Gather Wool based in Somerset, UK have recently launched their first range of British Wool textiles for the home. I created four designs for them, all using the two natural colours of the breed without the need for dyed colour.
We collaborated on the first project of this newly established business, which was to use the wool from their own Pedigree Ryeland sheep to produce premium blankets with provenance.
To be able to process their wool cost effectively in bigger batches, they offered to purchase wool of the same breed and quality from other local farms. The wool was processed into yarn by an Artisan Spinning Mill in Cornwall, then handed to me to develop designs for blankets using extensive hand-woven sampling.
Two Yorkshire mills were commissioned to weave the fabric to my specifications in the quantity required for each design, then complete the transition from woven cloth to blankets by specialist ‘finishing’.
The Gather Wool blankets are available directly via their website and through their carefully chosen outlets.
As a member of Southwest England Fibreshed I have collaborated with the curation team at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester, on their Exhibition to show the circular journey of locally produced natural fibres – from regeneratively farmed sheep’s wool to woven cloth (in my case) via sustainable plant dyes. I’ve provided a weaving loom, a spinning wheel and woven samples to help illustrate the story.
I returned to West Dean College nr Chichester, last week to teach a 2 day course ‘Weaving on a Body-tensioned Loom’. The 8 students wove on two prepared warps- the first all white wool to master the basic techniques and the second Black Welsh Mountain and White Ryeland wools to start their experimentations with pattern and colour. For their third warp, students chose yarns and colours then wound their own warps and threaded their looms. The diverse outcomes from these beginner weavers was amazing – some wove in just one yarn and colour, others incorporated material they had brought with them.
Members of Stroudwater Textiles Trust will be exhibiting their work during Wool Week Stroud, to include my woven textiles. There will be an opportunity to ‘Meet the Maker’ on Wednesday 28th September from 2pm to 4pm.
Promotional images from Vanessa Arbuthnott on launching this addition to her collection in Spring 2019.
Introducing new Honeycomb Blankets, created in partnership with woven textile designer Rebecca Connolly.
Representing England, Scotland and Wales!
A TRADITIONAL WELSH TEXTILE WOVEN IN SCOTTISH SHETLAND WOOL
Our Honeycomb blankets are woven in the beautiful wool from the Shetland breed of sheep farmed on the Isle of Shetland. The yarn is processed, spun and dyed on Shetland too. This breed are Britain’s most northerly native sheep providing wool for the Shetland textile industry, whilst simultaneously supporting the rural farming community on these islands. Shetland wool is a world class natural fibre, with a long standing reputation for quality, strength and excellence.
From a traditional honeycomb weave pattern, Rebecca developed a bespoke design in Shetland wool for my blankets.
WOVEN IN BRISTOL WEAVING MILL, ENGLAND
The next part of this wool’s journey takes it to The Bristol Weaving Mill where it is woven into blankets especially for me. The blankets are a delightful grey blue, very close to our Pigeon colour, with an edge detail of a stripe in either Charcoal, Powder Blue or Saffron.
Ideal as a throw in sitting rooms and in bedrooms too…the honeycomb structure traps air to keep you particularly warm.
Cumbria Cushion collection. Hand-woven in Herdwick Wool, 2019
The curator at the Devon Guild has done a wonderful job in displaying my pieces within the gallery space, complimenting the work of the other designer makers around me.
For ‘Get Fresh’ I wanted to show these two contrasting collections to reflect the diversity of my designs. Most of my patterns can be woven large or small in scale and be transferable from a rug design to a light soft furnishing fabric.
Although aesthetically quite different, both are designed through extensive sampling on the loom, then woven by hand, in British Wool from breeds not used widely (due to colour or properties of the wool or because they are designated as rare). I avoid using petrochemical dyes by extracting colour from nature or just using ‘non-white’ wool in browns, shades of grey and black.
The subtle patterning is created using just two alternating tones of grey in both warp and weft; simply put, where a pale weft weaves over a dark warp, a horizontal pale line results and a pale weft weaving under a dark warp results in a vertical pale line.
