Diane Falck’s last thoughts on WOVEMBER…

This last post comes from Diane Falck, who has been with us throughout WOVEMBER… whose Ouessant sheeps’ wool we have seen Growing;


Flick-combed (Processed);

Hand-spun and hand-knitted (Worked-with);

…and Worn.

Diane’s beautiful posts about working with her Ouessant wool convey a deep sense of connectedness – the very title ‘Spinning Shepherd’ suggests a real relationship between growing wool and making clothes, and her entire blog is underpinned by a combined approach to knitting, spinning, and keeping sheep. However for WOVEMBER 2012, Diane was inspired to write something which extends the inspiration she draws from her shepherding and textile-making activities into more explicitly political territory. In this final WOVEMBER blog post of 2012, we hear how Diane’s activities as a spinning shepherd relate to her critique of the contemporary fashion industry. Her post links back to several themes explored throughout WOVEMBER, and describes the many hands that go into making woollen textiles. Since many hands have gone into making the WOVEMBER website what it is, and doing all the work that WOVEMBER celebrates, it seemed fitting to revisit some of your pictures and words from this year and last, to accompany this shepherd-written close to WOVEMBER 2012.

Of Mushrooms, Eggs, and Plastic Yarn

There is something about being a Spinning Shepherd that so easily lends itself to quiet reflection: walking through the pasture on a sunny November afternoon, surrounded by my small flock of Ouessant sheep, I cannot help but think of the many spinning shepherds who have come before me.

Jean François Millet: Shepherdess with her Flock and Dog, 1863-65

In our busy “post-modern” world, we have too often lost sight of the essential role sheep and textile production played in the lives of our ancestors.

Once upon a time, not that long ago, a large part of domestic work was devoted to transforming fibre into garments for the family. In fact, today, it is very difficult for most people to understand the number of hours it would have taken to transform raw fleece into jumpers, socks and woolly bonnets for the family. Wool must first be grown, then shorn, sorted, washed, carded or combed, and spun before being knit or woven. It took so many hands joined together to produce all of those woollen garments.

‘Shearing Shetland sheep’ and ‘Do happy sheep make finer wool?’ – Laura, The Unique Sheep, WOVEMBER 2012

‘Required Objects’ – shearing tools at a local Sheep and Fiber Festival – Teresa Johnson, WOVEMBER 2011

Lydia Hill shearing sheep – Lydia Hill

‘Old school for good wool’ – Jimmy Gravelet, WOVEMBER 2011

‘Waiting to be Skeined’ – Rebekah Anderson, WOVEMBER 2011

‘Knitting in the wind’ – Jimmy Gravelet, WOVEMBER 2011

‘Shetland meets Kinzel’ – Susanne Kuschnarew, WOVEMBER 2011

The time and care, and dare I say love, which went into this labour intensive process of creating garments for the family produced a cherished and valued item, a garment that was not quickly discarded or replaced.

‘Mended and re-mended stockings’ – Felicity Ford

As Annemor Sundbø has so beautifully suggested in her book, Invisible Threads in Knitting (2007, Torridal Tweed), these domestically produced garments created a web of invisible threads that bind us to the memory of a place, a time, and the many hands that came together to produce a piece of clothing.

Spinners, – Dennis Walker, from The Newbury Coat

Spinners, photographed at Louise Harries’ and Rachael Matthews’ temporary art mill – ‘Murder at The Wool Hall

Cecilia, spindling on the road and spindling off crags

But that was then! Today we live in the 21st century. Modern technology and industrial textile production has liberated us from the long and often dreary chores involved in producing garments for the family.

Expert at Gledhills Spinning Mill industrially spinning Bowmont Merino for Finisterre – David Gray

Carding machine at The Natural Fibre Company – Felicity Ford

And thanks to chemical engineering, the modern era has ushered in a host of “new and improved” textile fibers, like the infamous polyethylene terephthalate (polyester): cheap, easy to care for textiles, made from plastic yarns.

2 for 3 knitwear items, largely made of synthetic fibres, sold on the High Street and in 2011 – Felicity Ford

Yet, I often have to wonder if we haven’t paid an extremely high price for our “modern” convenient plastic textiles.

Yes, we have gained time and convenience.

But what have we lost?

Have we severed those invisible threads that link us to all of those who create the clothes that we wear? In our rampant “throw-away” consumer society, have we forgotten the intrinsic value of things and of communities?

Textile landfill, Syria, image found online here

Of course, I would never suggest that we should go back to some imagined “idyllic” pre-industrial relationship to textiles. But perhaps we do need to rethink our relationship with the clothes that we wear and re-establish those invisible threads that connect us to time, place and people.

This year, Wovember has been addressing the theme of ‘Closing the Gap’ between producers and consumers of wool yarn.

Closing the gap between producers and wearers of wool is one way to re-establish those invisible threads that join us to others.

Lesley Prior with wool from her own Bowmont Merino sheep in her hands, standing on Saville Row, explaining the relationship between the wool in her hands, the sheep at her feet, and the garments in the exclusive tailoring outlets behind her – David Gray of Finisterre

Cecilia demonstrating wheel-spinning at Borrowdale

When we begin to understand where wool comes from and appreciate the many hands that are required to produce a finished garment, we will again understand the real value and beauty of the wool that we wear.

Darning – Diane Falck

And just like Tom and Kata we will again appreciate the loving gesture of mending and darning our cherished woollen knitwear.

Sanquhar sock darn – Tom Van Deijnin

Mended glove – Kata

Many thanks to Diane for writing this piece, and to all the many hands that work with WOOL and that have connected in one way or another through this website during WOVEMBER 2012… the copyright for all the amazing photos used in this piece lies with each named contributor. There will be housekeeping announcements and admin to come, but for now we thought we would bid you all a wonderful, woolly weekend… be warm, wear WOOL, and thank you one and all for making WOVEMBER so WOOLLY! – TEAM WOVEMBER