Wednesday, 6 May 2015

An Interview with Julia Billings


I'd like to introduce you all to Julia Billings, our new tutor here at fluph. When the infamous Clare Devine introduced me to Julia i knew she would fit in at fluph perfectly...she also likes the two mutts

fluph - Julia, you are new face to the Scottish knitting scene, can you tell us a little bit about where you are from?
Julia Billings - I'm from Melbourne, in the south-eastern corner of Australia. My husband and I moved to Glasgow a couple of months ago and are finding it pretty similar in many ways: the architecture, the weather, the dry sense of humour... it's not so different! Melbourne is a lot bigger though so it's lovely to be able to get out of town more quickly...

f - so why Scotland?
JB - We were after a change- we'd both lived in various places in our late teens and twenties and were keen to do so again. I think that many Australians feel a connection to Scotland because so many of us have ancestral roots here... so it was in part a chance to connect a bit more with that. But we both love getting out into nature and you can't beat the Scottish landscape for beauty and drama! And, for me as a knitter and knitting teacher, it's a dream to have the chance to explore some of the Scottish knitting traditions and to learn from some amazing knitters. I'm especially excited to get back up to Shetland for Wool Week after visiting there a few years ago... A magic place!

f  - So a few times I have found myself describing what a certain Scottish word means to yourself (and the Devine) what's your favourite word so far?
JB - Weegie, mostly because it sounds so great (and is very similar to another word that makes me laugh!), bairn and hen. I like the sounds of words and it's great for that here!

 f  - Can you tell us a cool Ozzy phrase? possibly to do with knitting? (does that exist)
JB - Umm. I don't know of any knitting phrases and I never know what is Australian and what isn't! But I do like the Australian habit of shortening words and adding -o to them, like bottle-o for the bottle shop or off-licence! I think it adds a fun rhythm to the way we speak!

f - always find it really interesting what made people pick up the needles/hook so where did your love of yarnyness begin?
JB - I had a go at crochet in my early twenties but it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I learnt to knit. I was working in horticulture at the time and there were a lot of cold mornings in the nursery so I decided that I better knit myself a scarf! Around the same time, a friend asked me to go along to a spinning course with her and I got hooked on spinning- and then I had to knit my yarns up into samples for the course... and after that, it became a big part of my life pretty quickly. Horticulture can be an amazingly creative job but it's pretty hard work and my hands loved the softness of yarn after a long day in soil and water. I don't spin anymore but I still knit all the time.

f - You made quite a splash at Edinburgh yarn festival with your beautiful recycled tweed pouches and machine knitted cowls, What kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?
JB - Thanks, that's lovely of you! Do you mean knit-wise? I'm a pretty pragmatic knitter, in that I only make stuff that can be worn- and worn hard. I suppose garments, big, sturdy shawls and hats are my mainstays. I love colourwork and do a bit of that but mostly I like to make things that are interesting to knit but that are wearable for me. So small details, interesting construction and lovely textures are what I look for in designs.  
And, when I'm not knitting, I'm mostly outside hanging out with plants. 

f - now the imporant stuff, how do you take your tea/coffee?
JB - Just quietly, I don't drink much of either- terrible, isn't it?! But I love Rooibos, straight and strong. 

f - It was Love your yarn shop day on Saturday, what do you love about local yarn shops?

JB - Having the chance to learn from people who know more than I do about a yarn, a technique or a tradition. I've worked in yarn shops for years and the two-way exchange of knowledge is the best. You just don't get that in an online sale.

f - Favourite cake?
JB - Sturdy, spicy ginger cake. Or carrot cake with cream cheese icing. Or baked cheesecake...

f - A question close to my heart, dog or cat?
JB - Oh, don't make me choose! I think it depends on the time and place. When I was a teenager, it was dogs. Then I shifted to cats, mostly because of one very special cat. Right now, I live in a 4th-floor flat and am beginning to think a floppy rabbit might be the only option I have!

f - What draws you to a yarn?
JB - Texture and then colour. I'm drawn to yarns that have been very lightly processed, the kind that still smell of sheep and have a good bit of bounce in them! And I love yarn from coloured sheep and fibre with a bit of a halo, like alpaca and North Ronaldsay.

f - Tell me what your stash is like?
JB - At the moment, it's pretty small! I'm not a huge stashed but I did have to pass on a lot when we packed up the house and I only brought my absolute favourites with me. Stuff like Rowan Scottish Tweed (why did they discontinue that stuff?!), Isager Spinni, some handspun and a colourwork mitten kit from beautiful Finnish natural dyer Riihivilla. But I did buy a few yarns at Edinyarnfest though so it now includes some John Arbon, North Ronaldsay and Ripples Craft Hebridean/ Shetland!

Julia will be teaching a range of classes with us at fluph, so head on over to the workshops page and see if you fancy learning something new.

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