The last two weekends have been a hectic whirl, as we opened our studio at Stafford Mill as part of the SIT Textile Trail.

There is a rich textile heritage in the Stroud Valleys, as it was once a world leader in the production of woven textiles. It is home to the Stroudwater Textile Trust, and Stroud International Textiles who organise the Textile Trail. The trail is only in it’s second year, but has been a great successes, and is a welcome forum for local textile artists, designers and makers to showcase their work, helping to keep the Textile heritage alive and relevant.

We had just under 300 visitors over the course of the 4 days, including plenty of familiar faces, old and new. It’s always a bit daunting opening up what is normally a private and personal working studio space. I am fortunate to share the space with my sister, who also works with recycled textiles, and we have my good friend and fellow graduate from Winchester School of Art, Nick, in the studio downstairs.

Victoria and I find it particularly heartening to meet fellow recyclers, who have often made the trip out especially to see us. They admire the shelves stacked high with neatly folded lengths and swatches of fabric, wool blankets and tweed coats, and suitcases stuffed full of old jumpers. One lady even took a photo to show her husband, so he couldn’t complain about her hoarding habit, which was quite minor in comparison!

One of the tips we picked up were to keep even the tiniest scraps of natural fibres – wool, cotton, linen, viscose – and save them up to go on the compost heap. These scraps are called ‘Shoddy’, and spawned a whole recycling industry in the 19th century when old woollen clothing was ground down and re-spun into new yarn to be woven into cloth. I already get a pair of wrist warmers, a pair of slippers, and numerous mobile phone pouches and flower corsages, out of just one felted woollen jumper, but I find it satisfying to know even the smallest scraps can still be put to good use. Perfect timing too as Nick and I have recently taken on an allotment, and the compost heap is currently fermenting grass cuttings and weeds, which need cardboard egg boxes and natural fibres to temper the nitrogen from the green matter.

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