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The House Of Hemp

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The House of Hemp is a story and a journey…..

 

Jane Pasquill and daughter Tania Blonder, started designing and testing with hemp back in 2002. At the time we were growing an agricultural hemp crop in our lower field researching how viable this would be in North Cornwall. And then a meeting with Cheryl Thomson changed the plans for work in my textile studio at home. Cheryl, the owner and founder of a company called ‘Hemporium’ offered us the opportunity of using her spun hemp.

 

I have played with textiles since childhood, starting with dolls clothes, then experimenting with my own clothes. Many years ago purchasing quality, beautiful fabrics was very easy. I sewed and knitted clothes, as well as household items like the curtains. This was very practical as it paid for the sewing machine!

 

Tania trained as an aerospace engineer, following in the footsteps of her father who started his career as an engineer. Tania was living at home when we researched the hemp crop taking a break from the intensity of a male dominated workplace.

 

To continue…. in 1999 I stayed in London with a dear friend while the first big exhibition of my textile work was showing at ‘The Spitz Gallery’ in Spitalfields market. Unknown to me at the time I was envisioning a new career promoting hemp. The exhibition ran for a month and in that time I met a trader in the market who sold hemp goods. I was shown hemp fabric and could feel its energy. It became important to me that I worked with this fabric in my mandala art.

 

My training through the years with many jobs prepared me for the task of setting up this innovative new work. My first job was a trainee in a publishing house learning to be a tracer. A job no longer in existence as computers replaced the need for the skill. I had left school with few qualifications and was blessed to start my working life at a time when companies trained apprentices. Moving to London before I was 20, living in a flat sharing with three other girls, I was trained by the BBC to be a draftsman. No such thing as a woman draftsman in those days! Then I trained in a graphics studio eventually setting up my own studio at home while looking after Tania.

 

Continuing through time…..I lived in Connecticut USA for three years with my new American husband; moving to California in 1987. I worked designing the image for a franchise for The Sports Fan, opening two shops myself in the Bay area.

 

We all returned to England for family reasons and I followed my dream of establishing my own studio and working with textiles.  I found myself spending more time searching for a specific colour in a good fabric for a design, than actually making the piece. This was very frustrating and so it led me to experiment with colour, dying my own cloth.

 

It was a natural step to use the knowledge acquired in the ‘Threads of Time’ studio and apply to the hemp ideas.

 

Much as I liked the natural look of hemp the possibility of creating colour made sense to me, and no one was providing coloured hemp yarn. Tania and I experimented over that first winter wondering what we could achieve and the results were fabulous. This is where it all started.

 

First we were assisted by various Guilds to create samples of their particular skills with our hemp yarn. The Crafts Council in London assisted by supplying the list of weavers in the country. Peter Collingwood tested the hemp for us and created some new ideas in ply splitting and woven object Da. Alison Lee, chairman of the Machine Knitting Guild worked with us to test designs.  Tania worked at Coldharbour Mill alongside Ian, the technician engineer and developed another two weights of yarn for the studio and recently the mill has developed a new yarn from alpaca and hemp. The HempHugs book was designed and published by Tania and took five months to prepare. The weaving on Saori looms was established after experimenting with Nikki and Josh Bond of SeedPower Studios. The hemp cloth woven in-house is used for unusual creations sold in the studio. The weaving workshops are practical courses creating with colour and textural effects.

A small band of experienced knitters assisted us to develop our own designs, some are available in the HempHugs book, although all the latest ones are waiting on a new book. The designs are prepared and kits made ready, which have a blend of colours specifically for the design. These extra colours are available in the studio.

 

Now ten years have passed. We know our colour range has been copied but do not mind, it is more important to us that hemp is re-established as a valuable agricultural crop.

 

The hemp plant is extremely useful and provides food, fuel and fibre for commercial use. Its properties are excellent for the textile industry. It is breathable, durable, anti-bacterial and a practical fibre with such beautiful energy. The plant has not been hybridized or genetically modified/engineered.

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