It would be easy to awaken from recent news with a heavy heart. But I know if I give myself up to the sadness and displacement I feel, come mid-morning my heart would be too heavy to carry. And I have far too many important things to do here in the home this morning. So instead of giving myself over to disappointment and fear, I am resolving to find renewal in my role as a mother to a little boy, who one day will grow to be a man. To remember that our true life is here in our home and that our role models, and our son’s, are to be found firstly here in our family and within our wider community. So I shall keep on nursing my growing toddler, read picture books with him, stroke his back as he falls asleep, bake him cakes and cook him lentils. We will take him outside every day to play in the fields and the woods, we shall marvel at the mountains. And we will do our very best to raise him a better man.


slow wool

spinning wheel

An idea was cast on in the back of my mind about the middle of 2014. 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 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 Pyrenean valley 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.

wool stories

Slow Wool from the French Pyrénées

And so here we are once again at the start of Wovember – a month dedicated to the pursuit of celebrating & exploring wool for what it is and all those fabulous folks who produce it. It’s a subject very close to my heart: wool and the way we interact with it. So I’ve decided to start gathering some of my own woolly discoveries together with you in a regular post – Wool Stories. It will feature tales of the wool and wool producers that I’ve encountered, discovered & gathered here in France, in my own native country of Britain. And perhaps sometimes further afield.

Like any practice, both growing & working with wool can be done in a quick, easy, chemically assisted (!), harmful way. Or it can be done slowly, naturally, lovingly. Personally I choose the latter (for various reasons which I’ll talk about later in the month) and I’m drawn to other people who have chosen the same path. We seem to be kindred spirits, people who create for pleasure, discovery and to reduce our environmental impact. Because as Joanne so rightly commented last year, “Wovember everyday!”.

I can’t wait to share more soon! Until then, I can highly recommend taking a little trip over to the Wovember blog to see what’s happening this year…or to the archives to explore a wealth of wondrous woolly resources.

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October, in wool

As October comes to a close, I’m excited to introduce a new strand: Lately, in wool. Here you’ll find a brief round-up of what woolly pursuits have been keeping me busy the past month. I’m hoping it will be a manageable way to keep a visual journal of my progress and experiments. But I’d also love you to join in and share what you’ve been up to with wool recently on your own blog, whether it be spinning, knitting, crochet, sewing, natural dyeing or just simple wool gathering (i.e. enhancing your stash!). If you do, please leave a link to your post in the comments so I can drop by and take a look! 

Spinning csc_0317

Where spinning has been concerned, October has been about finishing off projects that were languishing on the bobbins since the summer:

  • Plying up some Ryeland singles (spun from some sliver left over from my Tour de Fleece spindle spin).
  • Finishing off a 2 ply sample skein of Lourdaise, spun “in the grease” from hand-carded rolags.
  • Gradually working my way through a big bag of carded Texel fleece (French reared, sheared & prepared) that I acquired at the same time as my (second-hand) Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel.

Knitting csc_0081

At the start of the month, some dear friends came to stay with us for a week. I had been feeling like I was caught in a place of stasis where my knitting was concerned recently, but having a friend to knit with certainly helped pull me out of the rut! Florine is an incredibly talented & prolific knitter (as well as being the sweetest person), and I was so glad to be able to knit & chat with her once the baby was tucked up in bed each evening. Whilst they were here,

  • I made some real headway on my Papa Bear Jumper finishing up both sleeves during their stay, meaning I now have knitted all the pieces of the jumper. A few days later I was able to block them and now all that’s left is to knit the neckband and do the seaming when I next have some spare energy.
  • I also cast on another Quynn hat for little man, as we seem to have misplaced last year’s one! It would probably have been too small for him now anyway, as after measuring his head we’ve now gone up to the biggest size.

Natural dyeing

csc_0331The mists of the start of the month seem to have given way to some unseasonally warm weather – just perfect for some natural dye experiments. I have to wait until the baby is in bed (or out for a few hours with Papa) and so am gradually working out a system of splitting up all the different tasks associated with the process of dyeing – and learning the importance of extensive note taking in the process! As with all woolly pursuits these days, progress can be slow. But it does mean I’m really enjoying the process all that more.

a good yarn : barégeoise

barégeoise yarnWhen our babe was just a few weeks old, I dropped by one afternoon to our local blanket maker’s to proudly show him off to the owner and his wife. The last time they had seen me, I was just a week off giving birth, and had waddled in searching for an emergency skein of yarn to finish off his first blanket…

After a happy ten minutes of the owner’s wife cooing over baby, I inadvertently came back home with four skeins of freshly milled yarn, made using wool reared & sheared in our valley from the local breed of Barégeoise sheep. Oops!

