Popping in to see Alice from Vanderhume down at Hotwalls, Old Portsmouth, I wandered around her studio (number 9) and fell in love with her intricate plant hangers she’d been making. Macrame tends to conjure up traditional images of cream and white designs but Alice had made naturally hand-dyed grey ones that caught my eye. Her studio is so relaxing and is somewhere I definitely want to go back and spend more time in.
Handing over my cash for the hanger (which sits proudly in my dining room!) it got me thinking about this love of fringing and weaving we have, and the trend for texture in interiors that has been strong for about 4 years now.
Macrame has been around since the 13th century. Artisan weavers would knot thread and yarn along the edges of hand-loomed fabrics into decorative fringes on bath towels, shawls, and veils. The Spanish word macramé is believed to mean “striped towel”, “ornamental fringe” or “embroidered veil.” Sailors would make macrame objects while at sea in their downtime as a way to pass time and being so good at knots they created pieces and objects to sell all across the world in places like China and the Caribbean. American and British sailors in the 19th century were good at making hammocks and belts, creating a process called “square knotting” and sold their pieces on shore wherever they went.
Fast forward to the 70’s and plant hangers were all the rage along with mid-century furniture, Ercol, and Mcintosh. Well, these things have done a full circle and are back in interior fashion with a bang! Why? Because they ooze artisan craftsmanship, soft colours, and texture: Making them a natural trend when it comes to our homes.
Alice is a weaver and textile artist and studied woven textile design at Winchester School of Art. She then went on to spend time studying weaving internationally in both Sweden and Japan. Creating bespoke handwoven textile pieces for interiors and fashion has been so rewarding and resulted in her being commissioned by Allbirds for a Woven window display in Covent Garden, London.
Designing one-off, handmade woven pieces that are not feeding fast fashion is important to Alice. This artisan handcraft creates not only a direct connection to how our ancestors worked but it also allows an ancient hobby to carry on when so many traditions are lost over time. In a world that Alice believes to be increasingly mechanised, crafting with our hands and feeling connection to ancient forms whilst creating something personal and sustainable is more important now than ever.
Not only does this creative girl want to bring appreciation back to weaving and her handcrafted art, but she also wants to make it as accessible as possible. Her latest project does just that. Vanderhume has successfully received Emergency Response Arts Council funding for a project ‘Community Textiles’. The project will enable her to work with local organisations to create and deliver textile activity packs and workshops for those who are vulnerable in Portsmouth.
Time will also be spent creating a virtual macrame workshop alongside the activity packs which will have videos, photographs, and instructions on how to create your own macrame wall hanging. The activity packs include a piece of willow, cotton string, and instructions – everything you need to get started! Packs will be delivered locally by bicycle or on foot where possible, adhering to social distancing requirements and demonstrating some excellent green credentials: by using recyclable packaging which is also eco-friendly. It’s wonderful to have creative projects to look forward to during so much uncertainty and “Community Textiles” will initially take place over the next 6 months, with the first batch of activity packs being released next month.
Follow the journey #communitytextiles
If after reading this you feel like you would like to try your hand at weaving and creating something yourself then please read below for a fab virtual weaving workshop!
Virtual Introduction to woven coasters workshop costs £35. In addition, if you sign up to the mailing list you can receive discount codes. The workshop includes weaving techniques displayed through photographs and easy to read instructions. You can also follow a step by step guide on how to make your own DIY Loom. On purchase, you will receive unlimited access to the virtual workshop.
The Virtual Macrame Workshop will launch this week, you can sign up to my mailing list to be the first to know.
The virtual weave workshop is featured on TimeOut Magazine, and is exciting that it is being shared across the UK.
Stay at Home Textile Club
There is also a launch of Stay at Home Textile Club which includes my virtual weave workshops, the release dates for my virtual macrame workshops, and updates on my Arts Council community textile project Community Textiles.
Find out more about Alice here :
By Louise O’Brien
Feature Image by Billie Rae Photography