On being Shoddy

shoddy adjective: shoddy; comparative adjective: shoddier; superlative adjective: shoddiest

1. badly made or done.

synonyms: poor-quality, inferior, second-rate, third-rate, low-grade, cheap, cheapjack, tawdry, rubbishy, trashy, gimcrack, jerry-built, crude, tinny, tacky, tatty, junky, ropy, duff, rubbish, grotty, careless, slapdash, sloppy, slipshod, scrappy, untidy, messy, hasty, hurried, negligent, lacking moral principle, sordid

“we’re not paying good money for shoddy goods”

“shoddy workmanship”

“a shoddy misuse of the honours system”

2. an inferior quality yarn or fabric made from the shredded fibre of waste woollen cloth or clippings.

the production of shoddy and mattress
Some time ago I wrote a post on Grayson Perry’s tapestries that were being exhibited in Temple Newsam house in Leeds. What I didn’t say about the tapestries is that even though the exhibition was in my home city, I didn’t go and see them. The building they were displayed in was an old country mansion a bit off the beaten track and inaccessible without your own transport.

There was other people though who boycotted the exhibition for a different access reason, the mansion wasn’t fully wheelchair accessible. 

Leeds has a fantastic network for disabled artists and craftspeople so you would think a venue we could all visit could be found, but the size of the tapestries and perhaps other ideas of having an old style craft in an old mansion won over. In protest several disabled artists decided to boycott the exhibition and hold an alternative exhibition at Leeds Inkwell Arts, a Leeds MIND project that runs art and craft groups for people with mental health needs.

The Reality of Small Differences Exhibition Launch

I was in two minds of the boycott. On one hand I can understand the need for a large space with high security and no one knows what other factors were considered. The alternative exhibition, campaigning about the lack of wheelchair access was held in a building that also didn’t have full wheelchair access and although a chair could access the main exhibit the gardens and lower section of the building isn’t accessible, it sort of defeated the object a little.

A little voice mutters to me that the Henry Moore institute, next to Leeds Art gallery also doesn’t have wheelchair access throughout, as I found to my cost when I broke my ankle last year. I doubt though we can fight every art centre.

Following from that exhibition a second exhibition took place and opened last week in the centre of Leeds.


I know, I seem to have an air of a negative view so far, I don’t mean to have. Perhaps I’m tired. 

Sandy Holden created these stunning pieces using freeform embroidery on recycled plastics.


Natalie Sauvignon (who runs a weekly needle felting class in Leeds) created this stunning sea creature from left over wool and found objects.


Both artists responded to shoddy as a way of using waste materials and throwaway plastics.

Katy White created a holitic piece that asked you to involve yourself in the whole process of knitting. Wearing headphones you listened to the rhythmic sound of knitting and considered the piece before you as though looking at a music score.

Other artists considered the effects their disability has had on their lives.

Aoife O’Rourke created a piece hinting at two personalities, the hard outer frame we show the world and the fragile inner self we often keep hidden.

The exhibition exceeded my expectations, I suppose to my shame. Each artist was asked to present a piece inspired by one of a three issues:

The shoddy as a manufacturing process


The Shoddy treatment of disabled people

I left the treatment of disabled people to the end.

Lesley Illingworth created this stunning Story Telling coat with the intent to tell the truth and confront the lies. I passed the coat a few times and thought it was interesting, then overheard Lesley talking to someone about the coat.

Opening it wide she revealed the lining filled with names, some I recognised as MP’s, other unknown to me.

The MP names were those who voted for further cuts to disabled benefit cuts and each name was paired with a person from Calum’s list (http://calumslist.org) a growing list of people who have lost their lives due to recent government cuts to disabled benefit cuts.

I went to the exhibition a little bitter. I too have a disability and have had my weekly income halved over the past few months. With my own hurts of fighting to get what my years as a hardworking taxpayer assured me I would receive if I fell ill. The never ending decisions of whether to heat my home or heat a meal. But I carry on with the hope that one day, I will get through my Uni course, start getting paid, and not be in a position where an uncaring government can stop my money with no reason, whenever they want.

