Jenn Monahan

Jenn Monahan is a natural dyer, knitter and producer of Norfolk Horn yarns.

Her business is fibreworkshop.  She produces plant dyed Norfolk Horn yarns and teaches natural dying. In her secret knitting life she makes vintage costume knitwear for the big and small screen.

What is it about your making skill that makes you enjoy it so much?

I am passionate about working with natural materials in a sustainable way.  Working with wool and local plants hits all the buttons for me.  Dyeing with plants is part chemistry, part art and part magic.  The colours are never exactly the same twice. The colour that come out of the dye plant are so influenced by climate, soil and water.  They vary every year.  You never quite know whats going to happen.  I enjoy the adventure.  There is always something to learn.  It teaches me to be humble!

What does it mean to you personally and the way you live your life?

I get a profound joy from producing a sustainable product from completely natural materials that grow in abundance locally to me. My craft is so bound up with how I live my life.  There are no regular office hours. I’m outdoors, growing the plants I need and dying the yarns and teaching during the summer.  Designing and making during the winter. It makes you very connected with the environment.

What has been your greatest making achievement?

I was fortunate to produce the knitwear for the recent Little Women film.  My proudest achievement was using the opportunity to do something to empower women and girls.  I published a knitting pattern for a piece that featured in the films publicity to raise funds for The Barefoot College Internationals Solar Mamas project. The project trains women from remote rural places to become solar engineers bringing light and power to their communities. The pattern has raised £9k.  Which is wonderful.

Beths Shawl on ravelry and

What is your favourite piece of equipment and why?

Wooden knitting needles.  I love the simplicity of knitting.  It’s just sticks and string.

What is your favourite making website or blog and why?

I don’t really have a favourite.  I do use Pinterest for inspiration and organising ideas.  I tend to get my inspiration from many different sources, being outside, museums, art galleries and books.

Why do you like being part of the Festival?

I spend a lot of time alone either in the workshop, outside in the garden or dyeing or knitting.  Participating in the festival is a complete contrast.  I get a real buzz from meeting so many creative, interesting people making connections, sharing ideas and skills. A chance to help others to get creative and spark an interest in learning a new craft.

What is your advice to a complete beginner who wants to have a go at your craft?

Just do it. Get a book from the library and have a go.  Don’t be afraid of doing it wrong – there is no wrong just learning through play!