Fiona Henderson with her innovative new approach to yarns.
Spinning a good yarn- Fiona Henderson's clicking needles are making waves in the <br/><br/>knitting industry, with her innovative new approach to yarns. Ian Clarke went to hear her story.
Spinning a good yarn
Fiona Henderson’s clicking needles are making waves in the knitting industry, with her innovative new approach to yarns. Ian Clarke went to hear her story.
pictures: ian burt
Take 100pc lambswool. Add the creative skills of a passionate professional, with nearly a quarter of a century of experience, who wants to keep learning and experimenting.Mix in some inspiration from a picturesque corner of the Fens’ countryside, and you have the recipe for a successful enterprise which is making big waves in the knitting world.High Fibre is the brainchild of 46-year-old Fiona, who is combining her twin loves – the technical aspects of machine knitting with the traditional craft of hand knitting.She worked in the design industry for many years and now, from her studio at Welney – on the border between Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, has launched a new line of unique yarns.She machine knits tubes of lambswool spun in Scotland, then felts the resulting material into a soft and chunky yarn which can be used to create everything from scarves to cushions, jewellery to Christmas cards. “We can’t keep our hands off Fiona’s new High Fibre range” and “It is quite unlike anything you will have seen before” are just two of the comments from industry journals, excited by the textile innovation she is displaying.
She shows and sells at yarn exhibitions around the country, while also designing and making her own range of products for boutiques and galleries. Fiona focused on developing textured and coloured effects which are knitted in, rather than dyed or applied. This has led to the creation of her unique yarn collection.Fiona says: “I am from a creative family. My mum and grandmother made and knitted things, and I have taken it in my own direction. You are always learning something new.”Fiona graduated from Middlesex Polytechnic in 1985. Since then she has had a varied career, ranging from consultancy work for fabric agencies and individual studios, developing products for companies as far afield as America and Japan, to teaching fashion and textile design to students.
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Then came the change. Fiona explains the catalyst for the new venture. “I had a real desire to try something new and a change from the commercial projects I was used to working on. “I have always had a ‘hands-on’ approach, so decided to go back to basics and started to research the qualities and construction of yarn itself.”She has not looked back since she and her husband Cliff, who designs fire protection systems, re-located to Welney from Watford. They had plenty of happy memories of the area – his family used to camp at Wells and his parents now live at Corpusty.Fiona explains: “Our move to the inspiring Fenland countryside two and a half years ago, and the setting up of a more spacious studio, has allowed the idea of yarn making to develop further and become a reality.”
Fiona has an infectious enthusiasm about her craft and enjoys trying out new ideas. “My love of playing with colour influenced the choice of colour palette. They were chosen so that they could be used on their own or mixed with each other to create exciting new shades. I am interested in developing other knitted yarn ranges concentrating on natural fibres such as silk, mohair, alpaca and cashmere. The latest addition this year is a collection of denim yarns that, when washed, will gradually fade over time, like jeans.”
Fiona – who will be exhibiting in the contemporary fair at Dragon Hall in Norwich on December 12 and 13 – adds: “A lot of designers are not as hands-on as I am, but I do want to stay hands-on. The computer can help, but even when I am doing garments, I find it so much quicker to do it on a piece of paper rather than the computer!”Fiona’s studio has two domestic knitting machines plus two industrial machines and she is determined not to import her raw materials.“I use really good quality lambswool. It could be cheaper from Hong Kong but I want it from the UK.“Originally the yarn was created with just hand knitting in mind, but I find it such an enjoyable experience to knit on such a large scale.“The venture has taken over most of my house! This is a departure and is an idea I had ages ago, but it was not until I came here that I moved on to it. Moving to Welney has given me the space and freedom to develop the business organically.”
High Fibre is based at Highfields House, Wisbech Road, Welney, PE14 9QA, 01354 610685, www.highfibredesign.co.ukFiona is a member of the Produced in Norfolk group and features in its glossy colour brochure, see www.producedinnorfolk.com