Steel and Sweet...

A couple of months ago, I got an excited message from a customer and friend saying she'd had an idea for a striped wrap: "It's to celebrate your steely determination", she said! So we got together on FaceTime to have a look at some colours to put together something with a monotone feel. I do like to keep the stripes as distinct as possible, so added pops of colour on either rail and one stand out colour - Steel was born (Thank you Judy for your help!). 

There's another reason why Steel is so-called - I rather wanted to give some recognition to the incredible support received every release by my kind followers in Sheffield, the city of steel - thank you very much folks!

In sharp contrast to Steel is something rather more summery and gentle - it's a little like a handful of hundreds and thousands I guess and is called, simply, Sweet, after the sweet little souls we wrap and cuddle every day :)

Thursday saw me taking a trip to the weaving mill, where there was much discussion about blends and designs, followed the next day by a really happy afternoon with Natalie to take some quick pictures and enjoy a glass of wine. It's pretty special meeting the people who support me. It was one of those 'go with the flow' afternoons (not least our ice creams, which caused a great deal of mirth!)...

(Thank you to Bryony & Co for the beautiful linen striped dress <3)

 

So, Steel and Sweet, releasing tonight, 14th August, at 20:30 BST at shop.alidover.com

Thank you, as always!

- Ali x

A Great British Adventure!

Last weekend saw James, Lucy and I heading off to the Lake District on a Great British outdoor adventure as part of the lead up to the new Swallows And Amazons film launching in cinemas on 19th August.

 

The wind roared and the skies were filled with dramatic dark clouds and rain, which really added to our sense of adventure. 

 

King Pocky’s Regatta, held at Crow Park on the edge of Derwent Water was our destination for both days, where James and Lucy helped sail a Viking boat, made small rafts, tried their hand at archery, pretended to be pirates, perfected their stone skimming, and generally had a fabulous time adventuring.

 

We stayed in a tipi at the National Trust’s beautiful campsite at Low Wray, not far from Ambleside - the most idyllic setting, complete with warming log burner, and perfect for the children to go off and explore without any parental interference from me. Which is just as it ought to be, for that’s when children’s natural curiosity, imagination, confidence, and awareness of how they can be self-reliant really come alive.

 

These are strong themes explored through the children’s adventures in Swallows And Amazons, which sees them sailing across the lake to a small island, setting up camp, and then finding themselves embroiled in all sorts of thrills, including a run in with some ‘pirates’, a boat race and the discovery of treasure. 

 

The 21st century and the rise in technology seems to have brought about an increasing amount of life indoors for children. Swallows And Amazons reminds us about the importance of learning life skills in the wilds of nature - it’s exciting and you never know what will happen!

 

So, get outside this summer and, if you’re looking to head on an adventure with your family, take a look at Visit England’s brilliant Swallows And Amazon’s inspired website here!  

 

You can enter STUDIOCANAL’s wonderful competition to win a Glamping experience much like James, Lucy and I had in the Lake District, plus a £1,000 cash prize! All you have to do is submit photos of your summer holidays using #SwallowsAndAmazons on Twitter and Instagram! Full details here. Good luck! 

 

Follow the Swallows And Amazons adventure on Facebook and Twitter. 

 

https://facebook.com/swallowsandamazons

https://twitter.com/studiocanaluk 

A little more Hygge...

Trying to build a woven wrap business is, like building any other business I guess, fraught with challenges, uncertainties and a big element of risk. When I designed Hygge, I never expected it to gain such popularity - it's been a rollercoaster ride of answering numerous hopeful emails and managing expectations (not least my own!).

Even when a wrap is popular, it doesn't mean it's all plain sailing - I have no doubt that the challenges I have faced with this second Hygge release (waiting and waiting for one particular yarn colour, a broken loom) have happened as a way of testing my own self belief, my resolve, and my determination to continue doing what I do and why I do it...

Anyhoo, determined I am - and loving why I do what I do even more. Finally, Hygge Teal is ready for release, this evening, Friday 3 June, at 20:30 BST

Thank you for sticking with me :)

- Ali x

When you have a Dream...

Last month was a bit crazy. I decided to put together a Kickstarter campaign to help me keep my woven wrap business alive. Doing it was a great deal harder than saying I was going to do it... I was literally riddled with fear at the idea of 'putting myself out there', which prompted no end of procrastination. In fact, admitting defeat and hiding away for the rest of my life seemed a much better option. 

