Yarnie Spotlight: Eden Cottage Yarns
I have been a fan of Eden Cottage Yarns for a long time. Victoria's palette never fails to speak to me: gorgeous, soft, naturalistic shades and semisolids. Even the softest, palest colours still have depth and richness, like illustrations from a treasured old storybook. I feel as though I have a special connection to this yarn: VIctoria lives and creates her hand-dyed skeins in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside. It is a part of England that is very dear to my heart, and for everyone that has visited a Curious Handmade Country House Retreat (or followed along with the photos online) falls in love with it as well.
I used Eden Cottage Yarn for a Season I shawl: the beautiful Thesus Lace became the large sample for Asana. For Season II, I chose Eden Cottage Milburn 4 Ply as the yarn for our medium-sized Fairyhill shawl.
Living as close to nature as she does, it's easy to understand why Eden Cottage Yarn puts such a focus on sustainably sourced yarns. I love following Victoria on Instagram (In fact, that's where most of these photo are from) because she offers a lovely glimpse into a life filled with yarn, dogs, and the beautiful hills, fields, and flowers of Cumbria. In today's interview, she gives us an even closer look at what life is like as an indie dyer and how her work lights her up creatively.
Have you always felt called to a creative job? Did you do a lot of making as a child?
Funnily enough, yes I have! For as long as I can remember I have loved to create. When I was a child I would use cereal boxes to make multi-story carparks for my toy cars. Most birthdays and Christmases I would receive some type of craft based gift too. I guess it isn’t really surprising that I did art at GCSE and A-Level and then went on to do architecture at university.
Can you think of a moment when your passion for yarn really ignited?
That would have been whilst at university. I had some spare time and wanted to do something creative. On a whim I picked up knitting and my passion developed from there.
How did you learn to do what you do?
This will sound like such a cliche but I taught myself through experimentation and tutorials on the internet. Trial and error really does work wonders!
When did you decide that becoming a yarn professional was the path you wanted to take?
I just kind of fell into it really. I moved to a cottage in Cumbria and didn’t have a job lined up. By that time I had been knitting, spinning my own yarn and experimenting with dyeing for a while and so I decided to take a risk and see if I could make it into a business.
Are there particular inspirations you use when you’re choosing colours?
A lot of my colours are based on florals and my garden. My inspiration comes mostly from nature and the environment around me. I love photography and get quite snap happy when out walking in the countryside. Looking back through the pictures I get flashes of inspiration to try to recreate when dyeing.
What’s a “day in the life” for you as a yarn dyer?
A day in the life of a dyer is quite tough and physically demanding, whilst also being very repetitive at times. Last year I was working 18 hour days regularly just to keep up with sending out orders, responding to emails and the general day-to-day admin required when you run your own business. This is on top of single handedly dyeing all stock for updates and special orders.
Things have changed quite significantly since Luna came along and since taking on Sparkles. The day is now broken up with puppy wrangling and there is a lot less pressure on me to try and keep on top of everything.
Do you have favourite fibres or blends you love to work with most of all?
I don’t tend to use fibres that I don’t love so all the yarns on the website class as my favourites. Thinking about it I do use a lot of Blue-faced Leicester so I guess that would probably class as a favourite.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
The best part of my job is seeing ECY in the wild, all the wonderful finished objects people make using my yarn. It makes it all worthwhile seeing other peoples creations.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned since you began your business?
I was horrified by the amount of tax and overheads that a small business actually incurs. The amount of paperwork that is required as well is astounding. I never thought I would need an accountant/bookkeeper but it is such a weight off my shoulders having an expert to deal with tax returns and stuff like that.
What would you tell someone who’s thinking about making the leap into a creative business?
Be prepared for lots of hard work with very little reward in the first few years. It is very likely that you will not earn enough to pay yourself for a long time. But if you can, get a bookkeeper, it really saves a lot of pain!
Do you ever feel tempted to hoard your own yarn?
Oh totally! ALL the time!! I love my yarn and want to make aaaaalllllll the things. When I see a pattern, garment etc, I am always thinking about what Milburn colours I could use for it. I do have to remind myself sometimes that I have to sell it. There is also a little voice in my head saying that good quality samples will help to sell more yarn so it is a balancing act.
When you’re knitting, what do you like to make?
Mostly I make garments and shawls. I tend to feel the cold alot and so love knitwear which means I can always find an excuse to knit more. I wear shawls almost daily especially now that I am regularly dog walking so in my opinion you can never have too many!!
Besides yarn and knitting, do you have other creative pursuits?
Unfortunately I don’t get much time to do anything else but on the rare occasion that I have some time I like to draw/paint and sometimes do a bit of embroidery or potter around in the garden.
How do you balance work projects and your own creative experiments?
To be honest I manage to blur the lines between the two. For any patterns that catch my eye, I will tend to choose my own yarns to use for it so that I can use the finished article for promotional purposes on social media. I know I keep banging on about it but I am such a fan of Milburn especially with all the new colours that I just want to knit with it all the time. I hardly ever knit from my stash nowadays.
Hearing Victoria talk about the everyday reality of making her living with yarn is so inspiring. I'm honoured that she joined us again this year for The Shawl Society Season II, and I know her wonderful yarn will continue to inspire me as both a designer and a knitter. I'd like to give a big thanks to Victoria and Eden Cottage Yarns for being a part of this adventure with us and for taking time out of a busy dying schedule to answer my questions. You can follow Eden Cottage Yarns and fall in love with some skeins yourself at:
Eden Cottage Yarns Website