Warm, wonderful and woollen: the Interiors Collection @woolweek

wi2Campaign for Wool’s fifth annual Wool Week is celebrating the beauty and versatility of wool for fashion and interiors, and where better to hide from the blustery showers than in the pop-up Interiors Collection gallery in Southwark Cathedral.  The curated collection of more than fiftyl wool products features fabrics, flooring and furnishings from the high street to bespoke and designer pieces commissioned for commercial clients.  Here are my top ten:

wi3Roger Oates Stromness runner (70cm wide x 230cm long) is woven from pure un-dyed Shetland Wool in the UK.  Four natural colours, ivory white, light and deep grey and ebony, create bold stripes with a contrasting border.  The subtle hues of the un-dyed wool lend themselves perfectly to the geometric and monochrome trends of the moment.

wi10The Røros Tweed storm blanket (120x180cm, £195) from Toast, also uses the natural monochrome tones of un-dyed wool, this time from Norway.  Røros, established as a mining town in 1646, is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. In 1789, when the director of the mine, Peder Hiort, died childless, he bequeathed his entire fortune to a foundation set up to provide training to the poor in handicraft and textile production.  Røros Tweed was established in 1940 to sell handmade textiles, and continues to ensure the whole process from raw wool to finished product stays in Norway.

wi9Mary Goodman‘s Seating Spheres, launched at Tent London, are a mix of British Swaledale and Herdwick wools.  The spheres are made to order and are a fun addition to any home office.

wi8For a less energetic seating solution, Galvin Brothers  (Completely) Imperfect Day Bed, upholstered in Melton Earth Cobalt and Boutique Islington grey from Abraham Moon would be a very sophisticated place to recline with a good book or simply find a moment of calm.  Firm, flat and fit for a daytime ‘power-nap’, it is also a single bed worthy of any overnight guests.  Made of solid oak and finished with Danish oil, the bed (180 x 44 x 80cm, £1,985) has the Galvin Brothers signature turned leg.  Their partnership with local supplier Abraham Moon, established in 1837 and one of one of Britain’s last remaining vertical woollen mills, means this piece of furniture is Yorkshire through and through.

wi4Bailey Hills’ Comati Stripe Metallic cushion has the striking motif digitally printed on to 100% wool twill.  The metallic shimmer is the perfect complement to Jonathan Adler‘s luxurious handcrafted Ingmar Chair (£2,250) with its shearling-lined seat.  What an indulgence.  wi6Kit Kemp for Christopher Farr Cloth’s folklore embroidered fabric, 100% wool with cotton embroidery (£280/m), is luxury with a colourful and artisanal flair.

The Tetrahedron and Falling Cubes cushions (£95) made for Pentreath and Hall by Fine Cell Work, a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework, bring colour to geometric designs. Georgia Bosson’s Skeleton ‘Crosses’ cushion is made from industrial wool felt waste material overlaid on linewi7n.  From £55 each, the cushions are limited edition, and by the nature of their materials unique.

From the decorative to the utilitarian for the last of my picks, Hey-Sign’s collection wi5of laundry baskets made from 100% wool felt with 30°, 60°, 90° (35 × 27 × 75 cm) motif.

Wool’s versatile aesthetic appeal is long-lasting, as it is a resilient performance fibre.  Wool has many virtues being natural, renewable and biodegradable (if pure wool).  It is also multi-climatic, keeping you warm in winter, and breathable to keep you cool in summer.  In the home, wool is an effective insulator with anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic properties and is naturally fire-retardant.

wi1With such a strong British wool heritage, I look forward to an exhibition that captures stories from native breeds and traditional crafts to outstanding contemporary design and innovative materials.

The Interiors Collection is on display at London’s Southwark Cathedral during Wool Week – open from the 5th – 12th October 10am – 7pm daily (8pm on Thursday).  Admission is free.  If you can not make it there, then have a look at OneWool, the new online gallery showcasing the largest collection of wool interiors products.

