuff.

Last weekend I went to the Knitting and Crochet Guild convention in Sheffield, plus an open day at the Guild collection, which is based nearby in Holmfirth. We got to see some outstanding pieces of historic knitting and crochet from the collection and some highlights from their pattern archive.  I didn't take as many pictures as I should have done, but one piece that I found very inspiring was a fair isle style slipover in a lattice pattern. I took a picture of the pattern and think it would look great used on a cushion or some other decorative textile.
      The first step will be to get the pattern onto squared paper and then the fun bit of swatching and planning!

I'm at a local show on Sunday (12th) at Southridge RSPCA centre - I'll be putting up a gazebo for the first time, which should be fun! Then I'll be having a break in August, although the online shop will still be open, and back to busy in September.

Designs featuring my yarn are going to be in issues 69 and 70 of Inside Crochet magazine, so I'm looking forward to seeing that. There'll be a "10% discount code" on my ad for those issues - so do look out for it and grab a bargain.

Finally - I'll be at Yarndale at the end of September. I've made a list of all the colours I'd like to have ready by then and it's a lot, so August will be give over to dyeing!  

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Spring Shows

Since I last posted I've had two shows - Wonderwool Wales and Iknit Fandango and I've now got time to pause and reflect.

Wonderwool last year was a little quiet, for everyone and not just me, so it made me think about what I could do to enhance my display and make my stand more attractive. I sketched out some plans on the back of the proverbial envelope and the end result was that I invested in some gridwall panels so that the yarn is hanging up rather than just being stacked in baskets, devised some better labeling, made some samples and added some props to make the stand more "homely" like a rug and some chairs to make it more inviting as a space to step into. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera with me, so I couldn't add a picture here of the  finished effect, but I had my best level of sales yet at the show, so it must have been effective! I stayed at an absolutely delightful B&B too, so the whole weekend was a pleasure and I'm looking forward to next year already.

Just a few weeks later came Iknit Fandango in central London and after some intensive dyeing, I was ready for that! I did remember my camera this time, so here's a few pictures of the stand.

The venue was great - it had a glass roof and so much natural light, ideal for seeing the yarn and so many customers commented on it. It could have been a little busier from a sales point of view, but I loved being able to come in on the train and as it was fairly local to me, I met up with so many people I knew already from my Guild group, farmers markets and customers who had been to Unravel in February, so the weekend was as much social as business!

My next show isn't until Yarndale in September, so I can draw breath a bit now, although I do have some orders and my yarn club dyeing to do. It will be nice to do some knitting and crochet of my own too - I started a CAL on ravelry and have only done three motifs so far while other people have finished!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Into Spring

It's been a little while since my last post, so time for an update. I've been dyeing lots since I got back from Unravel and I've nearly finished the colours I'd listed as "I must take these..". Once they're done I can move on to the "It'd be nice to take.." list. I've planned a new display to revamp the stand after last year's rather disappointing sales, so it will be interesting to see what difference there is. I'm going to try and make it a bit more homely and welcoming and will have chairs with cushions and a nice rug so I hope people will want to step in and of course buy something while they're there!

On Sunday , I took a few hours off and visited a local urban farm, Forty Hall Farm, which was having a lambing open day. It was a bit cold, so they were mainly cuddled up keeping warm and not gambolling about, but it was a nice afternoon out and I enjoyed seeing the animals - here's a picture:

I've been thinking about this year's yarn club and will probably go for at least two gradients this time round as there seems to be a lot of interest. I haven't decided finally on the colours yet, but am leaning towards cerulean blue and amber-honey, but I can always change my mind right up until the announcement is due! Sign-ups will open perhaps a little earlier this year, to coincide with my next newsletter (see right) and I'm going to offer two skein sizes each month - 5 x 20g and 5x 50g.  

I'll be announcing it on facebook too - here's a link to my page if you'd like to follow my ramblings!Willow Knits on Facebook

Back to the dyepots!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A busy winter

Following on from my last post, it certainly has been onwards and upwards!

January got off to a great start with a very busy St Albans farmers market followed a couple of weeks later by a successful Waltham Abbey Wool show. It's the most local show to me (about 20 minutes' drive!) and it was good to meet several people I knew from Guild and from my general social life as well as customers old and new!

February has been busy too - I was offered a cancellation spot at the Unravel festival in Farnham and was absolutely delighted to be able to go. I had been turned down in my original application back in September, but must have been on the reserve list. It was my first time there and was my best show ever in terms of sales. The venue, organisation and general ambiance get a big thumbs up from me too - the tea trolley going round the stalls and the house cat deserve particular mentions! I did take a picture of my stand, but it is so out of focus that I can't put it up here - you'll just have to take my word for it that it looked good.

I've got about eight weeks dyeing time to get ready for Wonderwool Wales now and then I Knit Fandango is a couple of weeks after that, so no pressure then!

I've got a couple of new colours for spring - Lavender Garden and Seascape (pictured below) - which are going to be featured in Inside Crochet magazine's next issue (no 63) Inside Crochet, but the surprise hit of the season has been Petrol Green, which has sold fantastically well. Bottle green was my school uniform colour, so I've always felt a bit ambivalent towards it! I'm sold out at the moment,  but will put up a picture when I've got a new lot ready. Now to go and get some more yarn ready to dye!