Here’s what I’ve learnt about the UK’s natural materials as
I’ve searched high and low for the most sustainable and environmentally friendly materials and businesses to work with.
We only use 100% British wool, it’s something we’ve learnt to be very careful about as being labelled ‘British wool’ doesn’t mean that it’s 100% from the UK, it can include wool from New Zealand etc which has many more transport miles associated with it!
The woollen industry used to be huge in the UK, many of the mills
have closed as demand declined due to globalisation, fashion and cheaper alternatives. As a result jobs were lost and with them went the skills and infrastructure needed to sustain a thriving industry. However a few do still remain, particularly in Yorkshire where our throws have been woven
China clay has been mined in Cornwall for more than 250 years and still is today, although not at the same scale. I was amazed to learn that there’s more china clay in Cornwall than anywhere else in the world.
The china clay landscape is surreal, with the pit lakes turned different shades of blue and green by the minerals in them catching the light. The ‘Cornish Alps’ around St Austell are huge volcano shaped mounds of white clay deposits with green woods and fields all around. These colours have inspired our design.
The UK leather industry didn’t move as quickly as the Italians did from using a chrome tanning process to a vegetable one which is much less environmentally damaging. The ‘vegetable’ used is tree bark which explains why the naturally veg tanned leathers are shades of brown.
We've found bridle leather that’s been veg tanned and finished in the UK with its famous high gloss shine – picture horses with shiny bridle and reins, that’s the leather! The finish on bridle leather adds strength and protection, as well as being soft and flexible.
Linen is the world’s oldest material and is made from the stems of the flax plant, a beautiful bright blue flowering crop. Flax is grown in the UK for its seed and oil rather than linen yarn. It's grown in Belgium and France for yarn and this is what we use for our tweed & linen cushions.
Flax is a crop well suited to the UK and northern Europe climate and isn’t water hungry in the way that cotton is which makes it much more sustainable, and being grown on our doorstep means the transport miles are loads less than for cotton.
To make the yarn the farmer pulls the crop up by its roots after flowering and lets it dry. As it lies there the moisture from the morning dew encourages the fungi that breakdown the pectins that bind the fibres and the woody part of the flax stems together so they can be separated and the fibres woven.
It’s this process that makes flax a carbon negative crop as it gives nitrogen back to the soil as it lies cut on top. The fungi that eat the pectins also have anti-bacterial properties which are transferred to the fibrous stem and become a part of the linen cloth – which explains why linen shirts, tea towels etc get less smelly than cotton ones!
The birch tree that our kitchenwares are carved from has come from a large sustainably managed woodland near Benenden in Kent. Being sustainably managed means the woodland’s looked after to make sure enough light is let in to the woodland floor so trees and plants have the space they need to grow strong in.
It’s trees that have been felled as part of sustainable woodland management that Amy uses to carve her beautiful homewares from, including the kitchen utensils she did just for us from pale Birch wood.