Flash factories @designjunction

dj1I popped into 19 Greek Street where Diana Simpson was preparing for a process run through of GlassLab.  ‘Waste’ glass is in plentiful supply in the midst of Soho, and the recent introduction of a mechanical crusher enabled Diana to provide bar tops, tiles and other interiors products for the Library, a new private members, on time.  dj2I had a peak of GlassLab’s new rectangular floor tiles (which were also on show at Tent London, as part of the Material Council’s ‘Nooks, Niches and Crannies’ materials trail), and then it was on to designjunction at the Old Sorting Office.

Like a magpie, I was drawn to the sparkling brilliance of the Waterford Crystal Flash Factory.  Waterford is an iconic brand, so it was humbling to watch Master Cutter, Tony Grant, at the wheel, with a backdrop of glittering chandeliers and vases.  Tony began as an apprentice at Waterford more than forty years ago, and it is that depth of knowledge that lies at the heart of Waterford’s heritage.  dj3A moment in the shoes, or seat, of a master, provides a great appreciation of their skill, and I leapt at the invitation of a seat at the wheel.  The steady, subtle hand, precise eye and great knowledge of the material, are things the new generation of apprentices at Waterford will surely master, though I will not be one of them!

dj11Bringing a contemporary design twist to traditional craft skills emerged as a theme of this year’s designjunction.  Each of Pia Wustenberg’s Transformed Stacking Vessels celebrates craftsmanship and materials.  Each of the Vessels is unique as each of the three pieces is handmade: hand-turned wood; hand-blown glass and hand-thrown ceramics.  Each piece reflects the character of its maker, and adds a layer to the story.

dj8London-based designer, Hend Krichen, draws on her Tunisian roots to create elegant homewares that fuse artisanal skills and craftsmanship with a pared back aesthetic.   I was drawn to the warm terracotta and copper tones, and so it seems is the buyer for Paul Smith as products will be appearing in their stores soon.  Working with an ethical network of manufacturers, Krichen hopes to develop their understanding of the export market.  This rejuvenation and re-orientation of traditional craft skills, can play a vital role in securing a community’s heritage, and enhancing their livelihoods.

This model of reciprocal exchange, that is evident in the British Council’s Maker Library (seen at 100%design), underpins another of their initiatives, the Common Thread.  London-based designer Sabrina Kraus Lopez spent a month in the Atlas mountains of Morocco working with six Amazigh artisans to create a limited edition series of bespoke hand-woven rugs.  The Amazigh are traditionally a semi-nomadic people, with men tending livestock while women harvest wool, cotton and plants to dye the fibres that are then woven into kilims, or rugs.  The designs, based on the Amazigh’s traditional weaving techniques, are available via the Anou, an online platform and community of over 400 Moroccan artisans working to revive their community.  The platform enables artisans to sell their work directly to customers all around the world.

dj6Revitalising traditional industries including carpet weaving, cashmere production, and other artisan products to secure sustainable livelihoods is central to AfghanMade’s mission.  In collaboration with Wallpaper* and a number of prominent European and American carpet companies, AfghanMade exhibited a portfolio of contemporary rug designs in a huge space on the top floor of designjunction.  I was drawn to the deep turquoise pools of Michael Young’s design for Christopher Farr, Organic Fractals, made in wool and silk with hand-spun yarn and natural dyes.  One of the AfghanMade team is a leading authority on natural dyes, and the opportunity to work with him was a catalyst for Christopher Farr’s involvement in the project.  ‘Duck-head’ green is one of the hardest colours to achieve naturally, and as Michael Young’s design evolved the choice of colour was inevitable.  The rich teal colour is achieve first with a yellow dye from daisies, and then a natural indigo. The rug is 2.3m in diameter (though available to order in smaller sizes), around £6,750 and now on my wish list!

Stimulating cross-cultural collaborations between UK designers and African artisanal makers are also central to Africa Calling. dj5 The outsize, monochrome vases made from up-cycled textile ‘waste’ using traditional weaving techniques.  These vases, and other more colourful products with a similar provenance are available from Shake the Dust.

