Julie Colquitt discovered her fascination for unusual yarn while sourcing silks for her fibre art bags. She now buys hand-spun and hand-dyed recycled sari yarns directly from a women’s co-operatives in rural India, along with rare-breed yarns bought directly from the producers in northern Scotland. She sells the yarns through her shop Yarn Yarn and has her own line of own wearable art made from the yarns, ribbons and silks, which she produces under the label Crochet Mushroom from her studio on the River Tay in Fife. We spoke to Julie about the two lines of her work…
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Julie Colquitt and I own Crochet Mushroom and Yarn Yarn. I wanted to go to art college when I left school, but I wasn’t ‘encouraged’ so I did IT instead – a huge contrast. I got to textile design in the end when I discovered crocheting at the school gates while waiting for my first child to come out of school. Another school mum was obsessively crocheting granny squares for about seven months solidly. She ended up teaching me and I caught the bug immediately. It was easy to obtain a crochet bug I can tell you! I then went on to designing and making my own bags and accessories, which are unique and have a contemporary innovative design.
Crochet Mushroom wearable art bags
How did you get into selling yarn?
I was using sari silk yarn and sari silk ribbon in my work, along with Harris tweed aran and rare breed seaweed-eating sheep aran of North Ronaldsay – a beautiful soft luxurious undyed and unbleached yarn. The end result was a bit East meets West. The recycled sari yarns are handmade by women’s co-operatives using traditional hand spinning methods with a charka, drop spindle or wheel. I buy the yarn directly from the women. The Harris Tweed aran and seaweed-eating sheep aran (which I buy directly from the producers in Northern Scotland) are also spun using traditional techniques, so all in all these yarns are all truly special, massively different, but produced in traditional ways. Through this I then started importing and selling silk waste and yarns from my studio in Fife.
Can you tell us more about how and where they are made?
Sari silk yarn and sari silk ribbon are recycled from silk waste from silk discarded on the sari mill floors in India. The silk is taken and handspun, hand tied and then hand dyed by women’s co-operatives in rural India. The sari silk yarn comes in many colours, as does the sari silk ribbon. It’s truly remarkable, fair trade and eco-friendly. This silk waste would otherwise end up in landfill. These yarns are purely made from waste – it’s amazing. I also sell handspun banana yarn which is made from the banana plant. It mimics silk with its soft texture and so a lot of clothing and saris are made from it. I also sell organic nettle yarn and hemp yarns, as well as handwoven silk scarfs which are undyed for home dying projects.
How would you describe your own work?
My crochet bags a bit like wearable art. They’re not for the fainthearted as they are pretty distinct and colourful. They are very contemporary, involve lots of repetition and lots of yarn, and the end result is a coral effect edging creating a unique silhouette.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Inspiration comes from right outside my front door. I live near the banks of the River Tay in north-east Fife, and the skies and landscapes around me motivate me. There really is no part of the world like it. Like the yarns, it’s magical, inspirational and unique.
You sell your work all across the world. Where is the most exciting place you’ve sold to?
The most exciting places I have sold to are Mecca and the Burj Al Arab six-star hotel in Dubai. I think the yarn went to one of the hotel staff! It arrived there quicker than it usually does to the US, which I thought was quite comical. Other places included remote parts of Australia, Japan and Israel. I’ve built up a strong customer base all over the world over the years, and I am very grateful for that.
How would you spend your perfect day?
A perfect day is rising before my two children get up for school. They are eight and 11. I answer emails from the US and pack orders that have come in the middle of the night and then I make packed lunches. Once the kids are packed off to school I divide the day between crocheting, yarn, working on my websites and fulfilling orders. The day is never long enough. Before you know it the kids are charging through the door off the bus from school. I live on my own with them so it gets a bit hectic sometimes.