Cambrian Mountains Wool Design Challenge

Over the course of the past several months I've mentioned working on and submitting a design to the Cambrian Mountains Wool Design Challenge based in Wales. A member of the weaving guild mentioned the challenge to me early this year and I thought it might be fun to submit a design proposal. 

The Cambrian Mountains Initiative, inspired by Prince Charles, aims to help sustain traditional upland farms and rural communities in Wales. Wool, being one of the areas oldest resources, is a tradition that is held in high regard in that part of the UK. The wool challenge was meant to reconnect people to the rich textile heritage. 

"The 2015 International Design and Make Challenge gave designers the opportunity to work with 100% Cambrian Mountain wool from the heart of Wales. The common factor: a passion for design, sustainability and quality. Our aim: to demonstrate the beauty and versatility of our wool.

The opportunity was for emerging or established textile designer-makers to work with their choice of 1kg of wool tops; 1kg yarn; or up to 3 meters of fabric in plain woven structure, or a mixture of the three to create a unique textile work – whether functional or purely decorative – to help us show the versatility and beauty of Cambrian Mountains Wool."

128 designers submitted applications, and a selection panel chose around 30 to participate. I was shocked to find out that I was one of those selected! I was the only one from the US to be selected- most others are from the UK and surrounding areas. Soon after getting the email, I was sent the wool yarn I had chosen for my design. I intended to create a vintage inspired swing top in a traditional herringbone pattern. I painted the warp yarn to give it some color and depth, and kept the weft the natural cream color of the wool. 

I cut the woven fabric off the loom before soaking it in hot water to full the yarn and make a cohesive fabric. The garment pattern I used was adapted from an original Ona Rex top that she showed at Nashville Fashion Week this year. She was kind enough to not only let me use it, but guide me through the best way to construct it. The finished garment is heavier in weight than I was anticipating but I love how the fabric hangs.  Check out my process photos below. 

The final pieces, you can see the all of them on their website here, are traveling around the UK this summer and fall as part of a showcase to bring awareness to the wool tradition and the Cambrian Mountains Region. One stop on the traveling show is a private viewing for the designers themselves. None of us have seen any of the other pieces in person, so this is an opportunity to do so. Everyone was invited to Wales for the special event this Friday. It doesn't entirely seem real- even still, but I am packing my bags and heading to London with my mom tonight! Thursday we'll take the train to Aberystwyth (I can't even pronounce that!) and spend some time in Wales before the event Friday morning. So, as they say in Wales- Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod (My hovercraft is full of eels) 

Hwyl! (Bye!)

5 times.

As I gear up for Porter Flea this weekend, my fifth one, it's easy to reminisce about the very first one and how much I've changed and my business has grown in these last 2 years. Looking back through the pictures, it seems like so long ago I got my business license and became a "professional" weaver. I was so nervous waiting for the "you got in" or "sorry, next time around" email I don't think I even ate for two days! Then it came time to actually start making things.. all the things. I made all the tea towels, scarves, table runners, and pillows my little fingers could handle. I also had to figure out my booth design, that was a nightmare! Many trips to thrift stores and the flea market and hours upon hours of work on Rogers part- we finally had it figured out! Rebecca and Taylor came up to help and the rest is a blur. The biggest thing I took from that weekend, was that I NEEDED Porter Flea in my life. 

I am still just as humbled to be accepted into Porter Flea again and again, I really count on it for my business and it keeps me working and coming up with new product ideas. This time around, I'm doing things a little differently- I've spent much of this last year collaborating with other local designers and I thought-- what better idea than to share a booth with some of them! They just happen to be my studio-mates too, and I love them to death. There have definitely been a few ups and downs in this whole booth planning thing, like trying to figure out how 3+ of us would be able to fit in our 8x8 booth, but we've worked it all out and I couldn't be more excited to share this experience with them. (Although they are long-time Porter Flea veterans from back when it first started) I feel like we've come full circle. That very first Porter Flea Roger and I went to when we moved here was the first time I met Jamie and Hannah. I knew from that day forward, my number one goal was to be able to work with them. 

My products have grown and changed, that's obvious, but I can also see how much my process has changed. I never really stuck with anything long enough to experience the "practice makes perfect" thing until now. 2 years ago, as I was making my lists and planning out my time leading up to Porter Flea, I had to get all my weaving done the week before so I would have time to finish products. That last warp I did for that market was for 15 tea towels and Roger thought I was crazy. Porter Flea is on Friday, 2 days away, and I just put 15 yards on my big loom to have done in time. And I will easily finish it. To break it down for you- that's 560 square feet of cloth for 15 tea towels compared to 2,700 square feet of cloth for these 15 yards. So I guess practice really does make perfect! I definitely hope to see you all this weekend, because Porter Flea would mean nothing without you guys! Thanks!