Welcome Jules! Can you tell us about yourself?
I teach a variety of knitting classes at various crafty schools around Melbourne and work part-time at beautiful Sunspun, a long-established yarn shop in Canterbury. My background is in horticulture so I also find a lot of joy in dyeing with plants and recently began running workshops in natural dyeing. I'm also in the process of setting up a small online shop to sell my machine-knitted colourwork cowls! I live in Brunswick with my husband and two puss-cats.
What led you to take up knitting and natural dyeing and how did you learn?
I actually started knitting as a way to use up the yarn I was making in a spinning course I took at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild about ten years ago. I really loved the meditative process of spinning and it certainly taught me a lot about fibre and yarn... but spinning lost out to knitting, I'm afraid! The process of making each stitch and then casting off that very last one and finding that I hold something beautiful and usable in my hands is a joy I never get tired of.
My mum taught me the very basics of knitting and I then took myself off to Youtube and decoded a fair bit myself, but I've learnt most from the knitting community, both my real-life friends that I sit and knit with regularly and the wider community online. I've also been lucky enough to do some classes with some of the rockstars of the knitting world, something that continues to inspire and push me to keep learning and sharing what I know.
As a major plant nerd, dyeing with plants was a natural progression in my search for beautiful colours to work with! I am especially interested in working with local dyestuffs, things that I can find in my garden and surrounding landscapes, and joined a group that dye together using all kinds of different materials on a monthly basis, again at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild. I do quite a bit of my own dyeing too and am realising that the only way to learn is read as widely as possible and to experiment with loads of different plants!
What are your biggest inspirations?
There is so much going on in the world and so the more I talk with other craftspeople, the more inspired I am to try different things... At the same time, I can find myself a bit overwhelmed! So, I definitely value time with others but also time to do my own thing.
I am particularly inspired by hand-knit designers like Kate Davies, for the way she combines traditional knitting techniques, thoughtful details and great pattern-writing to create lovely, well-fitting garments, and Jared Flood, who has also created beautiful yarns in incredible colours and does a great job in supporting upcoming knit designers.
I find so much inspiration in traditional patterns and design, whether in knitting, carpets, tilework or elsewhere. I recently visited Iran and have returned dizzy with ideas for colourwork... What an amazing place!
Tell us a little about the things you make.
I'm pretty broad in the kinds of things I like to knit but I'm definitely pragmatic and garment-oriented- no knitted sushi for me! I learned to use a vintage hand-operated knitting machine a few years ago and it allows me to do all that endless stocking stitch quickly and therefore choose where I spend my hand-knitting time. I like simple shapes and interesting textures and love working with colour and pattern, both by hand and on the machine.
Are there any other crafts you like to do?
I find the process of sewing challenging but really enjoy the satisfaction of making some of my own (very simple!) clothes. I go away regularly with a group of women, most of whom are far more experienced sewers than me, and I learn so much from them, both in a practical sense and in discussing fabric and drape, garment construction and how to choose and wear clothes. It's something I hope to keep building my skills in...
What are you 'must have' tools?
Great needles are important, but, as a knitter, it's all about beautiful yarn. I believe in spending as much as I can afford on yarn because knitting is so much about texture and touch. I want to make things that feel lovely and wear really well and I also want to enjoy the experience of knitting. I think that what constitutes 'beautiful' is different for each person but, for me, it's yarn that is as close to its source as possible- I seek out yarns that are minimally processed and love naturally-dyed or sheep-coloured yarns!
Do you have any advice for those wanting to take up knitting or natural dyeing?
I think the most important thing is to seek out people who do what you're interested in doing... classes are invaluable, not only for learning particular skills but also as an opportunity to ask all those questions you've saved up. Online communities like Ravelry are such amazing resources for both information and connecting with others.
And most importantly, remember to take it easy on yourself. Learning a new skill requires patience and a bit of persistence but mostly just time... so it's completely normal if you're not perfect at it on your first attempt!
Jules will be teaching the following classes here at Handmaker's Factory in the coming weeks with the first being this Saturday. Read more about each class and book your spot by clicking on the links below.