We recently received some wonderful Pashmina shawls so light and so soft that everything else that I had ever encountered that described itself as ‘cashmere’ felt rough in comparison. I quizzed our supplier Sadhu about the softness of these Pashminas and it soon became clear what the difference was.
Pashmina is the fabric woven from the pashm, the soft downy undercoat that grows on the nect and belly of the Himalayan mountain goat, Capra Hirracus. It is only the goats living at above 4500 metres that produce the finest wool as they require the extra insulation to live in the harsh terrain and winter temperatures of -30°.
The very fine pashm used in Sadhu’s pashminas comes from Changtang in Ladakh where nomadic herders tend flocks on the high plains. They collect the fleece by combing the goats in the late spring before they molt. In summer these are brought or bartered by Ladakhi traders and sent to Leh, where the Kashmiri traders make their purchases.
The Kashmiri artisans have perfected the art of hand-shinning the fine pashmina yarn. The pashmina fibre is extremely fine at 14 microns (a human hair is 200 microns) and long staple and whilst this gives it the softness and lustre when woven, it is much more challenging to spin and weave.
The delicate pashm is firstly painstakingly cleaned and then hand-spun. The very fine hand-spun yarn is then carefully woven by hand, weaving a 2m length takes 3 days.
Sadhu is concerned that the cheap imitations of pashmina with machine –spun and woven cashmere mix yarns are undermining the 2000 year old skills and traditions of the Kashmiri Pashmina artisans.
See more of these wonderful Pashminas in our ‘Scraves and Wraps’ section on our website.
Our 2015 series of blogs all relate to cloth weaving, printing or otherwise embellishing. The hope is that we further educate ourselves about the products that we sell and visit some of our fantastic suppliers who are busy manufactering high quality textiles in the UK.
The First of these blog posts is on ‘Double Cloth’. Double cloth is a two-layered woven cloth, the layers can be quite different; a tapestry design on one face with a plain layer behind, or they can be a reverse of each other (a double faced double cloth); as seen in ‘Welsh Blankets’, where there is no’wrong side’ just a different version on each side.
A Welsh ‘Tapestry’ style blanket showing the two different ‘faces’.
Having read up on this and had it explained to me a couple of times by experts I still don’t feel like I have the best grasp on the actual technicalities of how this miracle happens but essentially two fabrics are woven simultaneously with binding yarns interconnecting the two layers to form a single cloth.
At the ‘National Wool Museum’ (Wales) in Llandysul, Carmerthenshire the story of the woollen industry is followed through from fleece to finished product. The production of woollen cloth has a long history in Wales with different areas having different moments of success and decline, the production of blankets became centred in West Wales in the 19th century with a high point in the first decade or two of the 20th century with plain colours and stripes forming a large part of the prodcution as well as the ‘tapestry’ style Welsh double cloth blankets. Originally the double cloth blankets were woven from a fairly coarse two ply woollen yarn and their weight and durability mean that they found use as rugs and curtains as well as blankets. It is interesting to note that many of the 19th century American quilt designs, particularly those produced by the Amish of Pennsylvania, seem to owe much to the traditional Welsh double cloth blankets.
The clear geometric designs associated both with traditional Welsh blanket design and 19th century American quilt design.
As well as housing a large variety of working machinery associated with woollen cloth production, The National Wool Museum also home to a good collection of historic blankets, outfits and cloth samples making it especially valuable for today’s designers.
The collection of vintage Welsh blankets at the ‘National Wool Museum’ in Llandysul, Carmarthenshire.
Very much a working museum current production is run by Raymond Jones of Melin Teifi who has a vast knowledge and understanding of both the history and processes of the Welsh woollen industry. Melin Teifi produce both their own range of woollen flannels and commision weaving for other designers and it was exciting to see some very contemporary designs on the looms.
Current production on the looms of Melin Teifi.
Until now our working lives have been those advanced in their careers. Luis, at 19yrs and just six months out of college, is at the beginning of his working life and we asked him few questions.
How did this begin? “When I was fifteen my school programme of work experience came along and I had no idea how to spend the five days allocated. ‘Well, think about what you have enjoyed most in your life to date’ suggested my Dad.”
“A day with Ben Orford, a multi-disciplinary craftsmen, had so far been the best day of my life. With Ben I was allowed to really use tools and equipment to forge a blade and horn mount a woodsman’s knife” and Luis’ response led to a week with blacksmith, Alex Wilkins at Stretton Grandison, followed by six evenings at Holme Lacy College. “I was lucky that I had just had my sixteenth birthday – allowing me to enrol for the evening class and follow up my work experience”.
* Luis (14yrs) linishing at Ben Orford’s workshop
How did you learn? From there, after GCSE’s, Luis spent three years at Holme Lacy College, which is part of Hereford College of Technology, learning blacksmiths’ “sets” – that is the sequence of processes to achieve particular functions. The sets are essential and these were practiced over and again until perfect; a thorough approach that “sold” the course to Luis. “The college felt so different to school. There was mutual respect; I showed that I wanted to learn and the teaching staff gave me 100%.”