1411419976136Craftsmanship and provenance define the subtle, hand screen-printed linen fabrics and interiors products at Thorody.  The fabrics are hand screen-printed in London using water-based pigments (which exceed British Standard upholstery specifications for abrasion and pigment fastness for domestic use).   The natural linen is woven in Lancashire, or sourced from Belgium where it can be traced back to seed, and where the flax is sourced within 20 miles of the mill.  It is soft, but strong, two adjectives that also describe the abstract designs that Thorody characterise as “rustic modernism”.  They are considered, and timeless.

dj10Flax, and flaxseed or linseed oil is the key ingredient in linoleum, a material ByAlex chose to upholster the seat of their Neighbourhood chair.  Conceived as a contemporary dining chair to celebrate John Lewis 150th anniversary, the studio set themselves the challenge of making the chair from renewable materials.  Bamboo, which is ready for harvesting after only six years of growth, is used for the main body of the chair with moulded Plywood for the seat.

dj9After seeing her Wish List commission for Norman Foster, Tulipifera Sharpeners, and then Folded Chair, shortlisted piece for the Wood Awards at 100%design, it was pleasure to complete a hat trick and meet Norie Matsumoto.  Here she is pictured beside the Folded Chair, originally designed for “Out of the Woods” in 2012.  Matsumoto redesigned the chair using special hinges, and a smaller version that can hang on the wall.  The elegant and deceptively simple cylinder hooks, Deco (pictured in the background) are turned from solid wood.  Matsumoto chose to use solid wood to give the objects a strong presence that could be decorative as well as functional.

dj7As Matsumoto’s designs salute the strength of solid wood, Tom Raffield’s designs using steam-bent wood showcase other virtues of flexibility, crafting sensual forms through innovative use of steam-bending techniques.  His lamps cast delicate shadows in warm light.

dj4Finally, I was captivated by the evocative installation (curated by Anthony Dickens) of ercol and Anglepoise’s timeless classics given a bespoke overhaul as the part of the ‘A Child’s Dream’ silent auction.  A moment to pause and reflect on what dreams are made of for the young, and slightly older!  Some of the collaborations at designjunction have the power to be transformational.

Image credits:  Thorody

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/25/100%DEsign-for-a-day/

More Carefully Curated @Clerkenwell Design Week

IMG_3480There was so much to see at Clerkenwell Design Week, I could not see it all, but here are a few more favourite finds.

Firstly, a step into Forbo Flooring Systems who make linoleum, project vinyl, carpet tiles, and flocked flooring for commercial and residential customers.  With a clutch of environmental awards to their name, including BREAM, Cradle-to-Crade and Nordic Swan, theInfographic_April_2014y are proud of their commitment to responsible raw material procurement and manufacturing processes.  Forbo use Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate their products’ environmental footprint, before, during and after production.  The info graphic, Creating Better Environments shares some of the highlights.  For example, marmoleum (linoleum) is made from 97% natural materials with natural antibacterial properties, contains 43% recycled content, has total VOC 30 lower than the norm and CO2 emissions 50% than other resilient floorings.  It could soon be on the floor of the family bathroom! 

Instyle Textile WallI had to stop at Brands ,a few doors down, to hear about the “holistically reared sheep” (as pitched in the Icon Guide to CDW) whose wool is used for the LIFE textile range from Instyle.  LIFE textiles were developed along  Cradle to Cradle principles, made from 100% low-pesticide wool that is processed with biodegradable detergents, and heavy-metal free dyes.  Wool has many virtues, and this cloth, suitable for upholstery or screen use, is also recyclable through Instyle’s Revive programme.  Instyle Green Feel Bags LondonTo show the colours and weave to their best effect, the fabrics have been made into covetable backpacks by Cherchbi, a British leather goods company that prides itself on using the best natural raw materials such as vegetable-tanned English saddle leather and discarded wool from the ancient Herdwick breed.  The bags are a playful way to show the beauty and versatility of the LIFE Textiles and Cherchbi craftsmanship.

IMG_3479I had a quick perch on a (very comfortable) bed at Ensemblier London to hear from founder Emma Storey about the craftsmanship invested in their customisable headboards.  With designs inspired by the rich archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the headboards are handmade in small workshops in England using traditional skills and sustainable materials.

photoCraftsmanship and traditional skills were also in evidence elsewhere.  The beautiful copper and terracotta objects (pictured at the top)from Hend Krichen are the fusion of a London-based design practice and a network of craftsmen in Tunisia revealing the country’s natural resources and artisanal heritage.  The perfect complement to the kitchen I am coveting after seeing this bar (pictured right) at the Benchmark Furniture stand.