I didn’t want to face anymore stories of despair, and I want to be known as a crafts person without having the word ‘disabled’ in front of it. That, to me, would be pure equality.

But we must fight. Take a moment to visit Calum’s list, read a couple stories and know that there are thousands more to be told. One life not lived to it’s fullest is one too many.

Dolly time Dolls

I keep seeing these adorable little knitted dolls on Ravelry and decided to buy a pattern to try. I bought the Little Belle pattern.

The patterns are created by Wendy Phillips who published on Ravelry as Dollytime.

I love the sweet, friendly natured faces and colourful outfits.

Wendy has patterns in several sizes and I’m already looking at another pattern to get.

I like the softer fabric of knit, but most knitted doll patterns work flat on two needles, which I guess is great for those who don’t like DPNs (Double pointed needles). I like working in the round though and am guessing patterns could easily be changed to my preferred way of knitting. It would also avoid all the sewing up of seams which I find tough going.

I’ve made a little belle of my own…

She’s standing on my iPad, I used some doll hair I found while sorting through a box of doll making stuff and scraps of yarn, that’s a great way of using up scraps.

The clothes are not removable, but the pattern comes with lots of variety to create several different dolls and while you can’t change the dress or shoes, the hats and capes are changeable.

The Flutterby Patch blog on the iPad is the blog for more about the dolls.

I’ve looked at several knitted doll patterns and although I still prefer crochet dolls (not as much sewing up!) I think these dolls are wonderful.

A little Word of Mouth

When the 5p plastic bag charge came in force in November I was in two minds.

It could cut down on waste but being the unorganised shopper that I am, I rarely remember to bring a bag (actually I now keep 2 bags in my rucksack but forget they are there) and I could imagine my groceries going sky high with several 5p bags adding up.

The first day the charge came in I was in Currys, the electrical shop, in Huddersfield. Perusing (my big word for the week) the aisles for yet another set of headphones and close enough to the till to overhear a conversation.

An elderly man was at the till buying an item, he paid and was handed back his small item, minus one bag. The gentleman seemed a little put out and asked why he didn’t get a bag. The young shop assistant told the man he needed to ask for a bag because they were 8p.


Yep. It was the first day the charges came into force and this elderly man didn’t know about the new charge for carrier bags. Surely this shop could have been a little flexible, I mean, they’re getting 3p extra on every bag sold. One free bag with an explaination isn’t going to send the planet into an immediate spiral downwards.

Let’s face it, elderly men are not known for being shop savvy, many are used to leaving the shopping to their wives. My dad (I think he’s ok with me telling you about his funny antics) once went into Ann Summers for a pair of gloves for my mum. The staff were lovely to him and he came out a little while later not understanding why a shop that sells women’s ‘things’ doesn’t sell gloves – not the kind he wanted anyway!

The point is, this gentleman could have been given a bit more help and understanding, but he left I’m sure, not fully understanding what the 8p was for or why he was being asked for it, and I’m pretty certain the next time he wants a pack of batteries he’ll be buying elsewhere.

Yesterday I was in TK Maxx buying a candle. As usual, no bag and for one candle I could have managed, but I knew I was going to other shops so I handed over my candle and asked for a carrier bag as well. 5p was added and I put my card in the machine. The assistant found the smallest bag in the store and was putting the candle in it, when I asked for a larger bag. I was refused.

Apparently your 5p only buys you the smallest bag needed for the item you buy. A larger bag would be too big for my one item, so I wouldn’t be allowed the larger normal sized bag.

I was faced with a dilemma, do I just accept it and buy a second bag in the next store – making me spend 10p and have an extra tiny bag I couldn’t use again (my bags get used as bin liners) or do I save my purse and environment by refusing to buy the bag?

