I have been a knitter and yarn addict for almost as long as I can remember. Starting on a ‘Knitting Nancy’, then being taught the basics of knitting and purling by my mum, and then years later moving on to freestyling and designing my own knitting patterns.
The main reason for my journey from knitter to creating Flora Fibres is primarily that I’m vegan (as you have no doubt guessed!). Now before you start telling me all about how well cared for the sheep are whose wool you buy, please just let me say that that is a welfarist argument (ie it’s OK as they’re well looked after) whereas I take a more abolitionist view of wool (meaning I don’t think it’s right to use animals for our own gain, no matter how well cared for they are). Now I’m not here to tell you how ‘bad’ the wool industry is, but instead to create more options for those of us who want them, and to show everyone how many amazing plant-based yarns there are available! You may not be aware, but if you choose to avoid animal fibres, and plastic-derived fibres, it becomes much much harder to find the same range of lovely yarns other knitters take for granted.
This became incredibly apparent when I visited a yarn festival and found myself in a huge room with only 3 vendors selling yarn I could buy. 2 were selling linen yarns, and 1 was selling “fake cashmere” fibre for spinning. Now, as I mentioned, I also try to avoid plastic-derived fibres having read articles about their negative environmental impact, however I was curious and wanted to give spinning a go, having never tried it before. So I bought some and also got myself a drop spindle and that was that, I was hooked!
So the little thought that had been ticking away at the back of my mind became a little less of a dream, and more of a possibility: if I wanted there to be a range of high quality, hand spun, hand dyed yarns which were not made from animal fibres, then I should just make them myself! And so, after spinning my whole 100g of fibre (!) I went in search of a spinning wheel.
Being a stay at home mum to my two little boys means I couldn’t quite justify the expense of a brand new wheel for a venture which may not even work out, so instead my search took me to eBay. Which is where I found this gorgeous old wheel, and without even trying her out (because she is obviously a ‘she’) I had her shipped to me. (She’s called Doris by the way, after Doris Day!)
The lady I bought her from didn’t know much about her. She may be from New Zealand, but, as far as I can see, doesn’t have any manufacturers marks so it’s almost impossible to be sure.
Now, poor Doris was a little worse for wear when she arrived as she hadn’t been used for some time. She needed new hooks, a new brake line and a new drive band, as well as a jolly good clean. But look how gorgeous she is now! Sometimes I just like to stop and admire her. The colours of the wood and the pattern in the grain are really delightful.
At the same time as I was awaiting Doris’s arrival, I also researched where I could buy my cellulose fibre from, and was pleasantly surprised to (easily!) find quite a large selection. You can read more about the fibres I’ve tried so far in the ‘plant fibres’ section.
Using the wheel didn’t take me long to get to grips with, thankfully. My mum reckons it’s in my bones as my great-granny was a spinner and a knitter too, so she thinks it’s a skill that has bypassed her and come straight to me!
Finally I had to dye the yarns I had produced. I decided to go down the natural dye route as it just made sense to me: I was spinning plants, so I wanted to keep my finished product as natural as possible and also dye with plants. It is also better for me as a mum, as I can go out with my children to gather my dye plants in local parks, along the coastal path, and even in our own garden. They love getting involved, and are very keen to help any time I say we need to go on an expedition!
And thus Flora Fibres was born! The name of course being flora as in “and fauna”, and not the girls name, as everything I do is plant based.
Whilst these are vegan friendly products please don’t think these fabulous yarns are only suitable for vegans! All yarn crafters are welcome here, and I hope you find something you love the look of to entice you! The incredible range of plant based fibres available these days are sure to spark your imagination and creativity. And being 100% plant based, all our yarns are also perfect for anyone with a wool allergy, or those who are also looking to avoid the use of plastic-derived fibres.
Welcome to the natural world of plant powered crafting!