When buying from an artist or maker, you’re buying more than just an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of failures and experimentation. You’re buying days, weeks, and months of frustration and moments of joy. You aren’t just buying a thing. You’re buying a piece of a heart, a part of a soul, and a moment of someone’s life. Most importantly, you’re buying the maker more time to do something they’re passionate about. -Unknown.

One of my favourite aspects of running La Quaintrelle, hands down, is my ability to host, celebrate, and sell the work of local artisans in the shop. Some of the most meaningful moments along the way have been in conversation with these budding or seasoned artists, learning about their dreams, seeing the pride they have in their handiwork, and ultimately, feeling privileged to help them along the way. 

Buying local and handmade has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years; but, how often do we take the time to learn about the maker and the reason their items were made? Admittedly, probably not enough. This holiday season I thought it overdue to sit down with the artisans in our shop and bridge that gap: to share their stories with you, the customer.

In turn, alongside the purchase of a handmade item, you can give the gift of the item's story that makes it that much more one-of-a-kind and special.

Now, meet Jenny Fennell, the maker of Lily Lake Knits.

Who are you, and where are you from?

I'm Jenny Fennell. I'm originally from Cape Breton Island, and am currently calling Eastern Passage home.

When and why did you start Lily Lake Knits? Did you always have an interest and/or know you'd start it?

Though I’ve been creating custom knits for about a year now, Lily Lake Knits was first named this past summer, with an Etsy shop following at the beginning of November.

I have always been a creator and I am always looking for ways to express myself through art. I am an avid painter and photographer, but creating items through knitting and crocheting has really been a passion of mine.

When traveling in Ireland, my parents had taken me to The Blarney Woolen Mills and I think that that is when my love and fascination for wool and knits began. It’s been growing ever since.

Being able to make something from complete scratch into a functional and unique item really warms my heart. To share my items through my shop came very natural and I always knew I would eventually open an Etsy shop. To see it come together now is really amazing.

Where or from whom do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from anywhere from fashion on the street to scenery of rolling hills. I also take a lot of inspiration from traditional Celtic and Nordic knitting styles while trying to keep a modern touch.

What is your creative process? 

The process of creating my knits starts with a lot of trial and error to be honest. First, I will become inspired by something and set out a pattern. I will start to construct that item and take it apart and remake it until it is exactly how I want it to feel, look, and sit on a body. Sometimes when in the middle of creating a pattern I realize I want something completely different and have to start from scratch. But it’s all so fun and I love my crazy process of creating new items.

What materials do you use?

I work mostly with wool from a local family owned sheep farm just outside of Halifax. I chose to work with this wool because they have such a natural and organic process. The sheep are fed with locally sourced grains, no fertilizers are used, nor any growth hormones. These sheep are definitely living the clean life! At the mill where the wool is processed they use only soap and lots of water, no bleaches or chemicals to treat the wool. Because the wool is not overly processed, the wool still holds some of its natural lanolin in the fiber. This natural lanolin helps to provide great insulation and also makes the wool water-proof, static-resistant and fire-retardant. The wool is also antimicrobial and because it is all natural, given the proper conditions, this wool is completely biodegradable.

The two options of wool I use from this farm, natural beige and natural grey, have no dyes or chemicals. So you can see why I love using this wool and completely stand behind it.

The other yarn I chose to use for Lily Lake Knits products is a high quality yarn that is imported into the United States from Turkey. It is a blend of 80% wool and 20% acrylic. It is extremely bulky and soft. With the 20% of acrylic you still get the insulation qualities of the wool without the itch of pure wool, making this yarn cozy and comfy choice.

What does creating your products mean to you?

I put so much care into designing and creating my products it’s a really great feeling seeing it come together and to be able to give someone a gift that was made specifically for them. That means a lot to me. There is no better feeling than to give a handmade gift. You know what they say, knit your own blanket and it will warm you twice.

What's the story behind the name "Lily Lake"?

The Mira Mhór Cowl, Gaelic for Grand Mira, is named after the place where Lily Lake is located. A little over a year ago my boyfriend had purchased just under 100 acres of land in Grand Mira, across the way from where his father had lived and his father before. Lily Lake is also where a family of beavers have been calling home. With this family history it is truly an amazing piece of land. There is an abundance of woods and wildlife. With nothing but the sound of owls, frogs and the howls of coyotes off in the distance, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. For these reasons Lily Lake is very dear to my heart and why I chose to use this name to represent my products.

What's been your greatest challenge and success so far?

The greatest challenge so far has been finding the time! Between a full-time job and trying to open an Etsy shop, it has been a little bit of a struggle. There is never enough time in the day.

In my mind every sale I make is a great success and every one after is as exciting as my first sale, though having my items available in shop at La Quaintrelle has be an great accomplishment as well.

What are your goals for the future?

My goals for the future would be to spend my days raising sheep and goats on a farm in the middle of nowhere and knitting until my fingers fell off, but I would also be very happy just to be able to continue with my Etsy shop providing handmade knits for people to enjoy!

Shop the collection here.

Find Lily Lake Knits on Instagram at @lilylakeknits!

Written by Meghan Finney

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