I said I didn’t want the bag, but was told it was too late, I’d already bought the bag. I know this is going to sound ridiculous and petty, but I then insisted I be refunded 5p for the bag.

I went to the pound store a few shops down and bought a couple of things and a normal sized bag, putting the candle in the pound land bag and advertising for them instead, because that’s the other thing about the plastic bag, it’s advertising.

It went further than that though, I told someone on the bus and we laughed at the stupidity of it all, then after the supermarket in the taxi home, I told the taxi driver and we had another laugh. This morning I managed to laugh with two others about it, and now I’m telling you, and while you might not be laughing, I still am. I also suspect the next time I’m in TK Maxx with just one small item, I just might leave it.

Arriving home last week from my week away I opened my front door to find a little package. I tore off the brown paper and found a Christmas card from a friend and a smaller package wrapped in peach tissue paper, with a peach ribbon and in the centre of the ribbon a small charm with a heart on it. Oooooo, this was looking good. After the tissue paper there was an even smaller organza bag and inside that a bronzed safety pin with five little knitting stitch markers, plus a free gift of a 2015 stitch marker.

She had me at the tissue paper.

It was a Christmas present from a friend, but wrapped by what I assume is a small seller. Charmed Knitting, I went to the website and although I have a lot of stitch markers, I found some more I might buy. I went on her Facebook page and liked it, then I posted the photo on her page and shared it with friends who also knit.

I’ve told about the same number of people about Charmed Knitting as I have about TK Maxx.

In all honesty, I didn’t need the organza bag, and the charm on the ribbon I considered a free gift, so the actual free gift inside was like “oh, another free gift”, but it got me, for one moment thinking how cool it would be to collect stitch markers. Already I was not just thinking, but looking for my next purchase.

There is a man who paints lace bobbins and has a bobbin a month club, wouldn’t it be cool to have a stitch marker of the month club?

Word of mouth, some say, is the most valuable form of advertising you can get. Advertising and repeat customer service can be very expensive, or as cheap as a bit of tissue paper and a bit of ribbon. Just a though!

Thinking the future – Stash places

Here is a list of ideas to hide things rather than use a wallet:

  1. The Hidden Compartment Keychain



2. The Secret Coin


Secret Stash Spy Coin Nickel

3. Cufflink Edition



4. The Smugglers Belt



5. The Bra Wallet




Thinking the Future – Modern Purses

Here’s a list of Ultra Modern Purses and Wallets

  1. The Elephant Wallet



2. The Ezgo slim wallet – So light it floats in water


EZGO Men’s Wallet

3. The Wallet and Water Bottle



4. The Wrist Purse – Luxury Edition



5. The Tru Virtu wallet – keeps your cards from scammers




Thinking the Future – Purses you can make yourself

Here is a list of modern purses I like:

  1. The Starbucks Wallet

Why spend money on a place to put your money?

2. The Minimalist Wallet



3. The One piece of leather and Elastic band wallet



4. The “I’m from the 80s” Wallet



5. The Duct Tape Wallet (I’ve made a few of these and they’re great!)

6. The Recycled Bottle purse


PET BOTTLE PURSE / recycled / recycling // www.zittaschnitt.com


An annotated bibliography

A short list of resources on ecology in textiles.

1. Over-Dressed, The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion

Cline, E.L. (2013). Over-Dressed (2nd ed.). New York: Penguin.

This is a great book as a first look into the fashion industry and the true cost of clothing manufacture. It breifly touches on alternatives, but is mostly focused on the big name brands and high street stores. Although the book is written for an American audience the situation is very similar to fashion in the UK. It’s an easy book to read through as a whole, but also good to dip into the sections you want to look at. Mostly aimed at a commercial designer, it does make you think about your own practice.

2. Upcycling

Seo, D. (2011). Upcycling. Philadelphia: Running Press.

