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3rd March 2017, Bournemouth

UK knitted textiles brand makes lampshades using Portland wool

By the early 20th century the Portland was under pressure from other breeds and in 1920 the last Portland sheep left the island.Jane Withers creates unique sculptural lampshades out of Portland wool – from the fleece of the rare breed Portland sheep, which were originally bred on the isle of Portland and now reside all over the country, Daily Echo reports.

She makes her lampshades by hand at her studio in Nottinghamshire, using tubular fabric that she knits from British wool. The geometric designs are produced by Jane's company Janie Knitted Textiles, which she runs with her partner Michael Hanmer.

Portland wool

Jane started using Portland wool as a material after creating a lighting range out of British wool in 2014. “We have been aware of rare sheep breeds and British wool for a long time and creating the lighting range in 2014 gave us the opportunity to experiment with a wider range of qualities of wool,” she said in her interview with the Daily Echo.

“Wool has many natural qualities, it is strong enough for fine knitting into cord and ideal for weaving onto frames for lighting, it is also naturally fire retardant and we add a moth deterrent in the washing process too.”

By the early 20th century the Portland was under pressure from other breeds and in 1920 the last Portland sheep left the island. A flock of Portland sheep at Fancy's Family Farm is the only flock of the rare breed that resides on the isle today.

Eco-range

The Portland wool features in Janie Knitted Textiles' cone, nipped in and geometric designs. The fibres of the sheep wool are combined with the breeds of Wensleydale and Loaghtan. Portland wool was introduced to the mix when Yorkshire yarn company Knoll Yarns introduced an eco-range of sheep breed blends to its range a few years ago.

“Knoll Yarns has been a supplier of our Merino and lambswool yarns for our interior and fashion accessories since we started our practice in 2003,” commented Jane.

Lamp shades

The range of lamp shades made from wool began with a dip dyed range using British Cheviot wool in 2015 at the London Design Fair. “We were overwhelmed by the response from visitors and have since worked on projects and installations with clients including bespoke commercial commissions for restaurant interiors. Since then we have added to our range with additional sheep breed yarns with the eco range,” said Jane.

"We consider that the combination of British wool knit and the geometric shapes we have created to be unique to us, although the technique of weaving onto a frame is not new, our lighting is a combination of influences of mid-century design, contemporary forms and our rural environment at our studio at Welbeck, Nottinghamshire."

Janie Knitted Textiles

Jane trained at Nottingham Trent University in knitwear design and subsequently worked in design studios for knitted textile companies. Since 2000 she concentrated on making and developing her own knitted fabrics and products and in 2005 established Janie Knitted Textiles, with her partner Michael.

The company knits on a range of hand flat knitting machines in its studio to create all its fabrics for its home and fashion products. The brand prefers to use natural fibres such as merino wool, linen and cotton and are currently using yarns from UK suppliers only.

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