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Yarn trend inspired by Scotland’s beautiful natural world

Knitters are turning to artists who dye their own yarn - with inspiration from forests and lochs.

Colour bomb: Artists like Jillian Thom are capturing the natural world. <strong>Mothy and the Squid</strong>
Colour bomb: Artists like Jillian Thom are capturing the natural world. Mothy and the Squid

Nearly 20 years ago newspaper headlines were declaring knitting as the next big trend.

The craft was, as the Guardian suggested, “the biggest thing since sliced bootlegs”.

Within a few months, the word “addiction” was even being used.

Then came the arrival of pub knitting groups, knitting fairs, and in recent years, a form of political protest through yarn bombing.

It’s the yarn itself now too though which is also attracting creatives.

Jillian Thom, 41, from Kirkintilloch, takes inspiration from the natural environment to colour dye yarn for knitters.

In a country like Scotland, its hard not to be influenced by the misty blues of the lochs or amber green forests, and Jillian’s results are striking.

“I learned as a child but never really took knitting up again until I became a mother and needed something to do with my time while my kids were really young and sleeping on me,” says Jillian.

“I searched online for the yarn I wanted but couldn’t find anything, so I started dyeing yarn myself with food colouring.”

She began with rainbow colours and then I moved onto rainbow coloured creatures like fish or sea slugs.

“Sea slugs actually have quite a big fan base,” says Jillian. “They come in these wonderful rainbow colours.”

Jillian works mainly from photographs of landscapes and wildlife, catching the colours which leap out at her and using them in her dyes.

Once she posted a few online, others wanted to buy her yarn too. It has gently grown from there to a bustling online market named Mothy and the Squid for her nature inspired yarns.

Jillian has also noticed a growing increase in the numbers of young people she comes into contact with in the yarn realms.

“It very much seems to be getting bigger and bigger especially among younger people,” she says.

Recent research by the Craft Yarn Council reported a rise in younger people reaching out for the wool, with 18% of members now aged between 18 and 34.

In a study of 3,500 knitters, by The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression also said they felt happy after knitting – more than half took it even further and said they felt “very happy”.

Many yarn appreciators choose to gather at dedicated festivals too, something Jillian attends to reach more than just her online fanbase.

“A lot of people travel to shows like the Perth Yarn Festival which is amazing,” says Jillian.

“People from all over the UK and beyond were there the last time I went. People come along and geek out.”

“It’s really odd, people ask to take selfies with me,” she says slightly bashfully.

The trend for the hobby in Scotland is particularly noticeable on online platforms such as Instagram where you can find Indie yarn dyers such as Knit cosmic strings in Edinburgh, Rusty Ferret Yarn in Dundee, The Birlinn Yarn Company in the Hebrides and Virtual Yarns on the Isle of Lewis.

There is also a very popular podcast in Glasgow called the Tipsy Knits – a comfortable amalgamation of yarn and wine.

“There will always be some kind of crafting going on,” adds Jillian.

“People just like making stuff. There is always going to be creativity and colour.”

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