A book of several small projects for mainly household ideas. Most of the ideas are interesting and physically appealing and the projects are designed for all levels. I liked the use of old cassette tape and CD cases, but wonder how effective some of the projects are if we are having buy a lot of new stuff to upcycle something. The book though has a lot of ideas to start you off with and for once, it’s not about fashion.

3. The Sustainable Fashion Handbook

Black, S. (2012). The sustainable fashion handbook. London: Thames & Hudson.

I had a bit of a problem with a book too large to fit into my rucksack calling itself a handbook, and I doubt I would borrow it from the library. However, once space has been found to read the book you find it’s actually interesting. Short 1-2 page quick reads about designers and their approach to sustainable and ecological fashion. Pages of quotes from designers and consumers on what they understand about sustainability mixed with fashion photos and interesting questions like would a pay per load washing machine make a difference? This is a book you need to dip in and out of on a regular basis, and I can also appreciate it’s size, it just wouldn’t do as a small book. It’s not a book I want to lug home, but I hope no one else does either. I hope it stays in the library where I can keep having quick looks at.

4. From Wool to Waulking

Kennedy, N. (2014). From wool to waulking [DVD]. USA

Norman Kennedy is one of the best resources for taking a fleece and turning it into a woven fabric without using modern means. Now in his 70’s Norman learnt his skills from traditional spinners and weavers in his teenage years in the highlands. his knowledge of the history of spinning in a traditional way goes right to the times when it was still done as part of daily life. There is a sense that his way is the only way to do things, in a sense this can put you off by thinking newer techniques are the wrong way, what he knows is how the women of the Scottish highlands made fabric, but not the differences around the world. If you can accept that his way is just one way of many then the DVD is a fantastic source of seeing the traditional way of making without waste.

5. Three Bags Full

Mackenzie, J. (2014). Three bags full [DVD]. USA

Judith Mackenzie is similar to Norman Kennedy in that she has come from a tradition of spinning, but while she knows a lot about the old techniques she also appreciates the newer ways of spinning wool. The DVD shows you how to select a fleece from a sheep fair, how to spot illness or stress in the sheep and what to avoid in choosing fleeces. Several ways of washing and sorting a fleece are looked at including the fermenting way which saves water. It’s a good DVD for those wanting to understand the different breeds and how to select a breed for the item you want to make. Judith also talks about a worsted yarn and how to make a true worsted rather than semi worsted yarn.

Leeds Waterfront Festival

A few weeks ago I went to the Leeds Waterfront festival, a free yearly event over several locations along the canal and river.DSC00004

It’s a good festival, and the many locations seem to spread people out enough to not feel too crowded.DSC00011

I started near the Leeds Armouries, at the Leeds Dock.

This was one of three main sites, the one I didn’t get to was at Granary Wharf and had a boat-building event on.DSC00017

Anyway, at the Leeds Dock event there was a craft market, a bit small, but some good stuff there. They also had dragon boat racing, street entertainers, and free transport to the other venues.DSC00028

From there I walked to Brewery Wharf which had lots of food stalls (far too many to choose). I felt there were far too many food stalls, I mean, once you’ve bought your food from one, that’s pretty much it for spending money.DSC00033

Then onto the Leeds Minster…

I want to have a wee rant about the Minster here, so bare with me a moment.DSC00036

I’ve been to the Minster three times in my lifetime.

the first was when I was a kid and my mum was preaching there. Inside the minster is very different to any church I’ve been to before where people sit in rows. At the minster, well I can’t really explain it, but it seemed as a child you sat facing other people and couldn’t see who was speaking. Very strange.DSC00039

The second visit was a few years ago when I was with a group walking around Leeds, we decided to pop into the church because it had a cafe. As we were leaving the cafe we were in the entrance of the church and I was telling someone about my first visit, how funny I found it. An older lady who was arranging flowers started shouting at me, really shouting, because I was being disrespectful about her church.

