Q&A with Pascale Spall from Stag & Bow
The Campaign for Wool caught up with Pascale Spall from Stag & Bow in South East London to discuss her work with wool. From sourcing the best natural fibres to running intimate craft and textile workshops, Pascale talks through her everyday relationship with wool.
Please tell us a little about yourselves and how your day to day life involves wool.
My name is Pascale, I have a shop in Forest Hill in South East London called Stag & Bow. We are purveyors of Craft, History and Haberdashery. We celebrate making, the handmade and the skills, history and materials that go with. We also run intimate craft and textile workshops and host talks and events. We are passionate about natural fibres and quality, sustainable materials. We love wool and sell beautiful yarns, felting tops, hand woven rugs, wool garments and accessories among other things.
Since you’ve been involved with wool, how have you seen the wool industry change?
I am fairly new to this industry, our shop having been open only 4 years. I have noticed from a retail point of view that our wool sales are continuing to grow and that people are genuinely excited when they discover us for the first time. Amassing a stash of beautiful yarns is an addiction. To touch it, look it, smell it and then maybe or maybe not make something with it – its all a treat!
How do you source your wool?
We were passionate from the very beginning to source wool from smaller companies that really cared about their product. We deal with some big wholesalers too so to call up a smaller yarn company and speak directly to the owners is a lovely thing. Among our yarns in stock we have some beautiful hand spun yarn from the Isle of Sanday in Orkney. The lady that spins it looks after other Islanders sheep as well as her own flock. We have been up to visit. They are very happy sheep!
What does the Campaign for Wool mean to you?
It is about awareness; wool is such an incredible and versatile fibre. It seemed to have been forgotten about for a while with the invention of manmade fibres. Looking back over vintage sewing patterns from the 50’s and 60’s its hard not to laugh at a beautiful new-born baby’s layette in 100% Bri-nylon… Definitely keep that baby away from the fire!
What does 2014 hold for you?
This year we are expanding our shop and will be selling more yarns and specialising in vintage fabrics. On September 13th & 14th We are bringing together our local community and beyond to take part in an arm knitting marathon raising money for the education of women and girls in Sierra Leon. Repurposing old textiles into yarns and using wool tops as our main material we are aiming to make 120 garments in a 24-hour period. All the garments will be sold and proceeds go to our chosen charity. Please come along and join us! We need as many volunteers as possible!
At what age did you first start using wool?
I was six when my aunty taught me to knit, but I have much earlier memories of pulling bits of fleece off fences surrounding the farm that my aunty lived on in Herefordshire. I have a very early memory of twisting it and sniffing it. I loved the sheepy smell…
Technologies to further the potential of wool are advancing all the time, i.e. wool velvet, how do you think this will affect the wool and clothing industries?
It can only grow and broaden our use of wool in the every day. I met a lovely man recently who has a wool felt company in Holland and he was telling me that he had just sent a load of industrial felt over to Dubai to use in a new hotel as fire retardant in the walls… It really is the king of the fibres. Wool velvet sounds like a dream come true.
How does using woollen cloths differ to other man-made materials?
I am a bit of a stickler for a natural fibre and without great exception won’t use anything else. Working with a natural fibre cloth compared to a man made fibre cloth is like comparing a pat of freshly churned salty butter to a catering tub of ‘margarine spread’… its no way near as tasty and its tricky to get away with using it.
What is your favourite woollen item of clothing and why?
A beautiful Fair Isle cardigan that my beautiful Aunty Jenny knitted for me. I love the colours she chose, the patterns and the fact that she made it especially for me. Its full of love.
Tell us a little about why you choose wool over other fibres?
It’s the wonder fibre! It keeps you warm and cool, it’s dry in the wet and it’s a fire retardant. It’s pure, natural and versatile. I love the smell of fresh sheepy wool, the feel of lanolin on your fingers, the tiny little crimps in a fleece, and… lets be honest; Lambs are pretty cute too.