The cushions bear the names of places in Cumbria; the hardy Herdwick breed of sheep are native to it’s fells. I stayed in Newton Rigg on an Agricultural student exchange on my first visit to the Lake District many years ago.
I started experimenting with extracting colour, primarily yellows and oranges, from Dahlias towards the end of their flowering season. With the first frost this locally sourced fresh raw material ended.
An alternative colour-way using dried natural dyestuffs was developed. An individual dyestuff rarely yielded the precise pinks of the Tibetan monks robes so I used two or more dye-baths to obtain better colour matching.
I experimented with natural dyestuffs that generally give reds/pinks/purples such as Madder Root, Brazilwood and Logwood, ‘modifying’ each dyebath to get what I wanted. By adjusting the acidity/alkalinity of the water, the maximum heat applied to extract the dye and other factors, I turned warm reds into cool reds, blue-purples to red-purples and these red-purples into cerise pink by grating chalk into a Brazilwood dyebath.
Colour was blended across the width of the warp, alternating one of cerise pink with smaller amounts of the other pink/purple tones. Both this warp and the yellow/orange warp was just 2m long; sufficient to weave just two of these unique rugs.
Loving the ceremonial head-wear of the Tibetan monks, I just had to incorporate a little of the Dahlia dyed yellow and orange into this pink/purple design.
JOY is the title of this new work, created specifically for Get Fresh 2019; an exhibition organised by The Devon Guild of Craftsmen showcasing the work of emerging craft practitioners.
Working with the wool from rare breed and commercially farmed British sheep, I have used dyes made from Dahlia’s and other plants and woven these joyful unique pieces by hand.
The colour reference for this work came from images in a book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; The Art of Living.
Colour was extracted from fresh Dahlia flowers and used to dye hand-spun wool from the White-faced Dartmoor sheep. As well as yellow, orange and red flowers, I experimented with white, purple and almost black petals, most yielding yellows and oranges with a surprising bright green from a cerise pink flower.
With a single flower only dyeing 10g of wool, I designed a warp of 320 threads to accommodate the the vast number of small skeins each in a unique tone of yellow or orange. Two Meditation rugs 20″x 28″ were woven by hand on my vintage wooden 4-shaft counterbalance floor loom, from this warp.
Yoga Meditation Rug. Hand-woven in naturally-dyed rare breed Wool 2019.
As red Dahlias did not yield a red dye, madder root and brazilwood were used to dye the Welsh Cross bred and Dorset wools used in the weft patterning.
The patterning was inspired by patterns in The Art of Living and the 6-bar patterns from the I-Ching Hexograms; 6 solid horizontal bars representing Earth Energy.
Yoga meditation rug, British Wool and natural dyes
The journey of the exhibits at this year’s Society of Designer Craftsmen show started in autumn last year when British Wool obtained two cones of yarn, spun by Gardiners Yarns of Huddersfield from British Herdwick in the natural grey tones of their fleece, for me to weave with at Decorex 2017 on their stand with CountryLife magazine.
The ‘demonstration’ warp remained on the loom for several months until I decided to use it up by experimenting further to see what designs I could create from using just the two Herdwick greys. The contrast was a little too subtle so I added Shetland wool in Charcoal, Quarry and Pearl to enhance the difference tones of the two Herdwick wools. The design elements play with the visual trick of appearing to change direction from a horizontal stripe to a vertical stripe.
Tempted to add colour, the reverse side of all the cushions have a subtle addition of a little colour.. turquoise, pheasant, claret, navy..
I decided this cloth would be perfect for my show pieces as it illustrates how my woven designs are frequently driven by the character of the raw materials. The wool ‘tells’ me what it wants to become…
These cushions are not destined for a lounge sofa, but a rural working kitchen and taken outside onto a garden bench or stone step.
For the first time the one-off pieces I have created to exhibit at the show will be available to buy, therefore they are constructed to a high standard with down/feather pads.