Interwoven

Re-thread our hopes for the living world:
we are Interwoven

 

During the fourteen months of Walk for Earth, fifteen textile craftspeople including loom weavers, spinners and natural-dyers have been making their own journey towards creating the Interwoven piece. 

From West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire, London, Glasgow, Bristol, Herefordshire and Stirlingshire, each one has delved into their own relationship with the living world in their place, and woven an expression of their care for the Earth into a section (sometimes more than one), to contribute to the final piece. The weavers have worked largely alone, often not knowing exactly what the other participants were creating – but each bringing their own voice and the voice of the land where they live, in support of ecocide law.

On these pages is a preview of the Interwoven piece, so you can ‘meet’ each weaver and understand a little more about their contribution. 

The final piece these weavers are creating will be exhibited in the UK before being presented as a gift (from one island nation to another) to Vanuatu’s Ambassador to Europe, via a live link to all those who helped make it. Vanuatu is the world’s most climate vulnerable island. This gift will recognise their leadership as the first nation in the world to propose serious consideration of ecocide law on the international stage in December 2019. In Vanuatu, when you want to honour someone, you give them cloth.

Claire Hunter - Taffled Threads, Alloa, Central Scotland

 www.taffledthreads.co.uk

Facebook, Instagram: @TaffledThreads

I’m based in central Scotland, near the Ochil hills. I design using traditional techniques.  I was inspired in my design for ‘Interwoven’ by the delicate leaf skeletons that we find on our walks in the wood opposite our home. I made two handwoven samples: in the first, the warp and weft yarns were both 4 ply undyed worsted spun from Shetland fleece from the flock at Lammermuir Wool. In the second section, the warp is again from Shetland fleece, but the weft is 1/12 YSW spun from Bluefaced Leicester worsted, from the Yorkshire Dales.

Wikipedia: The name ‘worsted’ derives from the Old English Wurðestede, “enclosure place”, a village in the county of Norfolk. That village, together with North Walsham and Aylsham, formed a manufacturing centre for yarn and cloth in the 12th century, when pasture enclosure and liming rendered the East Anglian soil too rich for the older agrarian sheep breeds. In the same period, many weavers from the County of Flanders moved to Norfolk.”

I weave on a 16 shaft 130cm wide dobby loom and a 24 shaft sample loom, which allow me to produce creative and complex designs. I am particularly drawn to surface patterns, textures and colours, which surround us in our everyday lives.  The heritage of this beautiful country with its special places, history and traditions also inspires me and I love to blend contemporary elements with classic patterns.

Sally Hampson

Instagram: sallyhampsonweave

https://www.sallyhampson.com/

I’m based in London, but my journey with textiles has taken me on many travels through landscapes, which I like to transform into woven pieces. For the warp and weft of my section for Interwoven, I used a mixture of wool yarns gathered from many weaving projects over the years, but mostly from a collection of Pennine yarns spun using the colours of pure breeds. I threaded the loom in a Herringbone draft – I wanted the weaving to reflect the land and the subtle marks left behind on it by tilling and harvesting.  I initially wove several pieces to see which would be best. I thought about Zoe and Falco while weaving; the repetition of walking is like the repetition of weaving, setting off and returning…

I lead an eclectic life with textiles: I’ve gone from setting up a design studio in Paris, to working with interior designers and architects in London, to collaborations on theatre projects for sets and costume in Cairo. I’ve been a visiting lecturer at Central St Martins, Goldsmiths College of Art and the Royal College of Art, where I graduated with an MA in weaving, and I now run workshops at The Stroud School of Weaving. I’ve worked on projects with Bedouin women in Egypt, artisans in Ethiopia and makers in Kenya, and have explored The Outer Hebrides and The Shetland Isles. I work in collaboration with bespoke mills in Shetland and Yorkshire, using wool from indigenous sheep, creating woven pieces that represent the land, materials and making of the British Isles.

Laura Premack

I’m a self-taught weaver living in Lancaster, in the northwest corner of Lancashire, very close to the Cumbria and Yorkshire borders. I work mainly on a Schacht rigid heddle loom and a tiny Mirrix tapestry loom. I like combining free-weaving, hand manipulation, and colour-and-weave techniques, and I work almost exclusively with local, heritage-breed British wool from small producers along with some linen.

I used three types of wool in my work for Interwoven. Two are Laura’s Loom’s Hebridean singles, a blend of fleece from Hebridean, Black Welsh Mountain and Shetland sheep from Cumbria, Scotland and Lancashire which was spun in Yorkshire, so this wool is quite local for me.

