'Natural textile'

In the old techniques, I manually developed and spun yarns. The main principle in making yarns was that in the end the structure of the original coat remains visible and “preserved”. This project was selected for the Dutch Design Week 2019 in Eindhoven and was exhibited in the Sint Catharinakerk: www.ddw.nl/en/programme/1547/3d-designs-in-various-textile-techniques-by-marjan .

There are over 400 breeds of sheep all with their unique coats, curls, long locks of wool. If a thread is machine made, carded and spun, not much of these external features of the structure of the fleece remains. I thought this was a shame and saw it as a challenge to make the yarn in such a way that the outer characteristics of the coat remain visible. It can be done, but it is a labor-intensive process.

This stimulated me to such an extent that I wanted to work as a textile designer and combine my skills of the craft of making non-standard yarns with contemporary (machine) production methods. The goal is to make three-dimensional textiles, with a preference for the sides of the material to be different in appearance and shape. By now I have made several size samples with different yarns and patterns. These are the basis for the wall objects with the aim that the object hangs in a room you have an extra dimension in the room or an application in clothing.

With the current knitting machine a pattern can only be applied as a repeat, not as a panel. As a panel, this is only possible on this knitting machine by manually selecting the needles. Meanwhile, I have been in contact with the TextielLab TextielMuseum in Tilburg for an extension and application with the industrial knitting machine. The industrial knitting machine has a wider bed so that larger sizes can be produced and can be programmed as a panel. To test the ideas I had I started with the combination machine knitting and hand spun yarn, then with the locks thread. The locks of wool can be visible in the yarn to a greater or lesser extent. If the lock is present a lot in the yarn, the knitting gets the appearance of fur.

Samples with geometric patterns have emerged from this. These form the basis for fabrics and/or objects of textile. They come into their own in modern architecture and, in addition to a decorative value, also have a functional value, namely an acoustic effect. As far as colors are concerned, I initially kept as much as possible to the original colors of the sheep breeds. The natural elements such as the sun influence the color of the coat, in fact it is a ‘coupe soleil’. This gives a beautiful color pallet. Because the yarns are not dyed and have a strong insulating power they are less damaging to people and the environment. The raw furs come mainly from landscape grazing. I came into contact with De Wassum, Sjraar van Beek.

Since 1988 Sjraar van Beek has been the owner of Landschapsbeheer De Wassum, a grazing company that uses sheep herds to manage nature reserves. The working area is North and Central Limburg and the east of Brabant. At the moment the company has over 3000 sheep and more than ten shepherds are active in areas such as De Meinweg, the Beegder Heide, the Maasduinen and the Strabrechtse Heide. The sheep are Kempisch Heath Sheep that used to wander over the Brabant and Limburg Heaths in large numbers. In various places there used to be a flourishing trade in wool products such as Roermond, Geldrop and Mierlo.The wool used to have a good reputation and was fine in texture. After the second world war there were almost no shepherds and moor sheep left. An old tradition of herding on the heath seemed to be disappearing. It was the foundation Stichting Het Kempisch Heideschaap from Heeze that saved the last Kempisch sheep from slaughter and in 1968 started breeding and grazing them again. From this mother flock, several new flocks arose, among others at De Wassum. In the meantime the Kempen are numerous again. At least 20,000 Kempen are registered with the herd book. Grazing has returned to the moors everywhere. However, the new breeders of the breed paid little attention to the wool. This led to a poor wool quality. A few years ago it was decided to work on better wool again by mating rams with proven good wool. Wool of the potential rams was examined on fineness and comfort. The new breeding lines again had much finer wool (below 30 microns and sometimes even below 25 microns). Wool below 30 microns is considered comfortably wearable. This improved wool is again suitable for spinning and felting. Numerous marketing projects are now underway: www.wassum.nl

I also contacted Staatsbosbeheer Zuid Limburg, recognized and appointed as a breeding center of the Mergelland sheep herd since 1986, with the aim of keeping a rare domestic breed, the Mergelland sheep, alive and well and grazing special (rare) nature areas, including limestone grasslands. These sheep graze among others in the Savelsbos and Gerendal, one of my favorite hiking areas in South Limburg. I have since used the raw fleeces of this sheep to make hand-spun yarn, with which I want to create new samples and add to the collection that is already there. This creates textile samples with ingredients from the region, produced locally.

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