I make hand-woven rugs, seat pads and cat mats, along with felted decorations, jewellery and fibre art, using locally sourced wool. My woven products are made on a peg loom – an ancient weaving technique! I have recently started to explore natural dyeing, to bring natural splashes of colour to my work. My aim is to utilise British wool, creating sustainable textiles and crafts from a hugely undervalued locally grown fibre.
A lot of the wool I work with is from rare breed sheep, including North Ronaldsay and Manx Loaghtan, from small flocks close to my home town of Saddleworth. I’m really keen to support small-scale farmers who are passionate about preserving these native British breeds that are at risk of being lost.
My wooly journey began just after the first lock down, after visiting an off-grid community in Wales where I was taught how to weave on a peg loom. I loved that I was able to create a rug using such a simple and in-expensive method, it just took time. When I returned home I asked around locally if any farmers had wool I could buy. “Three bags full” came the answer, and this is when I started to learn more about just how undervalued wool is, and how much of it farmers are trying to get rid of. I got to work washing my first fleece which was a steep learning curve! It was a Jacob fleece with mixed colours, and I created a gorgeous, squishy rug from it.
Having been offered more wool than I could possibly wash and work with, I couldn’t bear to see it go to waste. I found a small scale mill in Yorkshire who could process the rare breed Manx Loaghtan wool for me to sell for knitters, crocheters, spinners and weavers to enjoy! This has enabled me to pay the farmers a fairer price for their wool, and I am now working with other keepers of rare breed sheep, getting their wool processed so that I have a small range of fully traceable, breed-specific wool in different shades available for crafters.
I have been very lucky to have the support of wonderful people who know much more about wool than I do, including Paul at Halifax Spinning Mill who has offered me extensive advice and expertise, and knitwear designer Jacinta Bowie who has kindly created several beautiful designs to showcase the wool. These have proven very popular amongst knitters and non-knitters alike, so I now have a local lady knitting up hats and scarves for me to offer for those who’d like to wear or gift the gorgeous finished products!
I have also begun to run Peg Loom Weaving Workshops, and now sell Peg Looms made in Yorkshire, and Peg Loom Kits, packed with everything you need to make your first seat pad or cat mat, including various natural shades of breed-specific British wool.
Quite a journey for something I knew nothing about a few years ago! I am now determined to play my part in promoting rare breed and British wool, the benefits of which seem never ending! I am part of the Northern England Fibreshed – a group committed to utilising and promoting the use of fibres grown and processed within the North. I am also a member of Heritage Crafts, who aim to showcase and protect heritage crafts for the future.
As we cruise along the canals of Northern England, I set up shop on the towpath to sell my creations when the footfall and weather allows. The link between the canals and the wool trade of the industrial revolution is evident along the Huddersfield and Rochdale canals, with old mills and even older weavers cottages found dotted against the green hills. I love this link to our heritage, and I hope to be part, in a small way, of a revived and more sustainable British wool industry for the future.
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