IMG_3495 IMG_3497I caught my breath with a perch on Neb Abbott‘s Geffrye stool.  The stackable stool is based on a commission for eight benches as temporary seating for the Geffrye Museum cafe. Neb is about to graduate from the CASS School of Art, Architecture and Design.  Alongside the stool stood the Wasp series of chairs.  The playful exploration with materials (my favourite is the webbing) belies the serious design consideration to providing lumber support.  It is seriously comfy!

allo_high1Studio 23, founded by Naori Priestly, a Royal College of Art graduate, works with the Allo Club in Sankhuwasabha, a small mountain village in eastern Nepal, to produce handmade fabrics from the Himalayan Giant Nettle (known as Allo). Allo grows naturally in forests above 1500 metres, helping to stabilise the fragile soil in mountainous areas.  Local peoples harvest allo, as they have done for generations, boiling and beating the stem bark and then spinning the fibres and weaving them into sacks, bags, jackets or fishing nets.  As a social enterprise, Studio23 aims to preserve the community’s skills, the landscape and provide another source of revenue.  The natural fabric is strong and durable.  It would look great as chair seat, or cushion, particularly the subtle herringbone weave. IMG_3481 Or cover a sofa, add a few hand-knitted cushions from Rose Sharp Jones (pictured left), and then relax…..

 

Photocredit: Brands Ltd; Forbo Flooring Systems for the info graphic; Studio23 and the rest are mine.

Related post: Design Factory @Clerkenewell Design Week

 

May Design Series – cc edited highlights

tr1Time for another design pilgrimage to the ExCel centre for the May Design Series 2014, featuring 400 suppliers of kitchens, bathrooms, lighting, furniture, decor and an edited selection of products from four key European shows (Maison et Objet, Paris; IMM Cologne; Light & Build, Frankfurt and i Saloni, Milan), as well as New Design Britain.  

I was delighted to see Tom Raffield Design.  It was an a-ha moment for me as a few years ago I bought some pendant lights for our house (the Helix and the Hive I now know).  They are often complimented, but I could not remember where I sourced them from.  Suddenly they are everywhere, in the Green Room at Salone del Mobile, at Chelsea Flower Show as part of the Artisan Retreats (alongside another favourite, Eleanor Lakelin) and here at May Design Series.

Tom Raffield designs and handcrafts steam-bent furniture and lighting.  Steam-bending wood is a traditional woodworking technique, that is low energy and adhesive-free. Tom developed his own technique to create the complex, fluid shapes characteristic of his work.  All the wood is from sustainably managed sources and typically unseasoned, green or air-dried timber, and any wastage used for the composting toilet!  The wood is finished in lemon oil, beeswax or a water-based varnish.  Not only is the production process ecologically sound, the products are built to last, and so beautiful you will cherish them for a long time.  I loved the coat loop (pictured in the background), literally Shaker with a twist, and the occasional table with its sinuous, curved detail, a new product launching at May Design Series.

myx-hanging-lamp-growing-180dpiWhile waiting for the 11.15am Conversation Series discussion on the circular economy (more of that later), I was drawn to Smart Environment zone.  MYX is a material cultivated over 3-4 weeks using oyster mushrooms grown on a hemp and linen fibre mat.  The fibres are byproducts of clothing and rope manufacturing.   The fibres are woven with mushroom spores, and as the mycelium (vegetative part of the fungus) grows the textile-like material gains strength and flexibility from chitin, the polymer in mushroom cell walls.   The material can be shaped, in this case as a lampshade (pictured right) then dried leaving a lightweight material that is organic and compostable.  And you can harvest oyster mushrooms in the meantime, so MYX is an end-waste product, that products a delicious food product in its growing cycle.   What a deliciously sustainable example of the circular economy!