Even more local is the handspun yarn I’ve used, which is from a pile of fleece a Lancaster farmer brought to the Lancaster spinner I bought it from. She doesn’t know what kind of sheep it’s from, but I love the way she’s spun it up. The fleece hasn’t been blended, so you can really see the colour of each of the sheep it came from and imagine how they looked wandering about the green hillsides above Morecambe Bay. It’s a very special yarn I’ve been saving for the right occasion, and this is it :-).

I designed the piece to showcase the handspun yarn. The technique I used is called Danish medallions, and one of the things I love about using it is that it requires you to handle the wool with your fingers. It makes the experience of weaving much more tactile and intimate than just using a shuttle; you are repeatedly and rhythmically touching and pulling, cutting and measuring, really coming to know your wool, and thinking about the animals it came from, the grass that fed them, rain and sun that created that grass, etc as you work with it. I sit in my living room and look out the winter as I weave I feel intensely connected to the cycles of this landscape as I work.

As for my section itself, I am very interested in the subtleties of undyed wool and how the colours shift in relation to each other, and most of my current work is about experimenting with that. With this section you can see how the base weave (the interior of the circles) looks very gray and white in some places, and then looks more beige, brown or gold in others, all depending on the particular colour of the handspun wool that surrounds it.

I think if more people came to appreciate wool in its natural state, we would have greater biodiversity in sheepfarming, less use of chemicals used in dying (even in “natural” dying, which requires chemical fixing), and more localised economic activity as people felt less need to buy homogenised merino from Australia to serve as base yarns for dying and turned to local farmers with heritage breeds instead.

I recently finished a six-month Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England. I’m also a writer and historian, and once I complete my current book project (about plants and empire), I plan to write something about wool, weaving, textiles, Luddites, landscape, and productivity culture.

Jane Stockley

I live in Upton-upon-Severn, a town which has always experienced flooding from time to time. Most of my weaving practice takes inspiration from the Worcestershire countryside, most notably the Malvern Hills and riverside walks.

Our home is high on the banks of the River Severn, so although not in danger of our home being flooded, we look across to a large flood plain, which is also a site of scientific interest due to its bird life and natural flora. Over recent years we have noticed increasing frequency of flooding, but local flood defences have safeguarded the town of Upton. It seems logical to associate the increased flooding with the wider effects of climate change which are all too clear in many areas of the world.

I love to look down from the hills onto the fields below, and this has often led me to weave pieces with mixed twills and patterns or colours to reflect the diversity of the landscape. We are fortunate that locally we have quite diverse agricultural practices (rather than monocultures), adding to the richness of local habitats.

Ali Sharman

Sedburgh, Cumbria

Laura Rosenzweig - Laura’s Loom

laurasloom.co.uk

As I turn off the main road and head down into the valley I know that I have arrived home, to my place in the world. So many people are displaced, whether by war or famine, floods or drought, poverty or lack of opportunity. Millions of people are forced to leave as their homes are destroyed, their connections broken. When we are ripped from everything and everyone that has made that place our home, we are torn from stability and our sense of belonging and identity disappears. Now we and our children face a future of increasing loss and instability due to climate change. Unless we actively choose to protect our home – in this case I speak of the entire planet – unless we find a way to balance our human needs with those of our Earth, we will all be homeless. 

In this little piece of fabric for ‘Interwoven’ I have attempted to weave something of my thoughts and hopes for the future. I have used the idea of perspective to represent looking ahead, towards the horizon, as we think about and search for new solutions to entrenched problems. The undulating pattern represents the movement of water. Water connects us, but, with its waves, eddies and whirlpools, it also creates a sense of uncertainty for those who live on land. How we deal with these uncertainties will have a ripple effect around the world.

The act of weaving cloth, with its many intersecting threads, mirrors the complexity of life on earth and the complexity of dialogue. There are so many strands which must be brought together into a coherent whole. Weaving shows us that it can be done, with patience and perseverance. As a species we have many conflicting needs and desires but ultimately we all want one thing – a happy and healthy place to call home.

I have woven my section with yarns created from the fleece of sheep which graze in the fields around my home in Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales. They are natural, nothing added but soap and water.  The yarns are spun from an under-utilised and highly undervalued resource which is abundant and can be grown on every continent on this earth. And yet wool – nature’s miracle fibre – is so often discarded, replaced with man-made alternatives which have polluted every continent, every mountain, every lake, the air we breathe and the seas which connect us, even our very bodies and those of every animal on this earth. The skills required to turn wool into cloth are not lost to most. We reject these creative skills, paying poorly for knowledge and abilities which were once revered, and essential to survival.

