Ashford Artist of the Month – Feb 23

What do you do when you become bored of lifeless shop bought yarns and want colour and texture? You spin your own unique and personal yarns! That is exactly what Lauren Halsall did in 2016 when she started her fibre journey. Her true love is working with fibre, starting from the sheeps back to the stunning OOAK works of art she creates.

I hope you enjoy reading her story.


NAME: Lauren Halsall

BUSINESS NAME: Rooted Fibres

My beautiful Winona Dress Pattern by Sari Nordlund

Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Lauren, I am from a small town in the northwest of England. I absolutely love living in the North, the rugged landscapes and utter green-ness of it all. I lived the city life in the south of England for quite a few years and the pace is much slower here, which I enjoy. For the last 3 years I have been a stay at home Mama. We have had a pretty hard time as a family the last year with my daughters health. Creating with fibre has really helped me cope with it all, it felt like the harder things got the wilder my creativity. I love hand spinning and designing knitted and woven garments with my art yarns. It’s all about texture and colour for me, making something unique that you can’t find anywhere else! I used to use the Ashford Country Spinner for my art yarns but last year invested in the Ashford e-Spinner Super Jumbo, it’s fantastic. I also love the rigid heddle loom, my SampleIt is particulary well loved, I love that I can weave scarves with it on my lap. Nothing else has come close to Ashford for me, there really is is nothing you can’t fit on a super jumbo bobbin! I’m currently working on building my fibre business ‘Rooted fibres’. It feels like the perfect opportunity while I am at home mothering. I only get a couple of afternoons to work while my daughter is at nursery, so everything is growing very slowly and organically.

Woven on the SampleIt Loom

What was your background?
I graduated with a degree in animation from Brighton in 2015. I continued to live there for a few years afterwards, but I grew tired of city life. I had not long moved back home to the north, my plan was to focus on my fibre art. I was hoping to build up a portfolio and apply to study for a masters in art therapy, I was almost ready to submit my application when I found out I was pregnant. I put it all on hold while raising and caring for my daughter, but it is still something I think about doing in the future. 

How did you get started on your fibre artist journey?
I always had an affinity with yarn and fabric. It probably stemmed from my childhood, I did lots of patchwork with my Granny. Thank you to all the Grannies passing on their skills and inspiring a new generation! She also taught me to knit, she always had this type of rainbow wool that I was secretly obsessed with. Unfortunately the knitting never stuck, not until I found continental knitting maaany years later. Growing up I explored lots of other art forms, hense the degree in animation. In my post graduate year I suddenly had free time again, I had been eyeing up crochet for some time and decided to try and make a scarf. I found the process super gratifying and was excited to finally use the yarns I had hoarded over the years (I hoarded yarns before I could even use them!). That same year I was taking part in Brighton Artist Open Houses with a group of friends. Its where you open your house to the public and exhibit your art. We were doing it in my friends campervan. The dreamliner arts club it was called, they had completely gutted it and converted it into a full gallery/cinema space. It was pretty incredible. I was showing one of my animations, but there was also a little space in the gallery, so I decided to make a display. I had this vision of a bed of hand dyed wool for my crochet pieces to lie upon, I cant quite remember what was going through my head, but it led me to the most disatrous dye job, where the wool felted into this long gnarley strand of woolly seaweed. I thought it looked like yarn and I had this whole brainwave of ‘I wonder if I could felt my own yarn from raw wool’? A quick google search revealed to me the magical secret world of hand spinning, I ordered my first drop spindle there and then.

How did your journey evolve over time?
I could never seem to spin what I wanted to on my drop spindle, and it frustrated me. It was around 2016 when I had just joined instagram. I was discovering so many amazing fibre artists there, all who used spinning wheels. I found it all so inspiring, I did some research and set my sights on the Ashford Country Spinner 2. It was always art yarns I wanted to spin, inspired my by woolly seaweed felt. Getting that wheel was when my real creativity was unleashed. I bought a pair of hand carders and began learning to (properly) dye my own wool. I experimented with lots of different fibres, blending them all together into mini rolags and began processing fleeces. I didn’t see many friends that year, I just spun and spun and spun, I couldn’t get enough! I loved making my art yarns and I wanted to wear them. I was determined to finally master knitting so that I could make them into garments. Crocheting with art yarns was too big and bulky for me. It didn’t come naturally to me, but I got better over time. I finally upgraded from hand carders to a vintage second hand Ashford drum carder I found online. It was game changing as I could blend larger amounts of fibre in a fraction of the time. I later began weaving on the Ashford Rigid Heddle loom, it turned out to be a brilliant way to use art yarns, sparking so much creativity in me! I continued to hone my craft using these tools, learning, experimenting, improving. Lately I’ve been focusing on knitting, I wanted some hand spun knits in my wardrobes, the kind of pieces that I could wear daily, sometimes it just isn’t the weather for a big woven scarf! I’ve had a lovely response to them so that’s my focus at the minute. I am currently building a website (watch this space) so I can share my yarns and some of these pattern designs.

