While Mondays can typically be hard for most people, I look forward to them because each week, I get to introduce you to a new Maritime Maker. Isn’t that a great way to start a week? This Monday, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Cape Breton born Jenny Fennel.
Jenny’s shop, LilyLakeKnits is home to hand knit items such as scarves, cowls and hats, that are created from her own designs. A modern style, with elements borrowed from more traditional Celtic and Nordic designs, and an emphasis on quality materials some of which are sourced locally, means that these items will carry timeless appeal and be durable enough to last.
And now, we will let Jenny tell you a bit about herself:
My name is Jenny Fennell, I’m from Cape Breton and am currently calling the country side of East Hants my home.
I’ve always been a creator and when I first heard about Etsy, I was floored. So many talented and creative people all in one place. I had to be apart of it. In October of 2014, I opened shop and I can honestly say, it’s been the funnest, most rewarding and exciting thing I’ve ever done. I feel so much pride making something from absolute scratch into a functional and unique item.
Is Lily Lake a real place? If yes, paint us a picture of your surroundings.
It is! Lily Lake is located in Mira Mhór, Gaelic for Grand Mira. An amazing vast piece of land on the Island of Cape Breton. Lily Lake is home to a family of very active beavers and surrounded by 100 acres of privately owned forrest, Lily Lake is a sanctuary for wildlife of all sorts. With the sounds of owls, frogs and howls of coyotes in the distance and such rich family history, it s truly and amazing piece of land.
Your scarves look so cozy and warm. Is there a particular fibre that you tend to favour and if so, what are the qualities of it that most appeal to you?
I source my wool from a local, family owned sheep farm in rural Nova Scotia. The sheep at this farm are fed with locally sourced grains, no fertilizers are used and the sheep are given no growth hormones. Only soap and water is used at the mill where the wool is processed, no chemical or bleaches are used to treat the wool. There are no dyes in the wool I use from this farm, all colours are natural. Because the wool goes through very little processing, the wool still holds a lot of it’s natural lanolin. This makes the wool water and static resistant, also fire retardant. The wool is antimicrobial and because it is all natural wool, given the proper conditions is completely biodegradable.
I also carry a line of wool blends, for the wool sensitive folk in a variety of colours. This is a chunky, warm wool. Soft to touch and extremely warm.
Can you talk a bit about the value of a handmade item, over a massed produced one? Why is your product superior to a mass produced one?
People today are very much into getting their items for cheaper, not realizing that is a lose-lose for both parties. Usually when you buy a mass produced product you are buying from a large company that benefits from creating the items for as cheap as possible. This means the workers are most likely not getting a fair wage. And who wants cheap stuff? When you buy cheap things you end up throwing it out years, if not months later, because it’s just not holding up and the quality isn’t there. When you’re constantly buying and throwing away the environment suffers.
Also, if it’s not a machine making the item, to the employees making the product, it’s just another item off of their daily quota. There is no passion or connection between the two.
With handmade items, you can physically see the quality differences and products last. This is because the maker has given up their time, money and put in hard work to create this item for you. They are willing to put their name on this product and stand behind it.
When I think mass-produced I think cheap and impersonal. When I think handmade, I think of passion, community, hard-work and pride.
Do you have a handmade item that you most cherish?
I do! When traveling in Ireland, I have visited the Blarney Woolen Mills. This mill has been around since 1823 and is something spectacular. It’s where I fell in love with wool and saw the intricate beauty that can be created by such a simple, organic fibre. I treated myself to a beautiful handmade aran scarf, the time and work that had gone into this piece just blew me away and I have cherished it so much ever since.
I hate to say it, but winter will be approaching again in our part of the world. Apart from bundling up in gorgeous thick scarves and toques, what other coping methods do you employ for the long Maritime winters.
I might be the only person to say this but, I LOVE winter! I’ve been counting down the days leading up to the end of summer and I couldn’t be more happy. I love the feeling of needing to snuggle up in a cozy room to get warm with giant warm socks on, bundled up in a blanket, sipping tea and looking out at the white winter. I find the crisp winter days so quiet and peaceful, especially during a walk in the woods.
But for people who aren’t a huge fan of winter I would recommend having lots of blankets, candles and tea on hand. Cozy up with someone you love and enjoy the slowness of the winter, it’s so good for your soul.
What is your current day job? And if you were at the place in your life where you could choose to pitch it all in and start fresh, what would you choose to do?
I am part of the administrative team at a local contracting company. I absolutely love my job, but if I ran into a couple of sheep and goats that needed a mom I would be more than happy to go live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and raise them 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your time with us, Jenny.
To see more of Jenny’s work, please visit her at LilyLakeKnits on etsy. You can now also find some of her pieces at La Quaintrelle in North Sydney, NS.