Next door, Nobelwood is a smart alternative to tropical hardwood.  Fast-growing pine (FSC certified) is fully impregnated with water soluble biopolymers made from bagasse from sugar-cane.  After drying, the wood has the colour of natural teak and weathers (if un-treated) to a silvery grey colour when used as exterior cladding.  I hope to see a garden furniture set on the market soon!

wall2bearIn the New Design Britain corner, I couldn’t walk past Cristiana Ionescu’s family of felt bears without a smile.  What a delightful accessory for a toddler’s room.  Helen Dugdale‘s colourful Paper-Knotwood caught my eye.  Helen wanted to create a sustainable, recyclable material from coloured paper.  Each piece is unique with the possibility of bespoke colour patterns and combinations.  The material can be cut, sanded, and machined to reveal its layers as a grain, or used as a veneer.  A candy bright or subtle stripe for any interior surface.  

feltFrom the hard to the soft, comfort of 100% pure wool felt from Hollandfelt.  There was a rich array of vibrant colours urging me to stroke them.  Hollandfelt is one of the few felt producers using 100% pure wool from Australian and South American sheep whose fleeces have softer fibres than those closer to home.  The Merino wool is washed in hot water with natural soap rubbing the fibres together to create wool felt.  Felt is renewable and recyclable.  Hollandfelt contains some recycled material from previous customers re-dyed to a darker colour.  The carpet felt, twice felted for durability, is naturally flame and dirt retardant, as well as having good insulating and acoustic properties.  Woolfelts are suitable for fashion, furnishing, architectural interiors and craft applications.  All the products have reached the Öko-Tex 100 standard whose test criteria exceed existing legislation, for example limiting formaldehyde use and banning allergenic dyes, and why wouldn’t you err on the side of caution when choosing materials that you live with?

corkThere were definite moments when I would have been grateful for a seat in the Corqui, made of natural, renewable and sensual cork from Corque Design and designed by Pedro Silva Dias (600x50x690mm).  My potential choice of seating was not limited though as Out of the Dark provided eight chairs for a Silent Auction (pictured below) to raise both awareness and funds for their social enterprise that trains young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to recycle, restore and repaint furniture.  More of their wares were on display in the DX section of the show.  I have just got wind of an exciting collaboration between Out of the Dark and one of my favourite makers, Sebastian Cox, so watch this space for more news!

ootdIn the meantime, news from Clerkenwell Design Week will follow, along with tales of the discussion on the circular economy hosted by Stephen Gee, Director of Resource, with Sophie Thomas, Co-Director of Design, RSA, Mark Shayler, Managing Director of Ticketyboo, and James Bell, Environmental Consultant at FIRA.

 

 

Photocredits:  Jonas Edvard (MYX); Helen Dugdale

Home/Craft London/ Top Drawer – the cc edit

woodcutIt felt like a sprint finish to get round the cavernous halls of Earls Court on the final day of the trinity that was Home, Craft London and Top Drawer 2014, but I was well rewarded for my efforts.  It was a chance to get a sneak preview of new product launches, learn more of the story behind the label, or simply a face to a name.  Here are the cc edited highlights.

On the threshold of home was Plumen, sculptural lighting that is also energy efficient.  After the look-at-me exuberance of the original Plumen 001, the new kid, Plumen 002, is a simpler, more subtle design.  With luminosity equivalent to a 30W incandescent bulb and colour warmer than the  Plumen 001, the overall lighting effect is softer, but still architectural.  The compact fluorescent bulb has a lifetime of 8000 hours, or 8 years of normal usage and is recyclable.  It is not yet dimmable, but they are working on it!

mG7ClaqvSPiOnMWcvkLdWPAJust across the way was one of my current everyday joys, the Black +Blum Eau Good water bottle complete with charcoal filter.  Then, I made a bee-line for Stuart Gardiner to admire the fun and informative prints on oven mitts, tea towels and aprons.  Stylish aide-memoires to seasonal foods to hand in the kitchen when you need them!

BOJJE - WILD FLOWER SET CUTOUTOther kitchen accessories that caught my eye were the ‘wildflower’ range of utensils fashioned from beech and stainless steel (pictured left).  They are simply beautiful to look at and to hold.  Bojje are based in Suffolk with a passion for the materials they use, particularly wood.  Combining traditional woodworking , woodland crafts and modern technologies the products have a graceful, simplicity and sensuality.

