A grand day


(combed tops and yarn in the sample room. Wool heaven.)

Yesterday I had a grand day out. Martin and Janet Curtis kindly invited me to the opening of the new showroom at Haworth Scouring, the world’s largest commission scouring company, and an important hub of the British wool industry. The opening showcased many different elements of the industry — from processing right through to retail and distribution — and I was there to demonstrate hand-knitting and design. My sister, Helen, lives nearby, and it was great to bring her along as a spare pair of knitterly hands. Here she is working on a BMC, with some of the beautiful throws from the Real Shetland Company and my Rams and Yowes blanket behind her.

She couldn’t resist trying out one of the Real Shetland throws.

And here she is having a gander at Knit Real Shetland. (Note the obligatory Manu cardigan!)


The showroom had been fitted with a luxurious Shetland carpet, and there were other superb examples of British wool carpeting on display.


. . . as well as woven textiles . . .


(These samples are from Abraham Moon, another great Yorkshire company)

. . .knitting yarns . . .


(Jamieson & Smith’s amazing Shetland Heritage yarn, of which more another time).

. . . finished garments . . .

. . . and other innovative British wool products, such as these Shetland duvets, and a fabulous Vi-Spring Shetland mattress, of which I completely failed to take a photograph.

But my favourite thing, out of the many wonderful woolly things on display in the new showroom, was a piece by artist Angela Wright.

Angela’s wool installations take coned yarn (supplied by Martin Curtis), which is reworked and rewound into gigantic woolly hanks. These huge hanks, when arranged, suspended, and carefully laid down by Angela, have a profoundly transformative effect on the spaces in which they appear. I only had my macro lens with me yesterday, so was unable to take a picture capturing the full effect of Angela’s piece on the showroom space, but you get a good sense of her work from this earlier piece in Bradford Cathedral.


(“189 Miles” Wool Installation ver. 2, Bradford Cathedral, 2010. Photograph ©David Carr-Smith / Angela Wright)

I think it is quite rare to find textile art that manages to combine the spectacular with the contemplative, but Angela’s work is both. These installations are grand and public in scale, but there’s a quiet intimacy about them too, which arises from the woolly materials Angela is using, and (very clearly, I think) her own distinctive personal ‘feel’ for space and substance. Sited in Bradford, the historic home of the British wool industry, the installation seems celebratory and commemorative, both veil and shroud, a portal connecting past to future. There is a tremendous weight to Angela’s pieces — the wool threads hang, drape, and flow with a heaviness that is deeply emotional. Angela told me how some folk were moved to tears upon encountering the piece in Bradford Cathedral — I can well believe it.


(Wool Modern exhibition, Sydney, Australia, Apr/ May 2012, ©Angela Wright)

I recommend you go and have a look at these photographs which document the process of Angela’s wool installations from Yorkshire sheep to finished piece. Pretty amazing.

Here is Angela, discussing her installation with Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who came to open the showroom yesterday and who, like her brother in law, is firmly committed to the Campaign for Wool.

. . .Martin Curtis presented her with a very special woolly gift. . .

. . . a beautiful hand-knitted lace stole, created as part of the Shetland fine lace project.

It was a day in which, from start to finish, the best of British wool was celebrated. Helen and I felt honoured to have been a part of it and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Thankyou, Janet, and Martin, for a truly grand day!

40 responses

  1. Angela’s piece at the Wool Modern exhibit in Londom last fall was lovely…..but didn’t have the space to be shown as dramatically as in these photos…..even the photo is quite moving.

    Did you get to meet the Countess Sophie?

    You and your sister….you look so alike….and she knits too!

  2. Looks like a wonderful counterpoint to Woolfest and similar events that are so firmly based on hand-knitting and making- so interesting to have a deeper view into other aspects of the industry. Thanks!

    I stumbled across Abraham Moons a while ago and was very excited to find a weaving mill with my maiden name of Moon! I knew there had to be textiles somewhere back in the family ; )

  3. Wonderful story Kate. It highlights the greatness of the Wool industry in Britain, steeped in centuries of tradition.

    And yes I knew the picture shown was a family member before I read the fact !