barégeoise_yarnI wasn’t supposed to be buying any more yarn then. But it was hard to resist those smooshy skeins; from the light & lofty woollen spin of the yarn, to the creamy, subtly flecked oatmeal shade (obtained by the light blending of a dash of natural black with the white fleeces), this yarn was just perfect for a first post-partum knitting project I had in mind. And the fact that the yarn was spun using fleeces from the Autumn 2014 clip of wool (when I was in the first few weeks of pregnancy) made it even more irresistible.

barégeoise_yarnDo you have any extra special skeins of yarns in your stash? If so, I’d love to hear about them below!

being mama

At what point did I first feel like a mama?
In that moment when he emerged and we were still one, just before he took his first gulp of air? When I lifted his purple form from below, up to my chest and he rooted for that first suckle?
Or was it before? When we first heard his heartbeat on the sonographers machine? Or I felt that first little flutter deep in my belly?
Was I born to be a mama? Or was I born as a mama that moment he came into the world, face up, gazing at the stars?
Hard to know, really.
But what I do know is this; after all those years of longing, I am a mama now.


walking out

People often ask me, where did it begin?

Muscles tensed. One leg planted firmly on the earth, the other swinging forward as a pendulum. Heel touched down and my body rolled forward onto the other foot. The legs reversed position and the whole thing started again.

As simple as that. We met in the village library. But it began on the mountainside.

Seven years ago today, I walked towards the summit, step by step. Not my first steps in the Pyrenees. But my first steps walking out with my love.  

Seven years later, and we’re still walking together, through the mountains, the valleys, the world. Now, with our baby on our backs.



Spindrift on the Néouvielle, January 2011 (Hautes Pyrénées)

The name “Spindrift” comes from a lot of different places.

It’s a beautiful little word of Scottish origin, referring to both the spray blown up from the surface of the sea or the powdery snow blown off a mountain top.

Born and raised on the south coast of Britain, I now find myself living on a mountainside in the French Pyrénées, raising a joyful little boy with my French sweetheart.

Where salt in the air and sand between my toes always felt like the smell and feel of home for me, now the scent of pine trees on a summer’s afternoon and the distant tinkling of sheep bells are also anchor points for me. Where once I missed the energy of a blustery walk along the seashore on a stormy day, now I find I miss the familiar contours of the mountains when I am away from them too long.

And so for someone who came from the sea and now finds herself settled on a mountainside, Spindrift seems the perfect way to bring  these two threads together.

For me, “Spindrift” also signifies a steady but intentionally slow movement. Not seeking to rush, but rather letting oneself be gently carried along by the gentle pace of things; love, nature, life. It’s a value we actively seek to incorporate into every aspect of our daily lives, and one I would love this space to embody.

Finally, that drifting also encompasses the idea of unexpected deviation from an intended course. I would never, could never have expected the shape of my life to be turning out as it is now. But here I am, abandoning myself to the natural flow of things.

autumn chill

And then suddenly, everything is different. The late summer warmth drained from the valley overnight as the autumn breathed a newfound chill into the morning.

Outside, the grass was wet with damp and the smoke of the first wood fires mixed with the earthy fragrance of the woodland in this new season. 

In the days and weeks ahead, the autumn chill will make the hills around us change. Come midday, the veils of morning mist will lift to reveal hillsides stained with dashes of gold and blazing streaks of red. There will be rain, no doubt. Lots of rain. But also cosy knits and crackling fires.

on secret, quiet days

westcountry mittens

As you may already know, I live with the chronic health condition ME. Have done since I was eleven years old. It’s something I’m always a little reticent to talk about online, partly because despite it being such a big part of my life, it’s also so very personal. But mainly because it’s not always easy to know how to talk about it. But seeing as we’re at the start of things here, I’d like to share with you a post I wrote elsewhere, originally inspired by my dear friend, the wonderfully talented print-maker Jai…whose gorgeous work you can now find here and here.

Living with a chronic illness means there are good days and bad days.

Mountain days and fire-side days. Up-right, walking sort of days. And secret, quiet days that nobody knows about but me and my closest loved ones.

There are days where I feel on top of the world. When I literally am on top of the world. And there are days when just getting out of bed seems like is an expedition.

I don’t need to talk about these secret days all the time. But I’m also slowly starting to understand that they are nothing to be ashamed of either.

Because the pattern of my days mirrors the patterns of the mountains surrounding our home. These highs and lows are what make the landscape so very interesting.

And in my daily life, it is these secret, quiet days that make the others so very, very special.