Craft snippets: Wool with Carmin Beck

Sally and Angela report back from Craft snippets at Upper Riccarton Library which featured guest crafter, Carmin Beck. The next Craft snippets event is on Wednesday 29 November with artist, Monique Tichborne.

We were delighted to have Carmin Beck from Sundune Fibres talk to us at our September Craft Snippets event.

Carmin hails from the United States and has a love for natural fibres, especially wool. It was here in New Zealand “the land of sheep” where she fell in love with our sheep and their wool. Her background of working in small industries and working in yarn stores helped her decide to start up a yarn company that highlights the quality of New Zealand wool and industry.

When she was a young 3-year-old, Carmin’s parents would leave paper and markers on the kitchen table so she could occupy herself with drawing, instead of waking up her parents. Eventually Carmin dabbled in knitting, crochet, weaving and embroidery. Other crafts that Carmin hopes to pick up in the future are jewellery-making, sewing, cross stitch and ceramics.
Knitting has been Carmin’s focus for the last 5 years, and she has knitted 35 jerseys over this period, most of which she has given away to friends and family. Carmin showed us the first jersey she ever made complete with all the flaws that we couldn’t see. When she first started to knit it, she was wanting to wear it straight away, however, it took her around 50 hours to make. Carmin believes in the journey of creating a piece. This first jersey that was slow and imperfect but holds the record of a moment in time. Something that most of us can certainly relate to.

Carmin hasn’t made her own patterns yet, but it is something she would like to do. One of her favourite pattern designers is Kirsten Drysdale who has many patterns on Ravelry, we have her Nordic Knitting Primer in our catalogue. 

Carmin shared with us a presentation about her company, Sundune Fibres, which showcased her knowledge and passion for wool. Some highlights include:

  • Sundune Fibres - Love Polwarth yarn from Otago (Polwarth fibres are as soft as merino and are good “workhorse” yarn). It’s processed in Oamaru - washed and carded. It's then spun in Ōtautahi. This keeps profits and jobs in New Zealand. They make double knit/8ply in 8 colours.
  • Why do we create? - For necessity, gifts, enjoyment, play. Share a handmade product with someone you love. Play is good for the brain.
  • Creative process - This ebbs and flows; collaborative inspiration can come from colours, patterns and textures. It can be cyclical - play with some ideas in different ways and mediums, the same ideas in different formats. Focus on process not product - you need to enjoy the journey.
  • Making - Handmade is slow and imperfect - no tech screens or fast pace. Cumulative skills; push boundaries, learn new techniques.
  • How about you? - What do you create? Where do you find inspiration? How to keep things fresh; Carmin taught her mum how to knit with 1 ball of wool. Her mum loved the process and knitted the ball 4 times and made a pussy hat for a women’s march in USA
  • History - Humans have used wool for 12,000 years; alpaca 6,000; cotton 7,000; linen 10,000; silk 5,500.
  • Sustainable -Plastic vs natural (not an oil derivative); finite vs renewable resource; shorter decomposition time; less impact on environment; match the right resource with the right environment.
  • Caveats - energy/resource intensive growing and processing; waste and discharge; chemical dye process; green washing- bamboo is bad; global shipping.
  • Sheep are grown for their wool and meat.
  • There are 200+ distinct breeds = various fibre types
  • Different breeds results in different microns-fibre diameter, staple length, crimp, lustre, next to skin, felting qualities; absorbent, flexible, durable, hydroscopic, annually renewable, low static and fire resistant.
  • Dyeing/Natural dyes. Dye before/after spinning, carded and combed.
  • Polwarth fibres are as soft as merino.

What future crafting plans does Carmin have?

When time permits, Carmin would like to knit granny squares to make a cardigan, so it looks like a quilt. We look forward to seeing that cardigan when it’s done. She also wants to perfect her weaving skills.

Carmin has been very generous with donating a supply of her wool to Christchurch City Libraries. Library staff and community members are planning to make a wall hanging representing Canterbury’s landscape for Upper Riccarton Library. The crochet craft group at Riccarton High School have been tasked with using the wool to make items for donation to a needy group.

Wendy, a programming specialist, was there to demonstrate the new knitting machine that is now available for use at Tūranga. Wendy has been making some hats with the wool donated from Carmin.

Thank you Carmin for sharing your journey with us. We certainly enjoyed your presentation, and we wish you all the very best with your endeavours.
Carmin’s website is:

Latest craft titles

Check out the crafting titles we had on display.

Craft Snippets September 2023

Books from our September gathering

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Upcoming craft events

Artist, Monique Tichborne will be our Craft Snippets guest for November.  

We look forward to seeing you in November.

Angela Nicholls and Sally Blake.