What drove me to come out of my hiding place and get on with it, was thinking about what I'd actually achieved over the last couple of years, much gratitude towards the wonderful folks who have supported me throughout my journey so far, and the unshakeable sense that what I am doing is far greater than I am or could ever be. It's about the dreams we all have, about the things we want to do with our lives but maybe feel we can't, or don't deserve to. It's about the spirit we are born with, a potential that we have every right to realise.

So, thanks (many, many thanks!) to the kind and generous people who supported my Kickstarter campaign, I am able to keep going with my own dream, but I urge you all to follow yours too...

Dream and Spirit releasing in my shop Friday 22 April at 20:00 BST  

(With grateful thanks to Lorette for letting me take pictures of her and her baby, Alice)

 

 

Northern Soul ...

If there's one thing I've learned in the last ten years or so, particularly in the last five, it's the importance of following our gut instinct (perhaps, more pertinently, not ignoring that instinct when it shouts so loudly). It's truly our soul giving us guidance towards something - or someone - who can help us on our path towards growth in some way. And I hope that growth is reciprocal.

On one of my recent Instagram posts, I made note of the fact that I dearly hope to travel far and wide with my children this year (before they decide it's completely uncool to go anywhere with their mother!). This is something I feel compelled to do; it's what my gut tells me is right not just for me, but for my children too, in terms of how they might grow and develop and learn in a way that suits them naturally. 

Sometimes though, it's definitely good to get away alone - to leave behind the washing up, the mountains of washing, and the constant call of "MUM!" You may - or may not - know what I mean. 

This is kind of what happened last November. Feeling somewhat creatively challenged, not to mention needing very much to fill up my own cup, I bit the bullet and contacted a friend on Instagram who lives in Norway to ask if I could come to see her and photograph her with her daughter in one on my woven wraps, Soul.

To my delight, she said yes; not only that and, despite the fact that we had never met in real life, she offered the utmost in hospitality by asking if I'd like to stay in her home. Bowled over by her generosity, it was my turn to say wholeheartedly, thank you, and yes!

I discovered in Nina a young mum so wise beyond her years, so strong in her values and who showed such a wonderful attachment to and connection with her two children. I discovered in Bjarne, her husband, a beautiful father, a deep thinker, with an attachment equal to Nina's. I rather liked his Nissan car too ;) We talked in depth about the evident zeitgeist towards a slower type of living; one which takes its cue from nature, both in terms of the wonderful outdoors, but that of our own nature too.

Most importantly, I discovered that when we follow our gut instinct about someone we feel drawn to meet and spend time with, we find that gut instinct was right and we find friends for life. We might say it's soul driven, and when listened to, always sending us in the right direction; we might not know quite what that direction is, but if we can listen to our instinct, we can trust that it is treating us well...

 

 

 

Weaving well-being ...

Although striped wraps are extremely important to me - their simplicity and how they can help newcomers to wovens get to grips with wrapping technique - there have always been the seeds of a jacquard design at the back of my mind.

It wasn't until the beginning of last year that I sought to see if I could make it happen. Pencil in hand, I spent a few weeks drawing up the idea that wouldn't go away.

I knew I wanted it to be simple - it had to be in keeping with my values on that score; I also knew it had to be blankety, cosy, and wrap well. It took a while to get the pick count (the number of weft threads) right to try to achieve the above but the result is a wrap that really makes me smile. Lucy, my six year old daughter, loves it so much that I've been blessed with several opportunities to envelop her in its cosiness with scrumptious back carries. And that makes me burst with joy.

Woven as a double cloth, you can wear it either side out - there is no 'wrong side'. It weighs in at approximately 253gm2 and is light, but not thin. Unwashed it is floaty and drapey but once washed, the weave tightens and the fabric becomes super soft, cuddly, blankety. 

 

The wrap had to have a name which fulfilled how we feel when we carry our little people - we each have our own individual experiences here but I wanted to find a word which might somehow encompass all our experiences collectively, and that's why I chose Hygge (pronounced Hooga). It's a Scandinavian word which has no direct translation into English, but has as its general philosophy the idea of all round well-being - I sense that carrying our babies is similar... How do we describe how it makes us feel when it is so many things? Cosiness, contentedness, community, cuddles, warmth, well-being... These are only some of the many feelings I have experienced... Perhaps Hygge and babywearing are the same thing :) 

 

Hygge - releasing 12 February at 20:00 GMT at shop.alidover.com

 

Theft vs Integrity ...

