As Wovember draws to its close, and following on from Louise’s post yesterday, this evening Felix reflects on this year’s Wovember with its Woolness theme. Please feel free to share your own reflections on this month in the comments!

I’ve loved this year’s Wovember postings and the different voices brought to this blog by our amazing guest curator-contributors. I really feel we grow the most at the edges of what we already know and when exploring ideas outside our comfort zone and concepts that challenge us in some way… and to me that growth is part of wellness. I’ve heard the expression “echo-chamber” a lot this year in relation to social media – the idea that we find people online who will affirm our existing beliefs – and one of my favourite things about this Wovember is that through the diversity of curators and contributors, we’ve been able to explore topics from multiple perspectives. I particularly appreciated the two perspectives on sheep grazing and conservation offered in Louise Spong’s beautiful piece, Sheepwrecked to resc(ewe)d, and Rob Wolton’s piece,on ecology and balance. I still feel like I have lots to learn about grazing and conservation, but really appreciated how our contributors (and commenters) brought nuance to discussions of the topic. We must be willing to ask ourselves difficult questions about wool if we want to grow in our relationship with it, I feel.

Tor-grass has dominated some areas of the South Downs
Chalkhill Blue butterfly photographed in Dorset, UK, 21 July 2013 by Ian Kirk and shared on Wikimedia Commons using Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
Chalkhill Blue butterfly photographed in Dorset, UK, 21 July 2013 by Ian Kirk and shared on Wikimedia Commons using Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

For similar reasons, I am really grateful and glad that we were allowed to republish Krista McCurdy’s fantastic piece about US superwash wool. This brilliant, well-researched piece of writing really helped me to think more carefully about my values regarding wool and from the comments it seems to have resonated with many of you that way, too.

say whaat?

The Woolness & Me posts have been a real highlight for me, this Wovember. My health has been pretty horrendous for most of 2017. I can’t stand being given unwanted, ableist advice, but stories of how other comrades are uplifting their health and their lives are really helpful and inspiring to read and have personally helped me a lot this year; I feel from the comments that I am not alone in this, and I was particularly moved by how many of you seemed to relate to my feelings about sheep and their calming presence, shared on instagram earlier in the month.

2. Woolness = wellness. Also, when I went through an extended period of mental ill health in 2011, I remember the exquisite comfort I experienced in the presence of sheep at the Royal Berkshire Show. I sat near their pens in the sheep tent and witnessed their snuffling, hay-eating, sleeping, dozing, bickering and baaing. I smelled their woolly smell. And somewhere around the moment when I noticed the beauty of their sheep noses, I felt something shift and knew I would be OK, and everything would be fine, and a deep, all-consuming burden of depression and misery began to slowly lift. I felt the healing power of the flock, and I defy any person to look into the sweet, wise eyes of a sheep and not feel some sort of life affirming mutual bond of healing mammalian affinity. #wearwoolforwovember #wearwooleveryday

A post shared by Felicity Ford (@knitsonik) on

For related reasons, I especially enjoyed reading about the empathic qualities of Liddy the Lamb.

(is that A LAMB I see?!) Photo © Sara Dunham

I also loved reading accounts of how Sally Vergette and Sue Reed turned to creativity with wool after huge personal traumas caused by the Foot & Mouth crises and a personal health crises, respectively. What amazing and inspiring testimonies to the restorative powers of wool and of making.

Sally Vergette weaving on her Navajo loom
The Woolly Pedlar

I have really been inspired by the vim and energy with which each of our guest curators has taken on their topic this Wovember, bringing freshness, creativity, and multiple voices to themes we’ve long cherished on the Wovember blog. Massive heartfelt thanks to Emma Ross, Louise Spong and Paula Wolton, and to those of you – Sue Blacker, Krista McCurdy – who let us use your words here this year. In particular I enjoyed Emma Ross’s practical directory of support for woolness and the individual; Louise Spong’s research into the history of Tansy and other Sussex Shepherdesses

Ethel Oliver 1934 (A Sussex Shepherdess)

…and discovering Yuli Sømme’s rich artistic practices for engaging the public with the wonder that is wool, through Paula Wolton.

Feet felt
Felt feet made in one of Yuli’s workshops

Emma’s pieces resonate with a sense of the intimate friendships and social networks we build around wool; Louise’s pieces reflect her rich engagement with her locality and its deep histories of wool; and Paula’s pieces offer an insight into the working landscape of Dartmoor and the many different groups and processes involved in bringing wool to the fore in contemporary discussions of sustainability, craft and activism. To me each week of curated posts speaks to a beauteous and life-affirming depth of engagement with wool evident in the work of each writer. I love wool – I work with wool as artist, writer, designer, knitter of KNITSONIK stranded colourwork, co-founder of Wovember – but it’s beautiful to see how others engage with this material in their lives and work. It’s been a real privilege to learn more about our contributors and to have their takes on woolness as it relates broadly to the individual, the locality and the land.

Thank you so much.

I’m also full of thanks for Jeni Reid’s daily photos on instagram which have offered yet another perspective on wool, showing us its connections to rich friendships; to our feline assistants; and to contemplative solitary acts of slow and thoughtful crafting.

…and of course I HAVE LOVED THE WOVEMBER INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE!

I have had the best time participating in the challenge organised by Allison and Rachel of Yarn in The City. Their prompts have really been a rich springboard from which to explore wool and its relationships with other aspects of life and woolness. From the number of posts I’ve seen, many of you feel the same way. What a beautiful competition you organised, friends; thank you so much, it has been WONDROUS to witness and participate (though I have to echo what comrade Louise said yesterday: at times postings have erred away from the normally strict observance of fibre composition advocated by our campaign website, tsk tsk!)

Thinking about our topic – Woolness – I really enjoyed thinking about this on multiple levels. From the life affirming actions of taking a political stand and fighting, through to combining yarn with yoga, through to hanging out with empathic sheep, through to finding wool itself a physical and mental comfort. From covering your walking stick with wool to writing rants on jumpers, there are as many ways to be well as there are knitters. I’m thankful for those of you from other parts of the supply chain from sheep to shoulders for bringing ideas of wellness to those other contexts… land management, animal welfare, community. To close this year’s reflections on what woolness means to me, I’d like to quote from Janine Bajus’s BEAUTIFUL book – THE JOY OF COLOR – which contains a paragraph that beautifully celebrates this interconnectedness of wool:

Wear your sweater whenever you can – don’t save it for special occasions. Let it become your signature in the world, a quiet symbol of intelligence, skill, persistence, and the power of individual beauty in an over-commodified world.

Revel in its warmth, privately thanking the thousands of people who helped you bring your vision to life: the shepherds, the veterinarians, the fence builders, the shearers, the mill workers, the truck drivers, the dyers, the label printers, the shop owners, the teachers, the needle makers, the book publishers, the designers, the editors, your knitting friends – in the deepest sense your sweater is an expression of your place in an interconnected web spanning time and place whose strands are too numerous to name.

– Janine Bajus, The Joy of Color

Lisa Anne Auerbach showing us how to rock a sweater as a statement

All that is left to say is a very thank you to all of you for wearing and working with wool; for checking in here; for commenting, sharing and discussing our posts, and for being part of this wonderful woolly journey.

YOURS IN WOOL XF

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