A Royal Baby Blanket Affair
Christine at her A-Series AVL Loom - photos taken by Wellingotn photographer Russell Kleyn.
AVL Weaver Christine Brimer, of Niche Textile Studio in New Zealand has designed and woven a baby blanket for the latest addition to the British Royal Family.
Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge, cradles her newborn baby son outside the Lindo wing at St Mary's Hospital in London.
Mānuka cot blanket in natural cream from the Botany 204 Collection 105cm by 120cm hand woven with New Zealand wool by Niche Textile Studio in Wellington, New Zealand.
Niche Textile Studio was commissioned by New Zealand’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in early 2018 to design and weave a New Zealand wool blanket for the third child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The brief was to depict an element of New Zealand’s flora and fauna. As a motif I chose mānuka from my herbarium of New Zealand plants, collected and pressed in 1983 as a requirement for the paper Botany 204.
Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is a beautiful and resilient indigenous plant able to grow in and adapt to a diverse range of New Zealand habitats. An important pioneer species, particularly after fire, Mānuka acts as a nursery plant to support the regeneration of indigenous flora and fauna. As well as featuring beautiful flowers that attract many of New Zealand’s 28 bee species, manuka produces useful commodities including rongoa (Māori medicinal treatments with healing and antibiotic properties), honey, even sawdust for smoking food. Motifs of the mānuka flower and seed head in a nested repeat pattern have been translated into a textured double cloth weave structure. Essentially this technique creates 2 blankets woven together at little moments adding pattern, warmth and loft.
The blanket is woven selvedge to selvedge with cream Corriedale New Zealand wool yarns. I enjoy being so close to all the processes in handloom weaving; designing and sampling, dressing the loom and threading for a particular design, throwing the shuttles, hand stitching the hems and hand washing and pressing the finished blanket. It means every warp and weft thread passes through my hands. I hand weave my designs on an AVL Compu-Dobby® IV loom, beautifully crafted in California from American Ash. It is a wonderful interface of mechanical and digital technologies. Like all looms, and the musical instruments they resemble, it requires care and tuning to play at its best. As I get acquainted with this beautiful machine, it has become an extension of my thinking and of my hands. With weaving I have found my niche - the place where I belong and can contribute from.