The fibreworkshop is me, Jenn Monahan. I live in a small place in a big space, Norfolk, UK, home of the big sky. It’s a place where I love to spin, knit, weave, think, research, write and walk. Making inspired by the landscape that surrounds me.
The fibreworkshop began in 2014 with no real plan or particular direction. Just my obsession with wool. The creative process of noodling about with it. Preparing, dyeing, spinning, knitting and more recently, weaving pieces. Its history and impact on our landscape and culture. And the many ways it can be utilised. The workshop is my backyard office/workshop/sanctuary, a studio full of woollen goodness. My place of peace and creativity.
My ethos is to keep life simple and to stay interested, it’s what makes me happy. Creatively I am a magpie. What I do today will not be what I do next year, or even tomorrow. It’s this freedom that has allowed me to say yes to interesting projects, to follow my instincts and to have many ‘hats’. The one thing that connects it all is wool.
Wool is a subject and a medium that I find endlessly fascinating and inspirational.
My first love is knitting. I’ve been a knitter my whole life. Like most, starting on Granny’s knitting knees as a small child. I love to explore the history of knitting patterns and technique. It’s an interest that is satisfied by my professional knitting hat where I specialise in knitting vintage pieces for costume design. Credits include Churchill and Little Women 2019. More recently this has developed into knitwear design and creating digital patterns for other knitters.
The knitting led to spinning. My first spinning experience was at college back in 1986. But life has a habit of taking over when you are only 17. I never forgot though. It was something I returned to later whilst living in New Zealand and free to explore a more self-sufficient lifestyle. I was taught by the lovely Nicky at Ashfords, Ashburton in New Zealand on my shonky second hand $30 wheel. I can’t explain it but it threw a switch in me and I knew that this was what I needed to be doing.
Inevitably working with wool quickly led to exploring colour and the donning of a dyeing ‘hat’. First with synthetic acid dyes and later natural traditional plant dyes. I am able to apply the skills gained in these explorations to the things I produce for the fibreworkshop. I thoroughly enjoyed developing the natural dye recipes for the colour palette and hand dying the Limited Edition Norfolk Horn yarn.
I don’t keep sheep though – just in case you were wondering. This would be one cap too many 🙂 I source my fleece locally from small producers. It’s through my relationship with these amazing knowledgeable, generous and modest people that gave me an awareness of their world and the problems they face. It’s through them that I was introduced to the Norfolk Horn and its deep connection with Norfolk’s own history. I have a huge respect for those that keep our rare breeds alive. Excluded from the UKs wool market system their fleeces are perceived as worthless, a waste by product to be burnt or composted. This politicised me driving me to do something to raise awareness of the issues faced. And this is where the yarn producer ‘hat’ and the Limited Edition Norfolk Horn yarn enters my story…