As some of you may know I am a crafter and I regularly go to country shows and craft fairs with my friend to sell our work. One of the things that makes it special is talking to people I wouldn’t usually get to meet.
And so I met Yuli, a gentle lady part of whose heritage is Norwegian, she touched my heart. She works with wool, creating the most unusual pieces that are functional and decorative. She began as a weaver in the 1990’s, but now makes felt. She lives right in the heart of Devon and her wool is sourced locally, from Umberleigh, a flock of Lleyn Welsh sheep and Hatherleigh, a Devon Close Wool flock, to keep the wool miles down. Yuli feels that it is important to encourage the growth of sheep farming and believes in sustainability.
Yuli has her felt dyed by a friend who uses only natural plant dyes. The soft but intense red comes from the roots of Madder, or of Lady’s bedstraw. When researching Lady’s Bedstraw I came upon an interesting coincidence, in Norse mythology, Frigg was the goddess of married women, she helped women in childbirth, and Lady’s Bedstraw was used as a sedative that they called Frigg’s grass. A nice link to Yuli’s cultural history.
The other plant dyes used are Weld, which makes yellow, as does onion skin although the latter is not as colour fast. Indigo is used for beautiful blues as it has been for generations of blue jeans and by the nomadic Tuareg of the Sahara.
Her first felted pieces were hats and the off garment but her range has grown in several directions. I bought a bird token that hangs on a wool strand. She also makes horses, and uses both as decoration for tuffetts – yes just as little Miss Muffett sat on, only Yuli’s are each individual layered mats that give you a soft, comforting place to sit on a chair or even damp grass. Tea cosies, lovely little cushion rolls, hot water bottle covers, oven gloves and wall hangings to dream of, all have recurring motifs from nature.
Yuli has worked with schoolchildren, showing them the history of wool, textiles and dyeing, as well as hands on creating of beautiful art work. It was her own childhood experience that led to her most unusual and stunning creations, felt coffins. She experienced bereavement in her early years that had a profound effect on her and believes that death is dealt with badly in the West. The enduring impact of her loss led her to make her first shroud. I was taken aback when she told me but it quickly made sense, after all ordinary people would have been laid to rest in simple fabric shrouds. She told me that in 17th century Britain an act of parliament stated that woollen shrouds should be used, to help develop the woollen trade.
I have always hated the idea that I might be buried in the ground in a wooden box with brass handles taking a beautiful tree to do so. I had a vague idea of a sleeping bag liner or a cardboard box instead. But how comforting to be wrapped in soft felted wool from local sheep and returned to the earth. Yuli calls them Leaf Cocoons and they are carried on a strong wooden frame. This makes far more sense to me than a polished box.
Yuli’s website is here, visit, enjoy her wonderful work. I was so impressed and I’d like to hear what you think. Thank you, meeting you was special Yuli and I hope to see you again.