I work with natural fibres and dyes to create one-off woven items as well as naturally-dyed commercially-spun yarn sourced within the UK, preferably within the South West. I also produce some handspun yarns. I teach spinning, weaving and natural dyeing and a major focus of mine is on reducing environmental impact by using not only natural fibres and dyes but also low energy processes, responsible use of water, responsible disposal of waste and checking the sources of the materials I use.
I raise silkworms, grow flax and many dye plants including indigo and am researching the use of bio-accumulators of alum as mordant sources.
My passion is silk. I raise a few silkworms each year but confine myself to the ‘wild’ Giant Silkmoths, all of which produce useable silk and exist in the wild. They live out complete lifespans, as opposed to being killed as larvae. Wild silks are being recognised as having a value that is at least worth processing and has a charm of its own. The fibre is biodegradeable, the silkworms live on a variety of foodstuffs – oak, privet and eucalyptus in my case – and the silk, like all natural fibres is warm when cold and cool when hot. Regrettably, our only native silkmoth, the Emperor moth, produces very little silk and what it does is poor quality! Though the silk industry is seen as exploitative, that need not be the case with wild silks, particularly since those of us who rear them are able to send eggs and larvae back to their native lands to provide healthy stock should the local population begin to fail.
I have been very grateful to the V&A for giving me the opportunity to speak on their textile courses about the glories of the ‘peasant’ silk.
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