November has been a golden month – the woods are filled with yellow, gold, ochre, acid lemon, russet, umber, and sap green. Glorious colours that are now fading to more subdued greys and browns, highlighting even more the remaining leaves that still cling to the branches despite the recent windy weather. Autumn sees deciduous trees preparing for the cold months ahead – “an expression of death which is also renewal.” As the temperatures fall and the day length shortens, the trees reduce their production of chlorophyll, the pigment that makes them green, revealing the underlying reds, golds and yellows of the carotenoids, tannins and anthrocyanins. The tree withdraws the vital components and chemicals it needs to photosynthesise to store them before dropping its leaves. We are rewarded with a glorious riot of colour, heralding the onset of winter.
During November I’ve made up two new warps to make eight scarves in total. I’ve felt a need to work in bright colours, and was very inspired by the blazing colours of the smoke bush in my garden. During the summer this bush is a beautiful rich purplish red, but in autumn it morphs into a dazzling array of oranges, reds, yellows and rich plum. Using these colours as inspiration, I put together a warp made up of gradations of colours, from rich chocolatey browns to soft marshmallow pink, glowing oranges and hot pinks. I place the colours intuitively as I make up the warp. This one uses 15-20 different yarns across its width, mostly Merino lambswool, grown in Australia, which is where the Geelong sheep breed thrives best (it’s not suited to the damp Northern European climate), and spun in Denby Dale, Yorkshire by Z. Hinchliffe and Sons. I’ve also used some ‘dead stock’ or surplus waste yarns, and knitting yarns to add interest and texture. Each of the four scarves woven from this warp uses a different pattern or material in the weft, so each one is completely unique. Using the lambswool, I can play with the interactions of the different colours, as the Z. Hinchliffe lambswool comes in a huge range of colours. A chunkier version uses softest Alpaca and organic wool from Sesia, spun in Italy and grown according to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). A third variation uses slubby natural silk and linen in the weft, which gives a scarf with a slightly heavier drape.
The second warp is a reworking of a sample woven a couple of years ago, with gradations from mauve to brown to fuchsia to grey to brick red. Colour and textural inspirations came from the dogwood leaves and stems captured on a windy outing to the National Forest over the half-term break.
These scarves are available in my shop on Etsy at LiminalWEAVE.
I’ve begun to explore my visits to the Orford Ness nature reserve off the coast of Suffolk through markmaking using mono print, acrylic paint, crayon and graphite. I’m drawn to the wildness of the place and the dark nature of its past, being used during the Cold War for ballistics testing and surveillance techniques. The colours and freedom of the marks represent the spirit of the Ness, a windswept stretch of shingle and saltmarsh at the mercy of the tides, brooding under the dark skies. This colour palette has also crept into my recent yarn purchases – beautiful steely greys and blues in hemp, cotton and wool.
The Haagse Bos is a wooded area of predominantly beech trees, right in the centre of The Hague, hemmed in by heavy traffic on all sides. I walk there almost every day, and the ebb and flow of the seasons grounds me and maintains a much needed contact with nature. As the climate changes, the seasons alter and the temperatures rise, beechwoods are slowly, imperceptibly migrating to cooler climates. As one tree dies, another springs up ever so slightly further north. It’s sad to think that in the future this oasis in the city might not exist in its current state.
Robert Macfarlane’s “The Wild Places” sets out to discover the wilderness that still remains in our crowded and overly managed natural environments, in his case Britain. His writing vividly conjures up the beechwoods, forests, summits, saltmarsh (Orford Ness) and holloways (ancient pathways worn into the land itself over time) he visits. Ultimately he concludes that wildness is all around us – you just have to look for it; nature is never far away.
In a similar thread, I recently enjoyed reading “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. The title alludes to the part of the forest that protrudes above the canopy, but could also be interpreted as the encompassing motive that links the characters in the book who come from different walks of life and ultimately brings them all together. It tells the life stories of nine humans who all have a unique relationship with trees, either through tragedy or salvation, and who come together to become environmentalists and protect what is arboreal. It’s a thought-provoking book and leaves a lasting impression.
Until next time…
I have fallen back in love with weaving this month, settling into the rhythm of the process. As I weave, I’m constantly thinking of the next piece that will take shape on my loom, and different colour combinations begin to form in my mind. November is coming to a close with wild weather: storms, hail, lightning and rain. Leaves tumble in eddies ahead of the chasing wind, their glowing colours bright against the darkening pavements. It’s a time to be out in the weather, embracing the storm and confronting the cold. Events in the wider world are threatening and unpredictable, and nature is a force to be reckoned with, but is a constant that has a quiet strength. I wait to see what December will bring.
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