From her studio in rural Dorset, Katie May creates natural hand-knitted garments for babes and mamas. Making wild botanical dyes from the fields, forests and hedgerows, Katie’s palette reflects the turning seasons.
Simple, minimal and earthen, her craft is rooted in the natural. With kindness, environmental consciousness and slow living at its core, Katie’s clothing brand Elliot and May celebrates a simpler, more grounded way of life.
When she returned to England after living in Germany, the countryside was frost-bitten and bare. ‘It was a test of patience waiting for the leaves to appear so I could start identifying plants,’ she says. ‘As soon as they appeared I would pick them one by one and take them home to identify in my mother’s old book of hedgerow plants.’
She soon began experimenting, using whatever plants were available to her. ‘It’s always so exciting when a storm brews,’ says Katie. ‘The next day fallen branches and scattered berries feel like nature’s offering to the dye pot. When a garden gate opens to us or I discover a particularly abundant plant, my soul fills with joy. Being so dependent on mother nature for my work seems the only way to honour her. It means I’m not stripping resources but working in harmony with her.’
Katie dyes her yarn (ethically sourced from Germany and the UK) in small seasonal capsule collections. She then creates samples to see what colours the plant yields before collecting more. ‘I love making colour sample pages – they hold so many secrets to processes,’ says Katie. ‘Dyeing on a small scale is magical as you can fit so much experimentation into one day. A single dye pot can gift a wealth of different colours.’
Creating botanical dyes and knitting with natural fibres not only kindled a deeper connection with nature for Katie, but it was an anchor during a time of upheaval and transition. ‘With the whirlwind of having a new baby, my sewing studio was taken over with laundry. But then I discovered knitting and it was like a path back to myself. Knitting is so portable and sociable; I took my needles and yarn everywhere with me.’
Wild dyeing lends itself to community. Katie’s journey into botany, opened up conversations with neighbours, strangers and wise, experienced dyers. She also found a supportive and welcoming community online, all eager to share their knowledge, enthusiasm, and mistakes.
‘It is grounding feeling yarn between your fingers and watching an item slowly develop before you. Each piece has a story woven into it before it’s passed onto its’ next life,’ says Katie.
All the materials Katie uses are organic and ethically sourced. Each garment has passed through the hands of joyful and conscious makers who have played their part in the garment’s story. ‘I want to create a collection that reflects my values. I hope that each piece is a testament to the wonder and wealth of colours that nature provides.’
To shop the collection, find Elliot and May on Instagram at @elliottandmay