One of my favourite things about the knitting community on Instagram has been meeting people and making friends from all across the world. It’s a bit like being part of this really big knitting club. Sometimes, though, I’ve been able to meet people from much closer to home. Like, 5 minutes from home! Sisters Iris and Melissa are fellow Cantabrigian crafters who run their own online shop Hook & Light, selling naturally dyed yarns, notions, and patterns.
I remember coming across their Instagram page when I first found out that naturally dyed yarns exist and I couldn’t believe that you could get such a wide range of vivid shades from plants! It’s especially impressive to see what Iris and Melissa are able to achieve over a range of premium fibres and in their seasonal yarn clubs. You can also find kits and undyed fibres to produce your own naturally dyed yarns on their site, which sounds like a fun weekend activity to me!
I recently had the pleasure of actually sitting down with Iris in person (!) to chat about all things Knistagram. She also designs her own patterns (I was one of the test knitters for her beautiful Phase Cardigan pattern) and so we had a good chinwag about the creative process, the Cycling Bros of various Cambridge coffee shops (they’re very much a Thing), and the knitting community online. I was keen to find out more, so I asked Iris if I could include Hook & Light in my Meet the Maker series. Luckily, she said yes, so here we are! Keep reading to find out more about her approach to all things yarn.
How would you describe Hook & Light?
We are a sister duo who make and sell naturally dyed yarns along with project bags and lots of other knitting and crochet accessories. We grow or forage lots of our dye materials and only use non-superwash and natural yarn. In particular, we love making fun speckled and variegated colourway and floral eco-printed project bags, with each bag uniquely representing one of our foraging walks through Cambridge. Our mission is to share our love of nature and the amazing colours that can be produced from botanical dyes, so we also stock a range of kits to help you explore natural dyes at home. As well as Hook & Light we are also part of the organising team of a new online yarn festival focussed on sustainability and natural yarns called Botanica.
What prompted you to start your own shop?
I only got into fibre crafts a few years ago, but once I did my love affair spiralled out of control very rapidly. I’ve always loved nature and tried to be more environmentally conscious, so I avoided using synthetic fibres early on in my knitting and crochet journey. Then when I started to see all these gorgeous naturally dyed yarns on Instagram and had to give it a go myself. From that initial spark Hook & Light was born and I’m one of those people that just goes for it as soon as an idea pops into my head. I’ve not stopped dyeing since and now half of my allotment is taken up by dye plants!
Image credit: @hookandlight
Where do you get the inspiration for your colorways?
I love natural dyes but always found them to be on the serious side, and while I also strongly believe in sustainability and caring for the environment, I wanted to create colourways that people want to buy because they love them, not just for environmental reasons. For this reason a lot of our colourways are speckles, variegated and have a relaxed and whimsical feel. Each one is created by a symphonie of natural dye materials, and never planned out in too much detail, I just let nature take its course and I am almost always pleasantly surprised by the results.
What’s your favourite base yarn?
Do you have space for an essay? I LOVE wool and I love even more the fact that there are so many types of sheep that produce such an amazing array of fibres, each one perfect for a different use. For sweaters I like something with a bit more of an edge, not scratchy, but sturdy and long lasting, my current favourite is a BFL/Masham blend which has a lovely light grey natural tone. [TKPG interjection: I can confirm that this yarn is absolutely *dreamy*.] For finer tops and shawls you can’t beat our non-superwash Falkland Merino, it’s smooth, bouncy and floats off the needles.
What are your knitting essentials?
A good project bag and needle case. For me picking up a lovely handmade project bag completes the knitting experience, if you’ve got a gorgeous yarn and design on your needles, I think it deserves to be stored in something just as lovely. A needle case is also a must for me, for many years my needles lived in various places, now they all have a spot and opening that needle case fills me with the joy of future projects.
What’s your all-time favourite project?
My most worn items are my Falling Leaves and Love Note Sweaters, but the one I’m most proud of is the Advent Wrap because it represents the completion of such an epic project where I grew the dyes, dyed the yarn and designed the pattern.
Image credit: @hookandlight
Where’s your favourite place to sit and knit?
I love to knit with friends over a drink and a catch up. Currently that has been on zoom, but as soon as it warms up it’ll be outside enjoying the fantastic green spaces in Cambridge this summer. My all time favourite – although rare occurrence – is knitting on a punt, it just doesn’t get more chill than that.
What’s a product that every crafter should keep in their stash?
A couple of skeins of something chunky, for those days where all your projects go wrong and you just want to knit a hat in one day and remind yourself that you can do it!
Image credit: @hookandlight
What’s your top tip for new knitters?
Start simple, but also start with something you actually want to make, that will help with your motivation to finish the project. Also don’t be scared of trying something new.
How did you learn to knit?
My mum tried to teach me as a kid, but it didn’t stick. I first learnt to crochet a few years ago, mainly from books and blogs. However, I felt a bit stuck with the relative difficulty of creating wearable garments with crochet, so I took up knitting, again mainly from books and blogs, I find learning from a video close to impossible.
Quick fire: Knitting or crochet? Tea or coffee? Cotton or wool?
Knitting, coffee & wool
And that’s it for now! As ever, I really enjoyed learning more about Hook & Light. If you’re looking for a unique yarn for a special piece, I highly recommend checking out their range. Iris and Melissa really know their stuff when it comes to fibres so you can be sure you’re in good hands. Check out Iris’ page here, Melissa’s page here, and Hook & Light on Instagram here and the site itself here.
You can find other posts in my Meet the Maker series here!