* Handmade Tongs for specific tasks, made at Holme Lacy
In a summer break, Luis built a forge at home and about that time began selling his small fire irons. “My forge wasn’t perfect – I little poisonous in fact – but selling my work was really encouraging, it was great to know that people wanted what I was making.”
* Water Twist Fire Pokers by Luis
Luis completed his course this summer and turned to improving his own forge and building up equipment, “It was quite a shock to come from the biggest and best equipped teaching forge in Europe to a small outhouse with forge and anvil – with rather inadequate ventilation! At college we learnt to make all our own handtools, but that didn’t stop me missing both the power hammer and the company of enthusiastic students”. Time management and self-discipline would be a challenge to most teenagers but Luis tries to put in six hours at the forge most days, admin and designing taking up more time. “If I’m working on a new idea or in the flow of making a group of pieces I work until I’m finished, recently I’ve been making for three Christmas events and have commissions to get out too”.
Plans for the future? Get a driving licence and go on the road. Luis is keen to get working alongside experienced blacksmith in a team or as an assistant on larger projects.
Did family background play a part? “I think there has been a sub-conscious influence on me as I was growing up – having parents who are skilled in art and craft has trickled down to me. Most of their friends are creative and work on their own in this field so it was normal to me to see people working fairly autonomously. However, college really opened me up to learning, exciting my interest widely, so I’m thinking of a little more education – I’ve always enjoyed Biology and would like to speak Spanish.” Well, all he needs to find is a Spanish Blacksmith, making enormous animals who needs an assistant!
Luis’ work can be found in little Tinsmiths – toasting forks a speciality
Next Friday ‘Ledbury Country Market’ is celebrating it’s 70th birthday. The ‘Market’ takes place every Friday throughout the year in St. Katherine’s Hall (handily situated between the towns main carpark and the High Street) and sells all manor of locally produced goods. Everything comes from within a 15 mile radius of Ledbury, which means that of course all fruit, veg and flowers are absolutely seasonal, cakes and bakes home cooked without weird and wonderful preservatives, eggs free range from a farm just outside Ledbury and Jams and pickles made from local fruit and veg – all wonderful stuff.
This market began life as the WI market and the very first one was on August 4th 1944, because of rationing there were no cakes, bakes or preserves (no ingredients) but lots of locally caught rabbits! The market progressed in the post war years taking surplus produce from local gardens and farms and when the W.I. sought charitable status the ‘Ledbury Country Market’ was born as a co-operative.
The Market also serves as a meeting place where you can enjoy a cup of tea and a home made biscuit, many of the customers and ‘members’ have been regulars at the market for years but there is a warm welcome for all and no where is the feeling of Ledbury as community stronger.
If you have ever noticed the wonderful flowers that grace the shop all summer and wondered which of us has the amazing garden that produces such beauties – the actual answer is that they all come from the ‘Country Market’ on a Friday.
So congratulations to ‘Ledbury Country Market’ on your 70th anniversary and I do hope that the folk of ‘Ledburyshire’ will still be meeting each other and buying wonderful local produce in 2084!
Ledbury Country Market every Friday 8.30- 1pm in St. Katherine’s Hall
A strong collection of printed & stitched linens by Abby Bury
Herefords Textile Design BA(hons) course has become outstanding over recent years with a talented and committed group of tutors; the excellent degree show is one of the events I really look forward to. So I was delighted when Tinsmiths was asked to provide a ‘Real World Brief’ for the level 5 students.
The students were set a brief to design a small collection of fabrics suitable for the Tinsmiths brand and they had 6 weeks to work on this project (alongside a marketing project and some work placements – who ever said students don’t work hard!). The first part of their brief required them to find out about Tinsmiths; research the designers and fabric companies whose cloth we sell, the type of fabrics that we like and try to identify a ‘house style’. They then had to work through design ideas; some identifying our natural fabric theme worked from a starting point of the ‘natural world’ and others spotted our love of Central Asian and folk textiles and so drew on historical references like tapestries and folk designs.
The final part of the project required each student to present their collection to me in concise 10 minute presentation which covered the research, design development and finished pieces.
We have not been involved in a project like this before but what a treat it was! The Level 5 group, which includes students specialising in weave and print, although not large, are all committed, hard working and completely engaged with their work.
I was so impressed by the quality of the responses, each student had either a clear and coherent overall idea for a collection or one or two strong individual designs and on the whole they all seemed to have almost too many ideas for the time allowed. What a pleasure and well done all of you – I can’t wait to see what you do in your final year!
A subtle collection of wool mix weaves by Alice Noble
Soft ombre weaves by Sadie French
Holly Griffiths collection with an urban feel included a smart linear print.
A monochrome collection by Jess Evans based on observational drawing.
With depth and subtlety Becky Chambers-Perola’s work is based on Russian folk motifs.
Sarah Fereday’s indigo collection including a lovely small repeat shell print.
Do click on the images to view full size.
Hereford College of Arts, Textile Design BA(hons) degree show 14th – 21st June for details visit https://www.facebook.com/events/286465278196181/