27033759_57400Hop and Peck’s set of platter boards (pictured right) are handmade from sustainable solid oak and finished in Danish oil, from £35.

I had a brief pause to admire Haidee Drew’s bamboo chopping boards. More tableware in bamboo fibre was available from Ekobo who were showing their range of traditional handmade bamboo and laquerware and also Biobu, a range colourful enough for all the family to enjoy eating from.  I love the cool simplicity of the FAT Ceramics designed by Piet Hein Eek for Fair Trade Original.   The contemporary twist provided by Piet Hein Eek’s designs still allow the traditional craftsmanship of the producers in Thailand and Vietnam to shine through.

brushes

The handiwork of veteran crafts makers from Handmade-Japan was on show at Craft London.  I have been on the hunt for a good broom (and a mop) so loved the colourful ‘Nanbu Hoki’, traditional, handmade brooms and brushes made from all natural fibres.

rugNatural fibres such as pure new wool, jute and fair trade, organic cotton are the basis of Waffle Design‘s distinctive textured cushions and throws.  New designs for 2014 also included products made from upcycled aran carpet yarn.  The yarn was rescued from an old carpet factory in Yorkshire, and hand dyed in small batches in East London.  Tweedmill had a whole (makeshift) cabinet of colourful recycled wool and fleece throws on show, pictured left.  They also produce recycled picnic rugs, draft excluders, bags, cushions and even a garden kneeler.

smileAnd on to the bigger ticket items.  Fun furniture with clean lines and contemporary shapes from Lozi Designs.    The smile shelves were generating a lot of interest, and good humour (pictured right).  Close by, Wayfarer Furniture offered another response to eco-urban living with two new collections on show, the Prima and Tempo.  The first, Prima, uses wood, the second, Tempo uses lower grade, but also low carbon materials of fibre and corrugated board, both are a discursive response to ethical living in an urban environment.

acAnother Country‘s approach to sustainability is to make furniture that has timeless appeal crafted using traditional and modern techniques from responsibly sourcing materials.  Good design has physical and emotional longevity, and every piece from Another Country has a simple elegance you can enjoy for a long time.  The new Series 3, made from oiled beech and inspired by Edwardian industrial furniture, would work, literally and metaphorically, well at home or in the office.  The new Soft Series of blankets and cushions made from 100% hand-dyed wool with UK weavers Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company in three graphic designs is a simply covetable collection.

Finally, the beautiful laser cut silhouettes of trees by Clare Cutts, pictured at the top of the page, are an elegant and evocative way to bring the outside in to any space.  The designs are based on photographs of trees taken by Clare. Originally, Clare created the woodcuts to emboss tree prints on paper, but realised the woodcut are things of beauty in their own right.

corkAnd last, but not least, as I prepared for my cycle home, I was wishing for a pair of cork bicycle grips designed by Green and Blue and handmade in Portugal.  Cork is durable, anti-bacterial and offers cushioning, the perfect material for bike grips.  Cork is a naturally renewable, and these grips are hand made from Portuguese cork harvested in managed forests. They have beautiful form, and function.

What a hottie!

Seven_Gauge_Studio_2013_Product_on_White-140_large

The cold winter nights are still with us and one way to warm up is with a hot water bottle.  Who wouldn’t love a cuddle with one of these?

The warm tones of the Seed hot water bottle from Seven Gauge Studio (pictured left) alone will spark an inner glow.  Each cover is knitted on a hand-powered machine from top quality lambswool, then individually washed and slightly felted for a softer cuddle.  They are priced at £45, including the bottle, and made to order in England.

Hotties-210x210

The hottie covers from Laura’s Loom (pictured right) are made from Bluefaced Leicester wool that is sourced from the Yorkshire Dales.  The lovely colours of these Howgill fabrics deliberately evoke the colours and textures of Britain’s northern landscapes.  All Laura’s Loom products are designed, sourced and made in the UK, proudly celebrating Britain’s woollen heritage.  The hotties are available in the three colours shown, priced £24, and fit a standard 2l bottle (not included).