The third visit was for during the waterfront festival. The leaflet for the festival said the Minster had the cafe open and rather than stand eating from a food van I figured I’d go to the cafe and sit down.

I got there only to find the cafe wasn’t open. Well, I decided to walk aroound the church and take some photos. I have one of those large fancy looking cameras and it was hung around my neck like a tourist. I was obviously up for taking photos.

I walked into the church and passed a woman who greeted me and let me go into the church. I checked for signs saying whether we could take photos and saw none. So I began, taking a few snaps.

After a few photos had been taken the same woman who had welcomed me came up to me and informed me I was welcome to take photos… then said, we expect you to donate in the box though. Now that’s sneaky.

So, Leeds Minster, not a place I recommend.

I stopped taking photos and left, heading back to the Leeds Bank and hoping to get the free taxi boat to the Granary Wharf. no such luck, the queue was long and the boat couldn’t carry more than a handful of passengers.

An alternative was the free coach to the third location, Thwaite Mill. This is a great mill, but unless you have a car it’s very difficult to visit, so the free coach ride was wonderful.

One other problem I found with the festival (the first being events advertised that didn’t happen) was lack of mobility access. You may disagree, but few buses link the events. the river taxi didn’t seem accessible and the coach certainly wasn’t. Places like Thwaite Mill are at the end of an incredible long, narrow road, with no public transport. It was good that free transport was available, but none of it was suitable for people who found walking difficult.

Thwaite Mill is an incredible place, not valued enough by Leeds. It holds regular events that seem to be almost unheard of like the regular steampunk market that was happening on the same day as the festival.DSC00044

Amongst all the steampunk stalls was a charity stall which had lots of painting equipment. I was pretty much brassic (skint) and figured the huge watercolour pad and boxes of expensive paints were well out of my funds so walked by… twice. the third time I asked out of curiosity how much the pad cost. £1, wow, that’s a bargain. How much for the used paints? £1… How much for the brand new watercolour set (which I know is £40 in the shop) £1. In the end I spent a fiver and reckon I came away with £80 worth of stuff.

I took one video on the day, which is below. It was supposed to be a demonstration of how to dress a horse for pulling canal boats, but after all the walking my back was in agony (you can hear my heavy-painful breathing in the video) and ten minutes in she still hadn’t got to the horse, so I stopped filming. But what she does say is interesting.

Huddersfield University Textile Students Final Year Show 2015

Today I was back at Uni for a preview of the fourth year students final work.

I don’t really know what I was expecting since I’ve never been to a student show before. Some work I looked at and thought Eh?, others Oooo!, and some Ahhhhh!
Our task was to write a review on three pieces. They had to be different in some way (i.e style, technique, like/don’t like) Obviously I was more interested in the knit projects, but there were many others that took my eye.
In the end I chose three that I classed as ‘Marmite’ projects. Projects with a love/not love style to them. In one sense they’re not different, but in another, each one brought first an Awww (cute) or Hmmm (Not sure Hmm), followed later with an Oooohhhh, Hmmmmm (deeper thinking Hmm).

1. The one I liked then loved.

Eve Cavell


The ‘Willkommen’ collection is inspired by a dark illustrative story conceived by the theatrical nightmare of historical entertainment.

The augmented illustrations that exist somewhere between horror and humour allow for a surreal yet recognisable twist of humanity and nightmare that has been evolved into a collection of wearable art.

Willkommen is a collection focused on empowering fashion to exist as a purer expression of self-being, through eccentric aesthetics and the ideals of A-Gender clothing.


Instagram; @evecavell


Ever since we did the Grayson Perry assignment I’ve tried to look at things longer. Instead of walking through a gallery and nodding to things I like I’ve also stopped to look at those I don’t like. My eyes are opening to the story behind the image.