This is a heartfelt outcry about copying, about design stealing, about lack of vision, lack of creativity. You know, theft. Because that's what copying someone's design(s) really is. Whatever the industry, whatever the product... Stealing is just that - stealing. But I never thought it would happen in the industry I now call home! Surely we are an industry where empathy and integrity are as interwoven into the fabric of our community as the yarns in our wraps, yes?? 

Many moons ago, I started (with much trepidation) a little online shop called Maverick Baby. Tentatively, and over time, I contacted Easycare, Didymos and Girasol to ask if I may stock their woven wraps. To my delight and wonder, they agreed. To say I was bowled over would be an understatement. For starters, Didymos and Girasol were the remarkable makers of the very first two woven wraps I ever owned (and still do - they are my legacy wraps); it felt incredible - to think that the journey of enveloping my daughter in fabrics so precious had brought me to the point of bringing even more folks into the world of a tradition so relatively new to western culture and yet so valuable to our society... Never mind my online shop, I felt so part of such an incredibly supportive baby carrying community; one which loved, cared for and carried not only our babies, but us as mothers as well...

That journey took me further than I could ever have imagined. It's thanks to companies like Didymos and Girasol, to whom I am ever indebted, that I became a photographer; my creative vision was seen and supported in an industry where hearts were always in the right place and, most importantly, those hearts showed purpose and empathy.

Girasol Ardent

 

Fast forward to the beginning of 2016 and, holy moly, how things have been tarnished - by one company - seemingly overnight. Remembering a culture of mutual respect and co-operation, I now am horrified to discover a violation of these previously-held industry-wide values - perpetrated by a Russian company (purporting to be Italian and which shall remain nameless - I'm definitely not going to give them any press!), but which is causing a big ole outcry within the babywearing community, and for good reason - it's stealing designs from a 30+ year old woven wrap company, Girasol; a company with heritage, with values, whose beautiful woven wraps, produced in the traditional slow manufactured way, support the skills of local artisans in Guatemala - it's a company long-admired in the babywearing industry.

You might be able to reproduce someone's designs, but you can never reproduce the heritage, the values, the story that come with the originals. Reproducing someone's designs is cheap; cheap because you don't have to take the time and energy to come up with your own, but also cheap because that's how people think who are just in something for the money; they don't care about integrity, about their customers or their customers' stories; it's all about bottom line. I'm cross, can you tell?? I feel violated. And if I feel violated, I can only imagine what the Girasol wrap designers must feel. Theft may bring fleeting glory and profit, but story, values and heritage? Well, they will always win our hearts in the end...

 

 

 

 

Discovering together...

There's no doubt that travel broadens the mind. In the case of children, exploring different cities and countries opens up a whole new world (literally!) of adventure. 

As a home educator, it's very important to me to travel with my children - away from the constraints of the school curriculum, we are free to go wherever we want, whenever we want. It's a glorious way to learn.

So, last Friday, James, Lucy and I ventured down to London to immerse ourselves in the Christmas lights and buzz of the city and experience the new Family Programme from our host - Le Meridien Hotel Piccadilly, right in the centre. 

We discovered that Le Meridien makes children a priority; understanding their need to feel recognised and noticed, their curiosity and thirst for adventure is met by a personalised welcome pack containing LEGO, as well as suggestions for great things to do whilst on your visit. I let the weekend be led by my children so I could really see the visit through their eyes. Lucy was fascinated by all the fallen leaves and the tame squirrels in Hyde Park, whilst James was in awe of the architecture, bridges and the London Eye. 

When we weren't out and about, the children were obsessed with the deep blue waters of the swimming pool. They thought breakfast was pretty fabulous too - it was a banquet and a half and almost too much for them to take in. This was topped, however, by a patisserie tea on Sunday afternoon - cue eyes on stalks!

James and Lucy enjoyed themselves immensely and felt really welcomed all weekend. For my part, it's lovely to stay somewhere where children are treated with the same respect and dignity as adults - we all learn better when we feel good about ourselves...


Connection...