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An upcycled alternative, is the selection of hot water bottle covers made from vintage Welsh blankets that have been damaged beyond repair available from Jane Beck.  The blanket remnants are salvaged to make limited numbers of mini and full size hot water bottle covers.  Prices from £19.99 for a mini hottie, with bottle included.

hottiebottie400px_250pxx370_99241f4dd82b68b3c9669f6c284a545bFor a homemade option, the Hottie Bottie hot water bottle cover felt making kit from Gilliangladrag includes the wool tops, ready cut plastic template and full step-by-step feltmaking instructions written by Gillian Harris, author of “Complete Feltmaking” and “Carnival of Felting”.  A basic felt making kit (bamboo mat and net) is also required.  I am quite tempted to sign up for a Learn to Felt course, £65 for the day at the Fluff-a-torium in Dorking.

cherrystonebagThe cherry stone bag from Momosan is an original, and understated alternative to  conventional hot water bottles.  The 100% African cotton bags are filled with cherry stones that are a by-product of jam and kirsch making.  Apparently, Swiss distillery workers traditionally heated bags of the stones on warm stoves to sooth bumps and aching muscles.  If you don’t have a stove to hand, you and I  can heat the cherry stone pillows in the microwave to soothe muscular tension or warm feet in bed.  The bag can also be chilled for use as a cold compress on sprains or headaches.  The bags are available in 9 different patterns and cost £22.

Nights need no longer be chilly!

All pictures are from the suppliers websites.

Sweet dreams with wool

duvetI have had my eye on some woollen bedding for a while, but recently out found that feathers and household dust may aggravate my daughter’s eczema.  Along with the 20% discount on all wool bedding that the Wool Room are running until 1st December, I had all the justification I needed.

The deluxe all seasons single duvet (reduced to £124) arrived with free delivery the next day!  The duvet is a summer 200gsm (3-5 tog approx) duvet and spring/autumn 300gsm (6-9 tog approx) duvet that can be snapped together with poppers to make a winter duvet.  The duvets are made from 100% platinum grade British wool, covered in 100% cotton and held in place with a quilted stitch pattern.  The duvet is machine washable on a wool cycle with wool detergent, spin and line dry, and benefits from a good airing.

Why wool?  Wool is a great insulator, helping to regulate temperature in hot and cool weather.    Wool ‘breathes’ and wicks away moisture (perspiration) when you are sleeping.   When moisture is trapped in a duvet, humidity increases which can make for a restless and disturbed sleep.  House dust mites also love warm, damp, dark conditions, and duvets made of synthetic fibres such as polyester or nylon or down are less able to regulate moisture.  As dust mites aggravate asthma and some other allergies, reducing dust mites may alleviate symptoms for asthma sufferers, and other allergies.  Wool is also anti-bacterial, and naturally flame retardant, as well as renewable, recyclable and biodegradable.

My daughter used to get hot at night and throw her old duvet off.  With wool we have noticed that happens less, and you don’t get all the stuffing getting stuck down one end!

pillow

Already convinced of the benefits of wool, we invested in some wool pillows.  I was keen to try out the folding pillow from Devon Duvets as our feather pillows seem to loose their plumpness after about a year.  Wool needs to be regularly aired to maintain its qualities of wicking away moisture, and the design of the folding pillow makes it easier to hang the pillow and air it effectively.  Simple.

We ordered the 3 fold wool pillow (£69) made of 100% Platinum Grade British wool in a 100% cotton casing and handcrafted in the Devon Duvets workshops.   The wool  is not bleached or chemically-treated (chlorine gas is often used to make tumble drying of wool possible).  The pillows can be machine washed, but must be thoroughly spin and line-dried.  The pillows are soft, springy and supportive.  Perfect for my own private slumber party every night of the year!

 

 

Handmade in Britain – the CC edit

ELakelinI first lingered to admire the beautiful wooden vessels created by Eleanor Lakelin from British wood.  Eleanor studied cabinet-making, after a career in teaching, and was the first woman to win the annual Austin’s Prize for Craftsmanship in Wood in 1998.  More recently, Eleanor has focused on turning wood on a lathe to carve decorative pieces and functional objects such as bowls and food boards.

