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Please feel free to get in touch with us to make an order or if you have any questions about The Birlinn Yarn Company.

Sunhill, Isle of Berneray, North Uist
Outer Hebrides, Scotland, HS6 5BQ

+44 (0)1876 540283

Winner of the Design for Birlinn Yarn Knitting Pattern Competition


Winner of the Design for Birlinn Yarn Knitting Pattern Competition

Meg Rodger

This summer we launched a Design for Birlinn Yarn Company competition with the prize being a week in our beautiful Hebridean thatched cottage on the Isle of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides.

The idea was to throw the net out, to find a designer who had an interest in the story and aesthetic of Birlinn Yarn but could give us a wee contemporary twist.

We were seeking two knitting pattern designs (1 entry and 1 intermediate level) to be developed as knit sets as part of the new 4 Ply Birlinn Yarn product range, which will be available on-line in October.

The designs needed to encapsulate a sense of wilderness and the vintage explorer, to have a Scandinavian purity, natural palette and pared back aesthetic.

Well, we had such a lovely time looking through the beautiful designs submitted. It was so difficult to just choose one but as I went about my daily life checking sheep and walking the machair with my dog, there was a set of designs that just kept popping up in my mind. I saw them everywhere I went.

These were the lovely patterns of knitwear designer Emma Vining.

Meg: So Emma, tell me about your personal knitting design journey, who you are and what is important to you in the design process?

Emma: Thank you, Meg. I am absolutely delighted to be the winner of the Birlinn Yarn Company design competition and I am excited to be collaborating with you on designs for the new 4ply yarn range. I am an independent hand knit designer who is passionate about all aspects of hand knitting design. My designs are developed from inspiration found in many diverse locations, from the natural world to architecture and even armour. I am always on the look out for new inspirational sources wherever I go! My original hand knitting designs regularly feature in magazines such as The Knitter and Simply Knitting and I am a designer for the yarn company, Yarn Stories.

Autumn on the machair.

Autumn on the machair.

Meg: What appealed about Birlinn Yarn and the competition?

Emma: Your website perfectly captures the essence of the Birlinn Yarn Company. I very much enjoyed exploring the beautiful images and reading the descriptions of your yarn and the Isle of Berneray. I decided to enter your competition as I felt very inspired by all that I saw! The competition is a wonderful opportunity for me to discover more about your lovely yarns and to create some beautiful designs that will show off your yarns at their best. A visit to the Outer Hebrides is the perfect way to put all of this inspiration into context and I can’t wait to meet you in person.

Emma's Machair Wild Flowers design.

Emma's Machair Wild Flowers design.

Meg: Could you describe your patterns to us? Lets start with what I would refer to as your Machair Wildflower shawl pattern. Just to be clear on what is special about our machair, it is one of the rarest habitats in Europe, found only in the north and west of Britain and Ireland. In fact, almost half of the Scottish machair occurs in the Outer Hebrides, with the best found in Tiree, Barra and the Uists. The term refers to a raised beach area of grassland where due to the nature of the soil, cropping rotation and grazing, it produces an abundance of beautiful wild flowers. So when I go to the machair, I see your shawl everywhere amongst the flowers and lines of cropping.

Machair seed heads.

Machair seed heads.

Emma: What a great description of the machair, Meg! I’m delighted that my design reflects this unique environment so well. My wild flowers design uses lace eyelets and raised bobbles to reflect the different stages of flowers in the wild meadows. The raised bobble pattern represents the flowers as closed buds. As the sun warms the meadows, the flower petals open up and I have shown this with a lace eyelet pattern. The flower panels are interspaced by rows of textured eyelets representing the lines of cropping that you mentioned.

Autumn dusk on west side of Berneray.

Autumn dusk on west side of Berneray.

Meg: Your Waves pattern appealed to a more Scandinavian purity and pared back aesthetic. As a family we are very seafaring, including our sheep, we spend a lot of time on the water. There is something quiet yet strong about the repetitive patterning of the waves in your design, the constant rhythm of tides ebbing and flowing.

Emma's  Waves  design.

Emma's Waves design.

Emma: The importance of the sea in your life is clear from your website and I wanted to include a design that uses this as a key inspiration. My waves design is a textured stitch pattern with plenty of movement. Reflecting the ebb and flow of the tide and the frothing waves as they break along the shoreline, the zig zag stitch pattern moves across the knitting from edge to edge. The stitch pattern is created using only knit and purl stitches to make strong diagonal lines. The pattern is reversible, making it ideal for the wraps and scarves we have planned!

Waves breaking on the West-side of Berneray looking out to the Isle of Pabbay.

Waves breaking on the West-side of Berneray looking out to the Isle of Pabbay.

Meg: So all being well our new range of 4 Ply Birlinn Yarn will be delivered from the mill at the end of September and what will be the next stages of your pattern development?

Emma: I can’t wait to receive the new range of Birlinn 4ply yarns! My first step will be to get the yarn onto my needles so that I can make the all important test swatches. These swatches will allow me to make calculations on tension and yarn amounts. After that, the patterns will be finalised and then our most difficult decision will be which of the gorgeous shades of yarn to use for the first projects!

Meg: Great Emma, I am so delighted that we found each other through the design competition. Your designs are so sympathetic to the nature of Birlinn Yarn. I am really looking forward to working with you over the next few months until the launch of these knit sets … all being well in time for Christmas. Oh dear I said the Christmas word … is it that time already!!

Your can find out more about Emma Vining from the following links:

Ravelry page:

Emma’s blog:

Purlemma on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest