Farfield Mill: The Process

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Launched by Laura’s Loom in 2008, the Howgill Range has a limited edition of 70 throws woven in one design – a herringbone twill with a subtle vertical stripe. The throw, known as the Howgill Classic, is finished in two colours – a pure undyed natural cream and a rich deep madder. In 2009, the Dentdale was introduced with 12 large throws and a range of new products which includes baby and cot blankets with handsewn satin borders, stylish wraps and scarves. The Howgill Range is woven in exquisite herringbone cross-check – the hallmark of the range.

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The process starts with a couple of hundred roman nosed Bluefaced Leicester sheep. Following the shearing, there is then the skirting, sorting, scouring, carding, spinning, coning, warping, beaming, sleying, threading, winding and then the yarn is ready for weaving. For the throws, the yarn is weaved on traditional Dobcross shuttle looms and modern Dornier rapier looms for the smaller items. The yarn is then transformed through steaming, blowing and purling of fringes into soft fabric. The people involved in the process of cloth making are all highly skilled craftsmen and women.

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During the 18th century, Sedbergh, Garsdale and Dent saw people knitting wool everywhere from sitting on doorsteps to walking to work. The ‘Terrible Knitters e’ Dent’ became famous all over Britain after Robert Southey described them in a story published in 1834. Meaning terribly good, the true story tells of two girls, Betty and Sally Yewdale, who were sent to Dent in the 1760’s to learn how to knit. They hated knitting as they were forced to knit as fast as they could all day long. The girls eventually ran away and walked the long miles home to Langdale via Kendal. The knitters of Dent and Sedbergh used a thick, greasy yarn called ‘bump’ as well as finer wool for special items like patterned gloves. They made hats and caps, mittens, socks, waistcoats and jackets which were called frocks.

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Joseph Denver died in 1838 but his sons and their descendants ran Farfield Mill for nearly a century until 1937. The government in Australia, one of their main outlets, put higher tariffs onto imported cloths. Demand for Farfield’s check horse blankets and collar lining cloth was in decline as there were fewer working horses and with the continued loss of business, the Dover family decided to sell the mill to the Farfield Spinning Company.

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There was various owners throughout the following years with the buildings used to store wool, for making cheese during the Second World War and for making crankshafts for Airspeed Oxford Trainer planes. Despite having a revival during the 1960’s and 1980’s, the mill was never used to full capacity again. David Douglas started weaving woollens under the trade name of Pennine Tweeds and he trained Bryan Hinton to use the remaining 1934 Dobcross looms. Bryan and his wife took over the business, weaving wool and mohair goods, until October 1992 when they gave up the business.

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Kedleston Hall: The Feral Sphere

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Kedleston Hall was one of four venues that was part of a contemporary art programme which sought to look at the ties between Britain and the Subcontinent. Hosting the Shakti exhibition at Kedleston Hall was an opportunity to focus on the cultural and artistic perspectives of the Indian collection which once adorned the wonderful architecture of Robert Adam. The Eastern Museum at Kedleston was built to house such objects and was designed by George Nathaniel, Marquess Curzon, who was Viceroy of India between 1899-1905.

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The Feral Sphere was exhibited as part of the collection acquired from India by Frank Cohen. The sphere is constructed from fibreglass, fabric and acrylic paint and is the work of the Indian sculptor and painter Jagannath Panda. Featuring exquisite embroideries, the Feral Sphere reflects developments in contemporary art. Frank Cohen was the first person to present a major exhibition of contemporary art from India in the UK and he collects works which represent the rich culture based on respective history, folklore and craft.

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Farfield Mill: Mixed Media Collages

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As part of the In Place exhibition held at Farfield Mill was several pieces of work by the textile artist Mary Sleigh. The mixed media collages (above and below) combine maps, feathers, stamps, paint, fabric and stitches to create connections between materials and a sense of place.

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All created by hand, Mary is passionate about craft and textile heritage and is a member of the Embroiders Guild.

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Mary enjoys the industrious process of creating work,  investigating materials and ways of working. By combining fabric, paper, stitched surfaces with unexpected objects, her work invites viewers to respond in their own way.

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‘Every acquisition, whether crucial or trivial, marks an unrepeatable conjuncture of subject, found object, place and moment.’ Roger Cardinal, The Cultures of Collecting

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Farfield Mill: Flies in a Bottle

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On display as part of the In Place exhibition at Farfield Mill was the above work entitled “Flies in a bottle”. The wood, perspex and ‘found’ objects box is the work of the textile artist, embroiderer and bookmaker Mary Sleigh. Having collected numerous items of no intrinsic value, Mary has created artistic works that capture the memory of the moment. The In Place exhibition was concerned with creating personal connections with materials and objects while developing a sense of place.

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