For the past 15 yrs I’ve worked almost exclusively with wool sourced from farms close to my home in the Yorkshire Dales. I collect fleeces directly from farmers and it’s spun into yarn at a family run mill in West Yorkshire. I love to combine different types of fleece to create yarns with their own character. I work with a small weaving mill in the Scottish Borders to produce larger pieces such as blankets, with all of the sampling and design work carried out on my wooden handlooms.

I started out nearly 30 years ago by taking lessons on a Saturday morning from a handweaver in Massachusetts, USA.  About ten years later I enrolled in a two-year distance-learning HNC at Bradford College in Handwoven Design to learn about design. It opened up my creativity and gave me the confidence to teach a few other people how to weave. Now I’m doing daily battle with a pedal driven Griffith rapier handloom — the modern ‘Hattersley’ used by tweed weavers in the Outer Hebrides to produce wider tweed.   I’m trying to weave blankets on it, inspired by Skye Weavers. I can tell you it’s a lot more difficult than it looks on their videos!

For many years weaving for me was just an occasional hobby fitted around work but when I moved back to the UK in 2002 I turned it into a ‘vocation’ fitted around raising children.  I wanted to do more with British wool, to keep processing entirely within the UK (as close as possible to Sedbergh), and to give back to my local community through local sales, charitable giving and buying the fleece from local farms at a better price than they would get from the wool board.

I have learned so much from everyone I have interacted with in my weaving journey: the farmers, wool scourers, spinners, dyers, weavers, cloth finishers, and my students.

Katherine Cowtan MA (RCA)

Artist and Weaver, Fintry, Glasgow

www.katherinecowtan.co.uk

Facebook: Katherine Cowtan Artist

Instagram: katherinecowtan_artist

I live and work in Fintry, Stirlingshire in central Scotland, and take inspiration from my local landscapes. My designs for ‘Interwoven’ are intended to represent the current climate crisis. Due to global warming, scientists are predicting drastic melting of both mountain and polar ice caps in the coming 10-30 years, causing sea levels to rise, and major changes to our weather patterns. This will have serious consequences not just for polar bears and penguins, but for humans too. The consequences of global heating are already impacting people in many parts of the world.

With ‘Interwoven’ the brief was for us to use UK grown and spun yarns, and only natural fleece of fibre shades. These were surprisingly difficult to source, and I learned a lot about the UK and international wool and yarn industry while researching for the project! I found a Hebriddean singles woollen spun yarn for the warp from Laura’s Loom, and DK knitting yarn spun from 3 natural shades of Blue Faced Leicester sheep, which were farmed locally to me at Culcreuch Farm in Fintry, and which I used to walk past daily on my way to work.

I tried to create three designs all woven on the same warp, but which look very different. I chose a pointed threading to represent the world’s snowy mountain peaks, and (because I had some tech problems!) only 4-6 shafts with very simple twills.

I used the three natural shades of DK yarn woven in bands graduating from white (snowy peaks) at the top down to dark (earth) at the bottom to represent snowmelt from mountains.

I used the darkest yarn as broken stripes to represent deforestation both by man and natural forest fires.

I used the contrast between the thick DK and thinner Hebridean natural cream yarns, woven in irregular and graduating stripes to represent the calving of glaciers at both the North and South Poles.

I came to weaving through an MA in Woven Textile Design at the Royal College of Art in London, then worked for 15 years as a freelance woven textile designer, first at Whitchurch Silk Mill in Hampshire, then with fashion designers. Looking for a more direct response to my surroundings and freer use of colour than weaving, I turned my focus to painting, and was ‘Artist in Residence’ at Culcreuch Castle for several years. I recently re-built my handloom and started designing a new collection of scarves.

Margaret Vile, Bicester, with the Cotswold WSD Guild

I live in Bicester, Oxfordshire, and I wove my ‘Interwoven’ section on an Ashford Ridged Heddle Loom, using a warp of natural British linen, with weft from a rare breed of ‘Castlemilk moorit’ crossed with Hebridean Sheep, from Nicola Biltchiffe at Fringford in Oxfordshire. The Cotswold and down fleece I incorporated was from North Oxfordshire farmers, and all hand-spun by the Cotswold Guild in Adderbury, Oxfordshire.

Whilst not knowing too much about sheep emissions I made a conscious decision a few years ago to weave with linen and nettles. This was more to do with the historical connection with weaving throughout Europe and the fact that I love linen fabric. So I studied the whole process from growing flax to weaving the cloth.