In this case I have seen Eves’ work before and liked her style. Her pen and watercolour images are funny with just the right touch of wickedness plus they connect to my inner goth.
The project is based on nightmares and horror, with a touch of humour. Like the poltergeist films where the clown, created to be funny, becomes one of the scariest parts of the film. DSC00813

Her images are based around a circus theme, a story of characters in a circus of nightmares.
And suddenly I’m in her world, loving the heavy glaring almost monster like men in their oversized sweaters, although I don’t know the story, I feel as though I can see it.

The presentation did the project justice, golden brown copper piping holding amazing knit samples made on the Brother knitting machines.

The colour scheme was subdued almost pastel, but (if this is possible) the dark side of pastels. Oh yes, everything nice like clowns, ringmasters, jugglers, but with a little amount of horridness.DSC00809

I loved the idea of drawing on white leather and the brass frame looked fantastic.

The knitted techniques used were complex and appealing, there were a few samples that showed the knitted techniques and thought process on them, but these seemed a bit lost amongst the sketches. It could be that an overuse of drawings could hide the importance of the knitted structure. I found myself taking time to look at the drawings and admiring them more than the knit – which is a worry when Eve is trying to show her textile talent.


I liked the way she kept her journals, writing in her own hand rather than typing out words, yet she took time to imagine how things would look on the page before writing.

I finally found sense in having designers I like and am inspired by, her journals felt fresh and uncluttered, but helped link her final ideas to her thought process.

Is this the type of show I want to present?

Although knit is my specialism I am not sure I see myself making final pieces like this. I want to know the techniques used and be able to use them in my work, but I see myself doing something different.

I love the presentation of her work and hope when it comes to my turn I’ll be able to show my ideas in as clear and pulled together way as she has. I’ve taken some ideas from her way of presenting knit samples and will put some thought into my research journals (which over the first year has gone from what is research to I need to do more research).

 DSC00810 DSC00811

2. The one I thought was cute, then saw the bigger picture

Megan Dodds  |  Little Homes

BA (Hons) Surface Design for Fashion & Interiors  |  2015

A project inspired by the increasing issue of gender stereotypes and idea of gender neutrality in child’s play combined with the quintessential familiarity of the idea of ‘home’.

‘Little Homes’ investigates, and working alongside Fourdot Ltd and Applelec, proposes a series of functional and inspiring lighting products for children and the home. Full of creativity, they’re designed to encourage storytelling and fuel imaginative play, creating an interactive and sensory experience to intrigue your child’s curiosity. Through the ability to pick and mix panels forming the light’s façade, they can create unique combinations to discover their own little world.


At first glance I saw Megans houses and thought, pretty and walked on. Then I looked again.DSC00834

Yes, they are beautiful.

Yes, they make nice lights.

But they are so much more.

They are welcoming, interactive play scenes for imagination (something that computer games seem to be stealing from growing minds).


They are well thought out scenes that allow story telling through play.

The square lamps illuminate and cast pictures and shadows on walls and surfaces to make even bigger play areas.

There are little clear pieces with fish on that can be added to the waves of the sea. Children can make characters to expand the story and have endless adventures.

But it’s more than that…

Doc 10-06-2015 13-0113Doc 10-06-2015 13-0114

Something I’ve been exploring myself through my doll making recently is the idea that dolls are for girls. Who says so?

The idea of pink being for girls and blue for boys has been around far too long. Megan explores the idea of gender stereotyping through toys in some well presented books. Why can’t girls have blue rooms?

WP_20150610_003My latest patterns for the My Little Crochet Doll have been aimed towards boy doll ideas. Cowboys and Spacemen. But hang on, even I label them as cow BOYS and space MEN. As though the careers go to the boys and the ballet outfits go to the girls.

This stereotyping is ingrained into our beings from such a young age that we don’t recognise it as a hindrance.

Does is go even deeper, are we damaging children or rather not allowing children to reach their potential by forcing children into a mould?

WP_20150610_005These are questions raised by Megan through her work with the little houses. How can we create play as a gender neutral place?

