Lou Tonkin on Working with Wool

We hope you have enjoyed this section of WOVEMBER featuring knitwear designers, hand spinners, weavers, knitters, event organisers, mill restorers & co. but no collection of writings on ‘Working with Wool’ would be complete without some words from a felt-maker! This piece has been researched and put together for WOVEMBER by Tom, and features the work of Lou Tonkin!

I’d like to introduce to you Lou Tonkin, a textile artist and printmaker from Cornwall. Some of you might know her as The Jumper Doctor, and indeed, this is what first caught my eye. Lou mends, patches and decorates old jumpers, using her felting needle and wool to great effect, inspired by the Cornish countryside.

Lou spends hours wandering the country lanes, watching the birds and the wildlife in the hedgerows, providing her with inspiration and she often picks wool of barbed wire along the way. Lou says “I love felt making but my favourite bit about it is using local wools to recycle old unwanted woolen items into new lovely things!”

Indeed, she has started the Cornish Wool Project, as she would like to start using locally grown wool. There are plenty sheep keepers who primarily keep their sheep for keeping the grass down etc., and often they don’t really know what to do with the wool. So Lou would love to get in touch with local sheep keepers and have some of their wool. She will clean and card it, label it and look at the best uses for it and experimenting with it.

Some of this will find its way into an exhibition piece, for which Lou finds it important to know where the wool comes from: where did the sheep live, what sort of habitat do they have, how many are there in their flock. Through this, the Cornish Wool Project will show how useful wool is and what value it has as a sustainable product.

However, we will have to wait a bit for this to come to fruition, as Lou is currently travelling around Malaysia for a twelve month observation trip and who knows what tropical birds will find their way onto an old jumper in need of repair!

All images © Lou Tonkin and used with her kind permission.