The Knitter


Ishrat Khawja’s love of hand-dyed yarns inspired her to start creating her own – and now her artisan colourways are inspiring knitters around the UK and beyond

- www.fruitfulfu­

EXPLORE THE yarn ranges available on the Fruitful Fusion website, and you’ll be amazed at the variety of gorgeous colourways available. From rich jewel tones to sophistica­ted speckles and delicate floral hues, there’s so much to admire.

Now in its third year, Ishrat Khawja’s hand-dyeing business is going from strength to strength, and her yarns have been showcased at online yarn events in 2021, as well as through collaborat­ions with designers including Mina Philipp (Knitting Expat).

Ishrat works with a wide range of fibre bases, including merino blends, Bluefaced Leicester, mohair-silk, and her delicious Suri Silk Cloud lace. Her yarn clubs always prove popular, as do the yarn kits Ishrat puts together for popular online patterns and knit-alongs, such as Stephen West’s new Shawlograp­hy MKAL.

When did you first try yarn dyeing?

“I was living in Algeria and had to get friends and family to bring over hand-dyed yarn for me from the UK. After looking into things a bit, I thought it would be something I’d like to try creating myself. I absolutely loved it! And the Mediterran­ean heat was perfect for yarn drying, too!”

Can you remember the first colourway you ever created?

“I remember getting carried away with layering colours, resulting in the first batches of mini skeins being various shades of brown! But one of my first proper colourways was ‘Alger La Blanche’, which literally translates to Algiers The White, a name given to the coastal capital city. The colourway consisted of undyed sections with blues and yellows. I feel I was being a bit ambitious in trying to create a souvenir colourway as my first, just before we left to come back to the UK. Who knows, this might be a colourway I could revisit.”

What fibres do you like to work with, and what dyeing processes do you use?

“I tend to dye merino and Bluefaced Leicester wool, and love experiment­ing with different blends. I’m currently enjoying the merino-bamboo-silk that has a more muted result and feels glorious to knit with! I usually use a combinatio­n of kettle dyeing and low-immersion dyeing where the steam does a lot of the colour setting.”

Do you have a favourite colourway from your current range?

“My favourites are usually the jewel-toned, variegated colourways like ‘City of Bridges’. I also love speckled pops of colour in the fabric that I create! There are some classic Fruitful Fusion colourways that I also love, like ‘Red Sea Sepia’ and ‘Sweet Red Apple’.”

What inspires your colourways?

“I am often inspired by natural landscapes, but I am also drawn to human-engineered structural beauties. So I do envisage a few Turner-inspired colourways! I enjoy taking inspiratio­n from flowers, and have created colourways based on lilies, tulips, hydrangeas and hyacinths.”

Can you tell us about your yarn clubs?

“At the moment, I’m running the Wanderlust mystery yarn club. It is a monthly club based on mood boards or single images from around the world. I release the inspiratio­n image so that people have an idea of the colour palette before ordering it, but the actual colourway remains a mystery.”

What would you say are the particular highlights and challenges involved in running an indie dyeing business?

“One of the biggest highlights is that I get to have fun and do something I am passionate about… and call it work! I also love interactin­g (geeking out about yarn) with yarn-crafters, and collaborat­ing with and bouncing ideas off of other dyers too!

“The main challenges of running the business are the less fun aspects and the fact that I tend to do it all myself. This would include all of the administra­tive work, photograph­y, social media content, updating and improving the website, events, financial accounts, to name a few.”

What has been your proudest achievemen­t?

“My proudest achievemen­t isn’t a particular award, article, event or following. I feel that what I’m most proud of is getting Fruitful Fusion off the ground and seeing each small goal or dream slowly become a reality. Looking back at it all encourages me to keep going and also to keep stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things!”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another dyer or member of the knitting community?

“‘We all have to start somewhere’. This was said to me by a dyer who I look up to, just as I was starting to dye yarn. Perfection isn’t the answer, especially when someone is starting out with something. But biting the bullet and getting started, and then having the ability to keep learning and improving as you go is extremely beneficial, in my opinion.”

Do you have any plans for 2021 and beyond that you can share with us?

“I’m really excited about vending at in-person yarn shows again. I’m also looking forward to launching a January mini-skein box inspired by precious stones. The January Jewel box will consist of a mini to unwrap for each day of the longest month of the year!”

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