Monday 1st of September 2014
The Wool Clip cooperative at Caldbeck has a new member. Gill Curwen (43) from Great Orton is adding her unusual standing wool rugs and mats and a variety of colourful recycled wool work to the stock of this successful wool craft retailer.
“We’ve known Gill and her work for several years through Cumbrian wool craft connections and Woolfest,” says Julia Neubauer, an existing member of The Wool Clip, “but with her son off to school now, she’s joined us as part of the cooperative and will be selling her rugs and other creations in the shop.”
Gill has been making traditional rugs for over 20 years, using a variety of techniques. She started out with the popular hooky and proddy methods but then discovered that these were just the tip of a craft iceberg. “There could be as many as 150 different rug-making techniques around the world,” she says, “and I am fascinated by the range and how they all make the most of recycling and reusing wool.”
“I discovered the standing wool technique online about six years ago and have taught myself the skills. I am a bit unusual in the UK but I know that there are a few people in the US making standing wool rugs – but we’re a rare breed!”
Standing wool is also known as quillie rug making: long strips of woollen material – old blankets, felt, mill waste and other fabrics – are gathered and coiled (or quilled) and then fixed in place and joined together using leatherworking thread and large upholsterers’ needles.
“Only wool allows the needles through such thicknesses,” says Gill, “but I still need strong fingers! I enjoy the results of my work – it’s all about colour and combinations as well as the usefulness of the rugs and mats and each one is unique – and I love the fact that it’s something fresh and I’m reviving a technique that’s fallen out of use.”
The other aspects of standing wool that are particularly important to Gill are the recycling and sustainability. She’s a Director of Sustainable Carlisle and a keen wood carver and furniture upcycler.
“I make a lot of my rug making tools from reclaimed woods,” she says, “and I’m involved with a second crafting group Salvage and Stitch in Carlisle which is all about reusing waste textiles. I have inherited this approach to sustainability from my parents and it’s something that runs through everything I do.”
“I know a lot of other Wool Clip members are keen to reuse and recycle woollen garments and other materials in their work. I am already finding that, as well as lots of opportunities to share and develop ideas as part of a creative group, there are also plenty of examples where one member’s waste is another’s raw material!”
Gill’s work – not only standing wool rugs and table placemats but also quillie jewellery and wall hangings and rugs made using other traditional techniques - is now on display and for sale at the Wool Clip in Priest’s Mill, Caldbeck.