  4. I think it is just brilliant that the industry is getting such great support over there. To think that just a few short years ago farmers practically could not give their fleeces away! long may the wooly revival continue :-)

  5. How fortunate you are to have such amazing places to visit and equally exciting that the people support them. So nice to see a member of your family too. In some of your posts where you are modeling your patterns I have noticed your strong resemblance (from the side angle) to a young Queen Victoria. Am I just imagining this?

  6. Wow, you and your sister do look alike so much, even with the blonde and dark hair!

    I like the wooly art-installations, but one has to wonder…. how many sweaters could I have knitted with that yarn….?

  7. Was this open to the public? Presumably not, as the Countess was there. It’s only just down the road from me.

  8. What a wonderful event to take part in! The art installation is lovely, but I had the same reaction as Nisse above: all of that wool not being used for sweaters! And completely superficially…your sister’s hair is pretty, with those little curls around the ears.

  9. Those installations are gorgeous. You are right, even through the photos they have a beautiful drape and look heavy, like the weight of existence is pulling at them. When I saw the picture, my mind sprang instantly to Aerial silks, which is something I do for fun, and I was confused. Were that possible, it would be a wonderfully dramatic, moving piece. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Outstanding event !!! Oh, each time a new angle of one of your fine designs on a new model, and in a new place, are always spectacular, and never grows old. Or even worn in :) You keep finding interesting places to make ‘installation art’ of your own designs !!! Never stop, please.

    Helen and You just are so seeming alike, you are so blessed to have a sister as she. Now, that amazing photograph you’ve captured with that enormous and magestic ‘hank’ o’ yarn… it couldn’t be better. It just is so gothic in it’s statement, but with a puzzling twist to it. Perfect thoughtful gifts for everyone, but Countess seems really tickled. Thanks for the post .

  11. A grand day indeed!! I gasped when the stole came into view as it is just so gorgeous – looks like it might become a favourite of the 21st royalty too – lets hope anyway :)

  12. Thank you for sharing the events of your grand day. The process of the installation is a treat to see unfold. Even better–your sister Helen was with you!

  13. WOW, was speechless at the entire blog and all it’s ‘offshoots’. What a fun day, i could smell the wool at Haworth Mill….really i could!! OK, maybe it’s just the fleece i have laid out here to process :0) Thank you so much for a great post.

  14. if the house of windsor survive into the 22nd century, it will be because they’re greens.
    love the bradford work. i look forward to more art crit and scholarly wit from you.

  15. What a grand and glorious day! I could have just stared at that wonderful wool art installation for *a long* time. I had goosebumps just viewing the photos! Well done all around.

  16. Wow, a terrific day – very pleased to read all the exciting news about British wool. Just listened to Farming Today, yes, even over here I am listening, they were at the Royal Welsh. Under the roof were the largest collection of sheep breeds in one place in the world!! My mind just boggles….

  17. You are very fortunate to live where you do; where it takes merely hours on a train to get from here to there. Here it takes days and makes going to lots of events almost impossible for many folk and totally impossible for a few of us. I do not begrudge you your freedom though, far from it, you deserve all the good things in life and it sounds as though this ‘grand day out’ was one. Lovely to have your sister join in too.

    I love Angela’s work and the thought of sweaters or jumpers never entered my head, just envy. What a fabulous piece of art. And as for the shawl presented to Royalty – I hope Sophie gets to wear it, it is just so beautiful and I wouldn’t mind betting it would go through the smallest of wedding rings.

  18. For those interested in Shetland Lace (and a bit jealous not to be able to go to all these beautiful places), would there be a good pattern book that you could recommend? Thanks

  19. It seemed surreal to read the comments on your blog about my big sister, Angela. We are so very proud of her but her wonderful works always speaks for itself and portrays the person she is and whom we all love and endearingly know as Auntie Angel. I thank you for appreciating her work too. Eileen Bryant, Spain.

  20. Great post thank you.

    Lovely to see the family similaraties (funny that, with the same gene pool and all), and lovely personal view of the Duchess of Wessex, and uplifting wool sculpture installation – and your thoughts on it, hadn’t thought of the veil/shroud concept, but see where you are coming from.

  21. Love hearing about these wonderful events, the Abraham Moon samples are gorgeous, and you and your designs are keeping good company. Great to see your sister, and she does look quite a bit like you also.

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