Lotta and I started collaborating just over a year ago. One of those serendipitous moments when an email drops into your inbox …
“My name is Lotta and I live in the forest of southern Sweden, where I’m currently on the planning stage of opening up a small yarn shop.”
I checked out her website, there seemed to be a common aesthetic, I liked her jewellery and her knitwear designs really appealed. So I said “yeh sure … you can stock my Birlinn Yarn” and since then we have struck up quite an (email) friendship. We seem to share a love and appreciation of our natural surroundings, although our environments could not be more different. In the Hebrides, as far as the eye can see there is not a single tree while Lotta lives in the midst of a Swedish forest. However, for both of us spending time outdoors, seeing beauty in detail, earthy tones and darker shades has found us common ground.
Meet Lotta Löthgren of Elk Market Yarn – librarian, jeweller and knitwear designer …
”I often find the simplest questions are the hardest to answer – like ”What is it that you do?”, which surely is a normal enough question for someone you’ve just met, and one that has no single answer for me. Normally, I say that I run a small yarn shop, but that’s really just a small, and easily digestible, part of my work life. So let’s start right here, where I live, in the forest.
My name is Lotta, and I live with my family of humans and dogs in a big house in a forest located in the south eastern part of Sweden. I used to be a librarian (I think I still am – that doesn’t change because you happen to not work at a library), but at the beginning of 2020 I quit my job at the university library and started working for and by myself. The yarn shop is located in a small red wooden cottage, half a mile from my home on the forest edge, which used to be the home of an ageing generation of farmers. This was what we did in my part of the world in the old days. As the children grew up and took over the farm, the parents moved into a small cottage close by and had the right to a small amount of what the farm produced every year. Since the 50’s, my little cottage has been empty though, as we’ve built a welfare system and other options for the elderly. It’s been a motorcycle shop and later a ghost house for the local kids who tell of the legend of Ulla-Stina, the ghost who lives in an old chest on the loft. I haven’t met her yet but since the chest was placed there before the stairs were built and is too large to take down without picking it apart … I just might one of these days.
Apart from running the shop, I also plant dye yarn and create precious metal jewellery sold through my shop Elk Market Metal. I organise knitting classes (or will again, when the pandemic allows), write, photograph and design knitwear patterns. The dyeing takes places in a cleared out part of the garage in my home, the jewellery making is done in one of the two small rooms of the cottage, and the rest is… all over. I have written and photographed two long articles for Laine magazine and have a longish, season based monthly newsletter called ‘The New Moon Letters’.
All these things are hard to pin down in a short answer, together they create a fabric where my work and life are the warp and weft. It might look a little odd, irregular and uneven, but it’s rich and beautiful in its own way.
Much, if not everything, I do and create comes from the very place I live in. As someone who grew up in a city, with all the comfort and convenience that has to offer, I am falling deeper in love with my place every new season. I have lived in this small village for a little over 8 years now and still find new things to love – new things to pick up and turn into a piece of jewellery or a sweater design.
My dogs, two Welsh springer spaniels who are happy and excited about everything and everyone, make sure I get out for long walks in the surrounding forests and lakes each and every day, no matter the weather or season.
As I write this from my old desk, I look out over a sunlit field where the snow is melting. I know that in just a few weeks, I will be out foraging dye materials. Birch leaves at first, for a vivid greenish yellow, then all the things that others consider more or less weeds and that fill the ditches and roadsides – Tansy, St John’s Wort, Yarrow, Goldenrod. Understanding the process of plant dyeing has allowed my roots to grow even deeper into this place, and I hope that my love for the beautiful, but in no way unique or spectacular, landscape shines through my work, and that it in turn can help you discover or rediscover your own place. Grow some roots, love the ordinary, and feel just a little closer to nature.”