Can we create toys that are beautiful, useful, simple and allow children to grow?

The presentation was in a smaller space than the other two I chose, but the space was used to it’s potential and perhaps more room would give a different feel that wouldn’t work so well.WP_20150610_002I really enjoyed the books that came with the presentation. The smaller ones (shown in these images) show photos of children using the light as it should be whilst the other book was an explanation on her research into traditional play (pink and blue separation).

The light was made using lazer cut pieces in wood and perspex, painted or dyed I’m not sure, but a simple and effective way to let light through.

It looked as though the panels could be taken apart and put together, thus adding to the possibilities and allowing a child to chose their own panels for the lighting. However the wood chosen looks fragile. I don’t know how strong this would be if taken apart several times.

I linked closely to the thoughts behind this project, as someone looking into toys and gender (or why can’t dolls belong to boys) I found it very interesting.

I also found myself returning to something that I love… toy and doll making.

This morning I was handed some results from my last assessment, there was the suggestion that my work looked commercial rather than my own designer maker style. That’s quite something for those who remember my posts when I first started Uni. I spent some time wondering where I was heading.

There is a part of me that feels lost. In a way I feel as though I don’t quite know what I am about, while everyone else seems to know. I’m sure that’s not true and we’re all feeling lost, but I wonder whether I’ll ever get back to making dolls. There are so many things at University that I want to try out. I want to master all the knit machines and computer programmes they can throw at me, but in my almost addiction like need to learn, I worry that I will lose the things I love.

3. The Marmite one – I like it, but don’t like it.

Amy Rowson-Jones


Made in Britain

 BA(Hons) Textile Crafts

 Led by a passion to source and produce within the UK, Rowson-Jones has combined local heritage and natural materials to create a garment which holds its own story. Each material has been carefully gathered within Yorkshire, with the use of hand picked berries from Hanging Stone Road, Huddersfield, beautiful alpaca yarn from Summer Wine Alpacas, Holmfirth, preserved cotton from the original Belle Vue Mills, Skipton. Made up of both rainwater and Hedera helix, the natural ingredients and dye process have resulted in the garment to be one of a kind. The jumper has been crafted for a high-end unisex market.

Follow my journey on Instagram @arowsonjones

Most people would assume this would be my favourite project in the show.DSC00863

I liked it and it’s something that’s close to my heart and something I’ve been wanting to explore a lot more.

This idea of locally sourced yarn is something I am passionate about as a spinner and knitter.

I remember the first time I bought a ball of wool I could trace all the way back to the sheep and the sense that I had found something so precious will stay with me for a long time.

I still have one of the balls of wool I bought that day. It’s from a sheep called April who lives in a field just outside of York. Her owner sheers DSC00866the sheep, washes the fleece and even spins it herself. Talk about locally sourced, that ball of wool has yet to leave Yorkshire!

You can’t get better than that.

The wool though is rough, too rough for garments next to the skin. Well, of course it’s rough. It’s British wool. From British sheep.

And that’s where I don’t like this project so much.

I love the idea of locally sourced and one reason is that it often helps local people, people who need local buyers to help keep their livelihoods going.

I often hear people talking about the dreadful situation we’re in by allowing our garments to be produced overseas. Tales of factories being closed down as products are outsourced for lower paid workers, often leading to bad conditions and dreadful disasters where factories are so badly managed that they collapse.WP_20150610_014

This is one of the main reasons I suspect, that people are choosing locally sourced over overseas products. I hear people talking about their favourite yarn companies telling me how it’s a local company, until I point to the small print on the label that says, produced in Turkey.

Our once large spinning mills are now museums struggling to survive with the small funding they receive and my county is littered with once thriving factories.

Sourcing locally keeps what workers we have left in business and is important.