What do you do with your creations/art/finished pieces?
A mixture of things, either keep, gift or sell them. I would keep everything if I had the space! I sell my fibre batts and yarns through Instagram, but all of my knits are for fun. They are either personal projects or learning experiences which I have kept or reworked. I sold a few smaller garments such as hats and scarves over Instagram/Facebook/Etsy but honestly, never for the price they were truly worth if I were to charge a decent hourly rate. I’ve struggled with the confidence to put my work out there and charge its true worth, I suppose that comes with time. I did put a couple of jumpers out there to see if anyone was keen, I had so many interested, but when they realised the price they backed out. I totally understand why, I would love to find an audience for items such as these as I love making them. You never know, maybe one day it could happen for me!

Where do you sell it?
I have sold via my Instagram @rootedfibres for the last year. I tried Etsy but the fees really stung so I never did another restock. That’s when I decided to try and build my own website, it’s been a long process and huge learning curve, but it will be ready at the end of the month (on the 28th of Feb). If you like my work, please remember to go and have a look, it would mean a lot to me! I will be selling small collections of my art yarns and fibre batts there for now. I am also hoping to share some knitting patterns in the coming months, that I designed for my art yarns.

How do you manage a balanced life as an artist? 
I do find it difficult to strike a balance. I think it comes from my incessant need to be constantly making something, more than lack of time though. Being a stay-at-home mum means I’m always surrounded by my art so its always there to pick up. There’s lots of that, picking up and putting down. I have always been a hyper fixation kinda creative, I could sit down with a project at 10am and still be sat there at 10pm having eaten nothing all day, utterly engrossed in a project. Having a toddler has forced me to work differently, now it’s little and often. I’ve been surprised how things can grow (almost unnoticeably) quickly this way! At the moment my daughter Fern and Rooted Fibres are my only focus so I’m very lucky. I currently get a couple of afternoons to do my art, its been so important for me to carve this time for my art the last year. Creating has really helped to keep my mental health in check, with all we have had going on surrounding my daughters health. Its been this sacred time engrossing in slow and mindful work, allowing me to ground and process everything. I love the fibre arts for that, the whole process is so meditative, it really helps balance the business of life.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I have always struggled with this question because the answer is absolutely everywhere. I probably find inspiration in really small things most people don’t notice. I find myself really honing in on the microscopic details of life and imagining these little miniature fantasy worlds. I’ve always loved folklore and fairies, I could get lost staring at the inside of a flower, or the way the light is reflecting off a bees wing in a particular moment. I am always dreaming up ideas, I can’t switch it off, I am so obsessed that all my imaginings stop me sleeping! I am inspired by every aspect of nature, I sometimes can’t take it I find it all so beautiful. I once cried over some moss because it was such a breath-taking shade of green. It sounds weird but I feel like I can taste colour, sometimes its so overwhelming, in a good way! I am endlessly inspired by nomadic cultures and traditional ethnic fabrics too. Like the Kuchi dresses of Afghanistan and the beautiful colourful Sarees from India. Recycled sari silks are actually one of my favourite fibres to work with.  

Do you have advice for people just starting out on their fibre journey?
Try not to compare your work to others. I have been guilty of this in the past and still find myself doing it! I feel like it dampens my creativity. It sometimes left me with feelings of inadequency, especially at the beginning when I wasn’t so confident in my work. I always remind myself there is room for everybody’s art however far along in their journey they are. You have to start somewhere! There is so much out there to aspire to, and inspire you along your journey but finding your style and voice comes from lots of practice and experimentation. Free yourself from the things that bring you doubt, and do more of what sparks joy. I try not to plan, I just start creating and see where a particular fibre or colour wants to take me. Perfection doesn’t exist so embrace all of the imperfections and remember to push yourself out your comfort zone now and again, its usually in these moments that people create their best work, at least it is for me! Don’t get bogged down by ‘rules’ and just try the things. 

Where will your fibre journey take you in the future?
I have no idea but I’m open to it all. I daydream about all sorts of scenarios for my future, the fibre arts are always part of it. I would love to be selling enough of my work to sustain Rooted Fibres as a little side business. Perhaps run some workshops, get more involved in the crafting community. I still don’t even know if we have much local to me here, so that’s certainly something that can be built on. I have no expectations of the future, I believe that so long as you follow your heart, your future will be taken care of. So as cliché as it sounds I am just really enjoying the journey at present, and creating what I love without too much thought of anything more!

Pattern credits: Knitted dress in the full length picture of me is the Winona Dress by Sari Nordlund and the patchwork cardigan is the Festival Cardigan by Suzy Rai.