I have loosely been connected with weaving since childhood, my home was opposite a woollen mill in Somerset and all my friend’s parents worked there.  I started seriously thinking about spinning and weaving 15 years ago when during a walk the nursery children in my care collected fleece from the hedge row. In the true Montessori tradition I explained how the fleece became a garment and  bought a spinning wheel and a loom to demonstrate, and to enable them make cloth.

Rosemary Riedel-OBrien

Wild Rose Weaving

Insta: wild_rose_weaving

https://www.wildroseweaving.com

wildroseweaving@gmail.com

I’m a multi-disciplinary artist based near Dartmoor in England. Inspired by the Earth and elements, I specialise in hand spinning, weaving and natural dye techniques using heritage slow craft processes. For the warp of my ‘Interwoven’ section I used a combination of undyed Shetland wool, with two warp threads from Dartmoor Whiteface sheep, and one from Dartmoor Whiteface wool dyed with woad. The weft is handspun wild and raw from Dartmoor Whiteface from a generatively-grazed flock.

I like to combine ethical materials, spirituality and creativity – an alchemical combination that forms my textiles and workshops, which are rooted in reverence and authenticity. I’ve been weaving for 6 years and started my textiles business, Wild Rose Weaving, after completing a 6 month apprenticeship at the Bright Moon studio with Artist Maker Imogen Bright Moon in Brighton. This section was made in Reverence to the Land’s Dreaming. May all barriers between us and our connection to Earth dissolve. May harmony and sky unite us. May our innate belonging guide us. And so it is, and so it will be.

Janet Sellers

I live and work in Carnforth, Lancashire. It was most enjoyable weaving with wonderful undyed yarns for my ‘Interwoven’ section, and I have been motivated to weave other projects using undyed wool. I used yarns from a local shop Northern Yarns, whose strapline is ‘Local, Ethical, Beautiful’ – and their yarns are. They celebrate British wool and yarns from local independent producers and farmers. I also wove in some hand spun dark brown yarn from Black Welsh Tops, the fleece sourced from Wingham Wools at Wentworth, Rotherham. They pride themselves in the quality of their products and supply schools, colleges and universities with fibres and equipment for weaving.

The first of the Northern yarns I used were Coorie (light grey), a spun blend of Poll Dorset shearling and Zwarbles fleeces from farms local to Lancaster, though the hand-picked fleeces were sent down to Cornwall to be spun.

The second yarn was Shear Delight Athena (brown), a blend of Teeswater, Gotland and  Bluefaced Leicester from a farm in Cumbria. The best of their fleeces are picked out at shearing time to sell direct to customers before the rest is sold to the British Wool Board. Shear Delight use spinners ‘World of Wool’ in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire to spin their fleeces.

The third yarn was Kerry Hill (cream), from a flock of Kerry Hill sheep living on a farm in Darwen, Lancashire who produce small batch and limited editions of beautiful yarn.

The fourth was John Arbon Exmoor Sock Yarn (dark grey), from Exmoor Blueface sheep a cross breed of Exmoor Horn and Bluefaced Leicester. They also added some fleece from Devon Zwartbles to add bounce and a fleck of colour plus Falklands Corriedale to enhance softness. The fleece is spun at their mill in North Devon using vintage machinery.

In addition to weaving on my Ashford Knitters Loom I also spend my time learning the art of Tapestry weaving using traditional techniques. Having just completed my Foundation year I have moved to the two-year Intermediate level, at ArtyBird Carnforth, established in 2007 and a recognised Centre for Excellence in the delivery of creative textiles and art education.

Tor Purrett

www.torwoven.co.uk

Instagram: tor_woven / weaving_the_red_thread

I’m based in South-west England. Through collaborating on ‘Interwoven’ it’s been wonderful to have a place to speak to my relationship with land, place and all the many beings who live here. My woven section is inspired by wild intuition. Without pattern or plan. A woven prayer for the landscape, that she may return to her wild shapes. The feeling I receive when walking the countryside near my home is one of feeling fenced in, my feet unable to follow the natural paths they wish to, and instead forced to walk straight lines of fenced fields, which are often over-farmed and barren, lacking diversity. I weave for wildness to return!

The wool I have used is from Fernhill Fibre who regeneratively graze their flocks, and also Becs Briar in Devon.

