September Pop-Up Shop: Cowgirlblues!

We are very excited to announce our 2020 Pop-Up Shop series! Each month, we will be featuring an indie yarn dyer or company, showcasing their yarn, and highlighting perfect patterns to go with them! We'll also share an interview with the owners and designers here on the blog. All photos courtesy of Cowgirlblues.

In the month of September, our Pop-Up Shop is Cowgirlblues!! Based in Cape Town, South Africa, owner Bridget Henderson got the bright idea to hand-dye the luxurious South African yarns right in her hometown, rather than buy yarn that had been exported once already to be dyed. And, lucky for us, it worked out! We have a beautiful array of merino and mohair yarns from Cowgirlblues this month!

We took a few minutes to talk with Bridget about what inspires her, from fiber to color, and how she got her start in the yarn business. She even made a video for us, to introduce her team! Read on for our interview, and check out the video below, too!

1.      What inspired you to start Cowgirlblues?

I was recovering from corporate career burn out and started crafting and playing with wool, knitting, which I'd learned as a small child and learning to crochet. I had this idea to knit a carpet, inspired by Dutch designer Christien Meinderstma, and couldn't find the wool so I learned to spin to make it myself.  That lead me to the incredible mohair and merino wool that we have in South Africa, and the realisation that most of it was imported in it's very raw state, processed internationally and then distributed all over the world as hand knitting yarns.  It seemed crazy that we didn't add more value to it ourselves and then export it.  So I decided to give it a try.  And through that process I stumbled into the world of colour, and how much I enjoyed playing with colour, and that people really seemed to like the colours I was developing.

2.      What is your favorite thing about your yarn?

Oooh, tricky question ... I think I love the fact that our yarns have a personality.  It's almost as if they have an opinion about what you try and do with them, and I have the sense that they talk back.  A project isn't just you making the yarn do what you want it to do, sometimes it resists and the project becomes a dialogue and a collaboration.  It may be in the colours you're trying to put together, or the needle size you're trying to work with, or the stitch.  I think our yarns are alive.

3.      How and where do you find inspiration for your colorways?
A lot of it comes from our local landscape, and the plants and flowers growing on and around Table Mountain here in Cape Town.  I walk a lot with my dog and am always taking pictures and stopping to look realy closely at plants.  You may think of a protea flower being pink ... but when you look really closely there are so many elements to the flower and its colouring, and nature has a way of putting colours together that is quite unique.  The rock here is Table Mountain sandstone and the layers of colour in it is are fascinating.  Driving up in to the Karoo is an incredible colour adventure.  Going down to the beach and playing along the coastline is very inspiring too.

4.      What has been the biggest challenge for the business?

I think that confidence has probably been our biggest challenge.  We have gorgeous yarns, but we live in a little country at the tip of Africa that is thousands and thousands of miles away from where the big hand knitting and crochet markets are in North America and Europe. And there are loads of people in those places who are also dyeing yarns.  It's been hard to believe that we have something unique and special to offer, that we need to find a way to share it with the rest of the world :)  and that there are ways of doing that.  Figuring out how to build a name for ourselves has also been very difficult.
So we are incredibly grateful to be doing this pop-up with you, participating in the Virtual KNitting Live shows with Vogue Knitting has been amazing.  And hopefully we'll get to bring out yarns to some live shows in person in the not too distant future.  Because we do have something special to offer.

5.      And, just for fun – if you could design a parade float that was fiber-themed, what would it look like?
As long as you aren't going to make me create it .... my parade float would be an animal, either a merino sheep or angora goat, and it would have a fluffy, shaggy fleece-like coat made from all the little yarn scraps that we collect in the studio.  Every time we dye a skein of yarn we have multiple skein ties which get trimmed off before we label and pack the yarn for shipping.  And we have little ends that get cut off to tidy them up.  And short little bits at the ends of balls.  We have bags and bags of them, sometimes they get used for stuffing.  And we've made some beautiful cushions by stitching these scraps onto fabric.  But I think it would be incredible to stitch them down for a fur/fleece/giant pompom type effect.
It's difficult to explain in words but I have a very clear mental picture!

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