March will always be a precious month to me. Near it’s end, we will celebrate the start of Spring, welcoming in all the hope & joy that can be found in Mother Nature’s re-awakening. And in my own little life, March has been a month of two significant new beginnings. The first, was in 2009 when I first moved to France to begin an exciting adventure in a mountain village school as a language teacher. The second came in 2014 when I “met” real wool for the very first time on a mountainside…and two weeks later I had found a second hand spinning wheel and was teaching myself to spin. Four years later, I am quietly working on opening the doors of my little shop in time for the arrival of Spring. And so it seems fitting this month to share a series of posts I had previously published elsewhere, to give you a glimpse into this project which has been slowly percolating since that very first skein of hand spun yarn.
An idea was cast on in the back of my mind about the middle of 2014, not long after I had fallen in love with wool & spinning. Since then, there has been a baby and this whole new life as a mama to get my head (& heart) around. But all the while, in those quiet moments between, I’ve been listening and reading and crafting and dreaming. And just like a piece of knitting, those different strands have been slowly growing and growing. Recently, the time felt right to pick up those ideas again and try them on for size, just as I might a pair of socks in progress. That idea is slow wool.
It might sound pretentious. Or possible a tiny bit hippy dippy. But I don’t really mind. For me, it’s more than a concept, or a label. Rather, it’s a coming together of a variety of different threads into a coherent expression of my personal understanding and approach to a natural resource which I’ve come to love deeply. A woolly manifesto, of sorts.
So here are some of those threads…
Slow wool expresses first and foremost a personal love affair with a natural material which has been quietly unfolding since I moved permanently to France in 2012.
But why wool, you might ask? Wool is a natural resource. It is 100% sustainable, biodegradable and renewable. It can be utilized in an infinite number of uses. To insulate our homes. To stuff the mattresses on our beds. To weave the carpets beneath our feet or the cloth on our backs. It’s fibres can be rubbed together to produce felt, for making blankets or slippers or oven gloves. Or twisted together to produce yarn, which in turn can be transformed with knitting needles, crochet hook or loom. In almost all cultures on the world, wool has been the golden thread running through our shared histories.
Wool in all it’s many beautiful forms can be processed in a way which is respectful to the land on which it is grown. To the sheep from whose backs it is shorn. And to the human hands which skilfully work with it to transform it from raw material into finished item. Or not.
Slow wool is therefore partly my own quiet resistance to mass production. To fast fashion. To disrespectful treatment of the land, of animals and of fellow human beings. It is a conscious decision to embrace the art of authentic craft and pure raw materials, to seek the stories behind the fibres that run through my fingers. To create not only with my hands, but also my head and my heart. It was born of my dismay at many of the current realities of the wool & textile industry both locally and world wide. It also grew from a desire to make a deeper connection to the landscape and sheep rearing traditions of the landscape y where I have chosen to make my home.
And on a more personal note, slow wool also serves as a reminder to myself to be more mindful in my making. To refuse to be rushed. To pace myself. To not put too much pressure on myself to produce. As Inge put it so succinctly, to remember that “I am not a factory“.
I believe deeply that the acceptance of slow is essential to create beautiful things. But also for me to live well and sustainably within the confines of my chronic health condition, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). Refusing to be rushed, slow wool is therefore also a conscious reminder to myself to take things one step at a time.