FelinFach Natural Textiles is an independent Welsh company based at a 200-year-old former flour mill in the Preseli mountain area of Pembrokeshire.
I started my yarn and fabric journey a long time ago, and as my life changed with the arrival of my children and my career in the finance sector taking more of my time it was set aside and revisited many times. My children are adults now making their own way in life and I was in the lucky position of being able to take up my journey once more. I could spend more time on my favourite pastime, designing Welsh blankets and throws, Welsh tapestry blankets, handmade quilts, soft furnishings, endless possibilities! But I can also delve into the world of natural dyes - FelinFach had come to life...
My interest was and still is weaving, we are fortunate to have a few mills still producing fine cloth in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire that still weave on 1930’s Dobbcross looms, see below. The weavers joined the mills as an apprentice and never left, one weaver is second generation at his mill. They are totally immersed in the wonder of producing beautiful fabric still using the looms they were trained on many years ago. Their knowledge is immense, I always enjoy a visit to the mills going through our designs and colour choices for the coming year weaving diary. These are skills that need to be kept alive and passed on to future generations, not to be lost.
As with most things FelinFach is always evolving and growing into new areas that are still all linked to our main ideals, NATURAL TRADITIONAL HANDMADE. When I struggled to find that colour, shade or tone that was in my thoughts I decided to dye the yarn myself. I started with the commonly used synthetic acid dyes but found the colours too harsh and not what I had in mind. I turned to the 100% natural dyes, a more time-consuming method with a few more stages but the rewards for your patience make it worthwhile. The colours are enthralling, each will depend on where the dyestuff was grown, how it was harvested, the fibres being dyed, and the method of application used by the dyer. Even when using one of my tried and tested recipes the dyestuff can produce a different colour. This is part of the charm of natural dyeing never quite knowing what the results will be and usually being pleasantly surprised!
So, I now dye my yarn from plant to dye pot, a natural progression from dyeing yarn was to dye, block and screen print my fabric. Why not? Not as straight forward as it sounds – going from the dye pot to paint and ink. To convert dyestuff into ink or paint at the correct consistency, as well as all the prep work for the fabric and making the fixing agents is time consuming. Then there is the patience needed waiting for the fabric to cure before you can see the result! The Indigo vat is a challenge and process of its own also worthwhile for the results can be stunning and I don’t need to wait too long! Being self-taught I have honed my skills and knowledge which has led to workshops in the UK and as far as North America. These various week-long or more events were rewarding both in knowledge and meeting new like-minded people who have become friends. I work with natural fibres such as wool, silk, cotton, linen, hemp. I use the traditional dyes of madder, indigo, cutch, lac, logwood etc. and natural mordants, modifiers and tannins.
Our yarn is Welsh wool from a local farm or British wool from a British spinning mill and using the natural plant based dyes, I create hand dyed yarn. Whenever I can I source my supplies from UK companies. FelinFach blankets and throws are woven in Wales in limited numbers using skills of yesteryear. I use my fabric to make cushions, throws, wall hangings I make my own book-cloth using a Japanese paper as a stabiliser to case in my notebooks. The more you work with natural products the more paths come before you, but they are a natural progression from one art-form to another. Our next new challenge is to grow our own dye garden! I hope to continue and see where this takes me and maybe you can follow my journey from the products made available on my website.
Karen Morgan Founder, FelinFach Natural Textiles