Eleanor’s vessels are sensory pieces that you need to see, feel and smell in order to fully digest their beauty.  The wood is from trees that have fallen or had to be felled, and each different species of tree has distinct characteristics and qualities as a wood.   There are ethereal sculptural forms created from the wood of a 300 year old horse chestnut that was turned, carved, sandblasted and bleached.  Sycamore lends a warm, golden hue to bowls carved with dimples that look almost aquatic.  Bowls made from olive ash have a tonal colour as the wood closer to the centre of the trunk is darker.  Each piece tells the story of its origin, and Eleanor’s sympathetic interventions using only the lathe, sanding, bleaching and scorching.

After training as a painter at The Royal College of Art, London in the early 1960s, Rachel Scott began spinning and weaving in 1976.  Initially a practical response to pressing need for some carpet, Rachel found great satisfaction in this new  medium for her artistic expression.  Her first loom was made from some boards salvaged from a skip, and her brother made her spinning wheel.

RScottRachel undertakes every aspect of product.   The fleeces come from friends who live on the Berkshire Downs and different breeds of British sheep. Rachel cards and combs the fibres before hand-spinning them into wool.  The wool remains undyed and tapestry woven on an upright wooden frame loom.  The rugs are bold, geometric designs in the subtle colours of the natural wool from different breeds. Black Welsh (black with rusty tips), Devon Longwools (cream), Manx Logthans (soft, pale brown), Shetlands (fine,brown, grey,black), Hebrideans (soft,black) and Herdwicks (pale and dark grey).  The rugs are approximately 150 x 75 cm.  They can standalone, or be sewn together to make bigger rugs, or stair carpets.  I love the contrast of the muted shades with the strong patterns.  And, of course, the wool is natural, renewable, hard-wearing, breathable, warm in winter and cool in summer!

I had a short pitstop at Offkut, to admire the sculptural lighting and furniture made from reclaimed industrial salvage.  They had lent a stool to a weary neighbouring exhibitor and she vouched for its comfort.  Their furniture is certainly built to last.  Then a mini-domestic emergency had me pedalling home, pulled away from admiring the marine and floral designs of Justine Munson‘s porcelain.

Rachel’s rugs will next be available at Pullens Yards Winter Open Studios, 6th-8th December.

Eleanor’s work will be available at the Cockpit Arts Open Studios, 29th Nov- 1st Dec.

 

Where’s woolly? Here it is

 

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And voila!  The result of my first experiment in knitting at the Knit Nation class with Wool in the Gang at John Lewis earlier this week.  The whole project took between two and three hours for this complete beginner.  The Zion Lion knit kit (£30) had very clear, concise and easy to follow instructions.  I have been bitten by the knit bug!  My daughters were both fascinated by the process, and very excited to receive their one size seems to fit all beanie hat.

There will be more to follow……

 

Knit Nation

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A kick start to Wool Week, with a free knitting class from Wool and the Gang in the John Lewis store in central London as part of Knit Nation.  I hadn’t picked up a set of knitting needles for twenty years, not since I had knit-perled along side my grandma.  However, Alexandra from WATG was undaunted by my absolute beginner status.   I was swiftly given an enormous set of wooden knitting needles and chosen a peppermint green ball of chunky wool.  Slip knot in place, cast on came out of the recesses of my mind, knit I could remember, and purl I was gently reminded of, and before I knew it I had my first row of ribbed stitches under my belt.  The giant needles gave me a sense of being Lilliputian, as did the sense of wonder at the evident skill on the sofas around me.  It was beyond my skill level to talk and knit simultaneously, but there were other novices to join me in my meditative state, and the industry was infectious, creating an immediate sense of community.

With the chunky wool and giant needles progress was rapid, and

knafter only an hour the hat was already starting to materialise.  Others in the groups attend or run regular knitting groups, and it is easy to see how quickly you can get to a level where you could maintain a good chat and knit in the company of friends.  It might be a while before I have knitted a pouf or cushion but I’m on my way.

The UK Handknitting Association has all sorts of information from free patterns to tips on learning to knit or knitting groups in your area.