WP_20150610_012Amy’s fibre was locally sourced, the berries for dyeing were hand picked locally, the water used was rain water (even the tap water was seen as unsuitable for this economical jumper). Everything was done to give you the impression of local, economical, resourceful, community, traditional back-to-basics way of making. Made in Britain.

The fibre (because technically it isn’t a wool) was spun in a factory outside of Yorkshire.

While there are many hand spinners in Yorkshire who would have happily hand spun the fibre, keeping with the tradition that Amy seemed to aim at, she chose to machine spin the fibre.

I love the concept (am going to say that a lot!)

I just don’t think it hit the mark.

The natural dyeing process is a good idea, but I think (and might be a bit harsh here) it could have been better. While the jumper is aimed at a high end market it looks muddy, almost dirty in colour. Part of that is the inconsistency with the dye. darker and lighter in parts.

This might be because the yarn was dyed in a skein and not dyed accurately. If the dye had been added prior to spinning the fibres they would have blended more evenly and given a more consistent colouring. There’s a part of me that wishes she had just left the yarn in it’s natural state. A lovely white alpaca was sourced, so why dye it grey?

I love the concept.

Okay, here it comes…

My pet hate.

Alpacas are beautiful animals more related to camels than sheep, so produce lovely soft fibre that is a pleasure to spin and knit.

Alpacas are not British.

I’d like to say I refuse to buy alpaca from British farms, but last year I was offered a real bargain, a whole fleece for £5 and I couldn’t turn it down.

Alpacas are native to Peru, where they have a wonderful system that means every alpaca owner, whether big ranch owner or small farmer in poverty gets the same fair price of his fleece based on quality of the animal. Buying Alpacas from Peru supports the small farmer who relies on us for his livelihood. Without us, without the alpaca trade, he would not be able to support his family. It’s that important.

As much as I hate losing our trade to overseas I hate the idea that we are in return taking trade away from Peru farmers.

And I have another pet annoyance.

Alpacas are not cheap. Really not cheap. While you can often pick up a sheep for £10 Alpacas will cost you between £2,000 and £3,000. This is not a project for the poor! To have alpacas in the UK you need some money behind you. The field, food, vets are just one of the many costs.

As someone who is working with Leeds Poverty Truth and Churches Action on Poverty I cannot buy British alpaca fleece from a rich owner, knowing I am taking trade from a poorer owner in Peru.

I say again, I love the concept, but for me it missed the mark.

However, I enjoyed the concept and it brought me back to my love of wool. The same teacher who suggested I was turning to designer maker also suggested I made yarn for my project. I wanted to, but couldn’t quite see the idea in full. I’ve spent my year listening to designers I like, and looking at trends of the season and I panicked thinking while others are designing garments and fashion, my hand made yarn would look like a poor effort. It just didn’t seem to be what ‘they’ wanted.

I feel lost because I’m not following my passion, I’m trying to fit into what I think is required.

I might not have liked how the concept turned out, but it got me spurred into action. I need to return to my first love, finding locally sourced British wool, from British sheep, spun or dyed in traditional ways.

All images are my own

Type in italics is the individual students statement from the University.

All student work can be seen on the textile blog: http://textiles-hud.tumblr.com/

My Little Crochet Doll pattern can be found at: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/my-little-crochet-doll

Yes, women can dance

Another great part of the Leeds wool festival at Armley Mills was the Briggate Morris dancers.

I remember having a couple morris dancing lessons at Primary school and loved it, always wanted to be a morris dancer but the dancers I saw growing up all seemed to be men and I’m most certainly not built for dancing.

These dancers though changed my mind. In chasing them down I found out they rehearse in near Leeds (Horsforth) and accept members. Not sure I’m quite fit enough to dance yet, but maybe my flute playing would be welcome.

The next place to see them is at the Morris Day of Dance in Sheffield, 13th June. In the meantime, here’s a video.

Armley Mills – http://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/armleymills.aspx

Briggate Morris Dancers – http://briggate-morris.blogspot.co.uk/

%d bloggers like this: