The story so far – ‘from field to studio to you’.
I know I’m fortunate. I live in rural Northamptonshire with a view over fields and woods. There isn’t another building in sight.
When the field in my view came up for sale, I knew I had to buy it to ensure it stayed unspoilt. But then, what should I do with a field? How should I look after it?
The answer came in a very roundabout way.
Some friends had taken me to a car boot sale, but it quickly bored me. Wandering off, I found myself at an alpaca show. I was intrigued. This was the answer! Cute furry lawnmowers!
My husband-to-be was not amused by the idea and arranged for us both to go on an alpaca husbandry course – I think to put me off! But, by half way through, these curious creatures had captured our hearts.
Another stroke of serendipity: my neighbour told me about some alpacas nearby that needed a new home. So, five white alpacas – Reggie and the boys – came to stay with us, looking after the field, adding to the view and providing excellent manure for the garden! It was the beginning of ‘from field to studio’.
Reggie is the boss and very much in charge. Raffles is the able second in command while Truffle is the most intelligent and has the finest fleece. Victor and Valiant are the youngest. Valiant is the playful one and will play chase around the field, especially with children. Great fun! Generally, though, they are calm, gentle creatures, and very sociable.
Their serene presence rekindled my creativity, but I was slow to start – I was about to get married! My cousin told me about nuno-felting – my wedding dress – of course! I would make it from our own alpaca fleece. Keen to learn, she said I must go to a nuno-felting designer – May J Hvisttendahl, who lived in Norway. So, I set off to her home on the west coast of Norway taking Truffle’s fleece – our finest alpaca – in my bulging suitcase on Ryanair to make my wedding dress.
The visit was transformational; nuno-felting is not widely known and yet is a skill that results in a fine, flowing material when the fleece is hand-bonded into a silk foundation using nothing more than soap and water and hard work. Its airy versatility is intoxicating and the dress was fabulous.
With lockdown forcing stay-at-home activities, I felt I had permission, indeed the need, to devote time and effort to working in my studio. I had developed weaving skills too and new designs for necklaces. My husband produced the beautiful, simple wood pieces from the trees on our land – continuing the environmental theme ‘from field to studio’.
Nuno Felting is a wet felting technique where wool or fibre is felted or entangled with and through an open weave fabric such as silk chiffon or silk gauze. The felting is accomplished by applying water, heat and friction to the sheep wool or alpaca fibre.
Weaving is a method of textile production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth.
Alpaca Fleece: The alpacas are sheared each year and a lovely East Anglian mill, specialising in alpaca, washes and cards the fleeces for nuno-felting and spins it if I want yarn for weaving. All our alpacas are white, so I can create beautiful bright colours and when I collect the processed fleeces, I’m so excited and can’t wait to start the dyeing. I’d like to use natural dyes, but they don’t give me the range of bright colours I want and some of the mordants are unpleasant, so I use Landscape dyes.
Care instructions of my designs
Pieces can be hand-washed in warm (not hot!) water with a gentle wool detergent then rinsed. Be careful not to agitate the fabric when washing (this would felt the item!) and squeeze gently but do not wring.
They are best left to air dry on a flat surface out of direct sunlight.
I treasure the sustainability and the traceability of each piece and I try to respect this ethos with the raw materials I use.
Each piece of work in each collection is unique, whether a scarf, table runner, rug, necklace or cushion.