My work is an ancient memory that rises up in ritual from deep within my bones; it spins through my fingertips into warp and weft, and weaves stories into the world. My hands blend and spin yarn with colours lent by plants, and fibres lent by sheep, and weave them into tales of rich encounters and deep inner processes. The birds who guide me, trees who inspire me, and Spider who first showed me what it meant to weave. I have many teachers and allies in this work. My weavings are an ode to them all; a weaving of gratitude and love for this wild life. 

My hands weave a celebration of the cyclical nature of life and death, creating blankets for both births and burials. They weave shawls to hold their wearers through times of change, and rites of passage. They weave a deep reverence for the magic and mystery within this life.

This ancient craft, is my slow activism. It is only possible when in relationship with Earth, and so it is always a collaboration. A beautifully reciprocal and often colourful meeting place of the combined gifts of many beings who each have a story to tell.

Julia Norman, Shella Parry

Having sourced a black and a white fleece in Clevedon, Somerset where I live, I spun it into 4 shades: black, white, plied black and white, and carded together black and white. My friend Julia Norman from Bristol then wove it into our section for the Interwoven piece. She is a beekeeper, and chose a honeycomb weave in recognition of the important ecological role bees play.

Anna Atkins

anna.nfaatkins@gmail.com

https://www.sedbergh.org.uk/locations/the-weaving-studio/

I live in the Yorkshire Dales. I wove my section for this project in The Weaving Studio on Main Street in Sedbergh, which I share with two other weavers, and where I weave at least four days a week. My weaving process for ‘Interwoven’ has enabled discussion with a considerable number of locals and visitors to talk about the project, about Zoe and Falco’s Walk for Earth, and Stop Ecocide International as well as the small island state of Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

The warp threads on my section are wool from Cheviot and Zwartble sheep on the Isle of Uist in the Outer Hebrides (a very favourite place of mine which I have enjoyed visiting and exploring over the years) and the weft threads are wool from local Swaledale sheep.

My initial sample (and the threading set-up) was 7 shaft waffle weave using Uist in both warp and weft but this was too stretchy, and bulky so I tried weaving again with 2:2 twill which, thanks to the waffle threading, gives a lovely wavy weave. But the sample I made was not long enough, too wide, and a little weak at the edges.

As I had woven the initial warp into a shawl, I re-threaded with fewer warp threads (but double for 1/2” at each edge) and this time the yarn came off the two cones with exactly the same colours together, so the stripes of different sheep fleece colours and the passage from dark through to cream and black has made lovely stripes too. The threading set-up is a 7-shaft waffle weave (as for the initial samples) but woven 2:2 twill.

Jenny Stanton

I’m a newish weaver based in Oxford, and I don’t belong to a guild. I’ve woven mainly scarves for family members, also place mats, and strips to make a new version of a Ghanaian tunic I loved and wore out. I joined Stop Ecocide in 2019 when I was active with Extinction Rebellion. A friend in XR told me about the Interwoven project.

My section for Interwoven is based on a patch of moss and lichen on an ash tree near the lake close to where I live in Oxford. I used coloured wool on an 8 shift Louët Jane table loom with a floor stand.

There were two ash trees growing beside the lake near my home, like a mix between ‘Yggdrasil’, the huge ash of Norse legend, and a portal to another world. But one sickened and was cut down. The remaining tree developed a patch below its fork, of moss surrounded by lichen, as though it was weeping – or developing a shield.

When I looked for inspiration for my woven section, this patch grabbed my attention. I’ve worked with words all my adult life, but somehow I overlooked ‘undyed’ in the Interwoven instructions, and just fixed on ‘natural wool’, in the specified thicknesses. The dark and light greens, for moss and lichen, are 11.5/2 supersoft lambswool which I bought from the Handweavers Studio in Seven Sisters, near where I lived in London as a student. The grey is from Bluefaced Leicester sheep – I was born in Leicester – bought from a wool shop in the Covered Market in Oxford. (The tag line of this skein is ‘Erika Knight, born in Britain’.) It’s fingering, a little thicker than the lambswool, which gave me a headache while weaving but turned out to give the effect I wanted for the bark.

DYED YARN SKEINS green, red, yellow: Annie Fraser

Instagram: green_spinnerwoolworks

Based in Wales, I use my own organic garden-grown plants as well as foraged ones, for natural and traditional dyeing. The rhythms of the seasons, sun rainfall and soil directly inform the colours produced by these natural dyes. For the Interwoven piece, I used 100% British wool hand-dyed with horsetail for the yellow, indigo and horsetail for the green, and homegrown madder root for the red. My yarn will be used to stitch a message onto the backing of the piece, along with the green section woven by Jenny Stanton from Oxford.

image: Tor Purrett: https://www.instagram.com/tor_woven