I didn’t mean to disappear for so long but between starting my new job, traveling all over for different projects, and swatching like a maniac for Shetland Wool Week, blogging has rather fallen to the wayside. I miss writing here when I don’t get around to it, so my scheme now is to do some short posts over the next few days to try and convey some of the wonderful things that have been going on in the last while here at The Domestic Soundscape HQ.
I’ll pick up where I left off, somewhere near the start of June, by sharing with you Claire’s knitted pillow, which she began knitting during the knitted pillow speaker workshop and completed a couple of evenings later! The concept for this workshop was for folks to pick some different yarns from my dedicated collection; to knit a small pillow with a speaker inside it; to stuff this with local wool; and then to download a set of recorded sounds corresponding to the particular yarns used in their creation. Claire chose some of Cecilia’s hand-spun yarn (given to me very kindly by Cecilia when I was working on this); Pam’s Herdwick yarn; and several different sheep breed Blacker Yarns all spun at The Natural Fibre Company (who kindly sponsored the dye workshop which I also presented in Hawick, of which more later!). I then supplied Claire with downloadable tracks relating to these yarns – respectively these included:
The birds which sing in the summer in the trees beside Cecilia’s local flock of sheep
One of Cecilia’s local sheep grazing in winter
Pam’s herdwick sheep galloping through the gate from one pasture into another in winter
Carded wool being rubbed between boards prior to being woollen-spun at the Natural Fibre Company
Wool combs combing wool prior to it being worsted-spun at the Natural Fibre Company
Sue Blacker’s Gotland sheep in the barn in autumn
I have other sounds yet to edit – for example the sounds I recorded with sonic comrade Patrick McGinley in the fields where these Jacobs live.
The bouncy, beautiful fleeces from two ewes in this flock gave us more than enough stuffing for the knitted pillows, and some of my happiest memories of the whole time I spent in Hawick are of washing and sorting the fleece with Hannah. Hannah is the eleven year old daughter of James, who hosted myself and Patrick McGinley during our time in Hawick. A keen fiddler, amazing sewer of felted things, and brilliant accordionist, she helped me with all my woolly doings while I was in the borders, and took to washing and sorting fleece with an impressive dexterity and enthusiasm. She even roped in the neighbour’s daughter, and schooled her in the ways of drying and teasing out wet, clean fleece. Thanks Hannah!
I will upload the sounds of the Jacobs in their field as soon as I have a couple of hours spare, and in the fullness of time, hope to create a permanent online library from which anyone might theoretically download sheepy sounds in the future. Long-term readers of this blog will know that I am interested not only in recording sounds from the everyday world in which we live, but also in how those sounds are presented to the public: the knitted speaker workshop is one format which hopefully enables me to meaningfully share these field recordings with others, through the medium of knitting.
The whole concept for this workshop is in its infancy, and I really want to continue developing and improving it, but the first edition in the Scottish borders was I feel a modest success and I was thrilled when Claire emailed the photo of her pillow to me and requested the sounds. It’s hard to get people who think of themselves as “sound people” to get into a technical knitting class mode, and – likewise – to get folk who think of themselves as being “knitters” to come to an event themed around listening to sounds…
However in the borders there was a lovely co-mingling of these worlds – especially in the afternoon, when we mixed up the act of making field-recordings with the act of dyeing yarn. This entailed much dipping of hydrophones into vats of mordanting wool and wet madder root, and much other fun KNITSONIK yarny/soundy doings… but more on this later. For now, Thank You Claire for photographing your knitted pillow, and for coming to my workshop, it was a pleasure to meet you and the pillow looks just lovely. I hope you like the sounds that go with it.