Annie, the Hebridean sheep lives in Stoke-On-Trent. Her dark chocolate fleece has loosely curled locks that blend into patches of frizz. Matted and oily in places, dry and knotted in others, is has an ombre effect blending into sun bleached tan ends of much dryer textures. Carefully picking the specks of green hedgerow from amongst the fuzzy fibres, and brushing them lightly to preserve their crimp, the potential of this natural material became truly apparent.
Connecting Annie the sheep with her fleece had an affect that put me in mind of Roland Barthes' theory of the ‘Punctum’. He describes this as a moment which pricks and effects, where, rather than only seeing something, one is taken over by an over whelming sense that a moment of a special nature has occurred. The moment will never be forgotten. The animal from which the fibre came, her face surrounded by the fleece that would soon be treated with great care to felt into garments, was intriguing. An opportunity to entice inquisition into materials and their origins lies here.
Consumers on average know very little about the materials contained within the textiles they buy. Petrochemical based, non-biodegradable fibres make up the majority of textiles made and purchased. With over 60 breeds of British Sheep adorned in a great variety of fleece types, British Wool is an under-used resource. Should wool be championed over synthetic fibres, the adaptable properties of this super smart fibre could be appreciated and utilised.
Could a focus on the narrative of these woolly material origins be the key to inspiring more radical change, and a new-found appreciated for British Wool?
Guest blog post by Beth Ranson
Beth Ranson is a knitted textile designer and fibre researcher. Her collections of research can be found on her website www.bethranson.com / Instagram @beth.ranson.knits.