I am a spinner/knitter and I live on the Isle of Eigg, Scotland where I spin cobweb yarn which I then knit into unique fine shawls, stoles, wraps, scarves and fingerless gloves. The name An Nead means ‘the nest’ in Gaelic. It’s a topographic term used to describe a hollow in the ground which is what my plot looked like when I first saw it and I enjoyed the warm connotations to the term.
I grew up in South Africa and first saw examples of cobweb lace in a craft shop in Pitlochry when I was visiting the UK as a tourist in the mid ’70s. I trained as a horticulturist in South Africa and worked there until 1983 when I was accepted as a voluntary student at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Eventually, after living in Europe for a few years with my husband, we ended up on the Isle of Eigg where he was employed as the estate gardener. I went back to South Africa for 10 years in the mid-90’s but longed to return to Eigg, so eventually came back with my two dogs in 2009, and built my dream home, and began to build a business selling hand knitwear.
The business has changed from being very general in product to specialising in unique cobweb lace which is my real passion. I decided to try my hand at spinning in 2011 and a very kind friend on Eigg lent me an Ashford spinning wheel and showed my the basics of spinning and said I could keep it for a year to see if the spinning would work out for me before I needed to invest in my own. I quickly realised how much being able to spin my own yarn would improve both the quality of the product I could produce, making each project unique and the enjoyment of my work. When researching spinning wheels, I came across Leithen Spinning Wheels and decided that the Hebridean wheel, hand made by Rod Grant was the one I really wanted. It would give me the versatility to be able to spin thicker yarns if I wanted to as well as the very fine yarn that was my real focus without the need to buy a lace flyer and it would also be made in Scotland from wood local to Rod. So I needed to find a way to fund this and was lucky enough to get assistance from Hi-Arts (now Emergents) and Creative Scotland to buy it. Having that wheel has made all the difference I hoped for and more. I now can blend and spin different types of fleece and colours which means that every article is unique. The award from Hi-Arts also opened the door to me to be offered the chance to attend the Trends Workshops which not only gave me access to very valuable information but opened my eyes to the huge value and enjoyment to be gained from networking.
Now I can produce very fine cobweb yarn, unique to each project and enabling me to get colours for bespoke items as close as possible to the requirements of the person wanting something different and both delicate-looking and strong.
As environmental and ethical issues are a high priority at all stages of production, I am always on the lookout for ways of improving the green credentials while still creating luxury cobweb lace. Because there are lots of issues around the production of silk, I have decided to source my fleece from South Yeo Farm East and to replace the silk with kid mohair, which I get from New Forest Mohair. I will dye the fleeces using natural dyes and dye extracts, so anyone purchasing cobweb lace from me will be able to wear unique luxury with the knowledge that they have been produced in a way that supports good animal husbandry and minimal carbon footprint.
Here is a video created by Make Works which they have allowed me to add to my website.