People are very important - how we interact, engage, connect. But being with people - really being with them, not online, I mean in but in person - seems to have become not only less the thing of the moment, but simply something that doesn't happen like it used to (remember when 'community' meant something going on in your street?...). We seem to have forgotten just how vital it is to society as a whole. According to an article in The Guardian loneliness is killing us. It's not hard to see why. When young (and not so young!) people base their self esteem on the number of 'likes' their posts receive on social media, it's clear something has gone desperately awry in our world. I find this alarming and massively unsettling. I don't think it's any coincidence either that, in the same vein, the cause of addiction has also been heavily linked to loneliness. With a massive rise in those of us who work from home, usually alone (although in my case, not quite alone, but rather rampaged by three children!), I fear that the situation can only get worse unless there is mass understanding of how much we need to connect and be with like-minded souls on a regular basis.

I could go on and on in an on-my-soapbox kind of way about how we need not just connection, but real and genuine touch, of the skin to skin, person to person variety - learning about this is what led to the epiphany that meant James from the age of 8 months and Lucy from birth were always carried close to my heart until they gained independence at their own pace. Aware of the importance of connection in my own life - it's something we humans really need in order to thrive - I have begun to foster more in-person connections by travelling around to meet the people I have come to know and respect online; some are very kind customers, some are those I just feel compelled to meet and spend time with. 

To this aim, I recently journeyed down to the south coast of England to meet up with three such souls and their small children to drink coffee, eat chips and cake, and to forge a true connection in real life. They were kind enough to let me take photos of them with my wraps and I offer grateful thanks to Alex, Jenny, Mark and Vik, and to their sweet little folks in tow...

 

The Life and Soul...

Towards the end of September, my youngest children and I ventured up to Wales for The Good Life Experience, a small but perfectly formed festival held at the Hawarden Estate by the fine and kind people at Pedlars along with Cerys Matthews and Steve Abbott. One year previously, I had done the same. It's where I launched my very first woven wraps - Studio and Voyage - and thus holds great meaning for me. 

The festival is about everything I love - freedom for children to run, play and learn in the outdoors, going back to basics with cooking, carving and whittling wood, great music and equally great kindred souls with whom to share it all. 

And so to two new woven wraps...

Good Life has a pop of bright blue and a pop of red with understated dark navy and grey, all finished off with a striking golden yellow rail. It's in honour of the aforementioned festival that propelled me out there into the world; in honour of a life that's simple and kind and lived slowly. 

 

Soul also has a pop of bright blue, but is married with gentle greens and pale blue tied in with a subdued charcoal. It's in honour of living a soulful life full of purpose and meaning and of the little souls we carry in our wraps...

Here's to living a life that is good - maybe even great! - but always with our little ones, our life and soul...

Good Life and Soul, two new woven wraps releasing at shop.alidover.com on Sunday 12 October at 20:30 BST 

- Ali x

Thoughts from a kind customer...

There is nothing more heartwarming - this is why I do what I do - words and photo by Rachel Todd - thank you Rachel xx

"When the postman unexpectedly rang my doorbell this morning, I couldn't have been more delighted with the super speedy delivery of my beautiful Breeze wrap. Almost exactly a year since Studio arrived on our doorstep I was so pleased to see that all the lovely personal details, the brown paper and twine, the handwritten labels and receipts, the sheer love and time and attention packaged up with the wrap, was just the same as I remembered. And I can't believe it but I think I love the colours even more than Studio!!! I know I'm late to the Breeze party, sorry, I took a break from the crazy wrap world for a while, but this wrap sums up all the things I most love and missed about it! That sharing of love from one parent who has held their baby close to their heart, to another. Thank you so much Ali!! ❤"

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Journey into the past...

Whilst I believe it's important to live in the moment and dream for the future, I can't deny how much the past provides me with inspiration. 

A couple of weeks ago, the littles and I ventured up for a three day trip to North Yorkshire - my old neck of the woods, the place I grew up. I'd felt drawn back to the Howardian Hills and the North Yorkshire Moors for a while until it got to the point where I could no longer ignore the pull. 

We stayed in a delightful B&B nestled in the tiny hamlet of Ganthorpe. Driving those lanes gave me wonderful flashbacks of cycling them as a child, riding ponies through the grounds of Castle Howard estate and the great sense of freedom and innocence that came with my childhood.

I took two woven wraps with me from the latest collection, due for release on Friday 14th August. Seeing my children playing with them in the wind on the top of the Moors was absolutely magical. 

There's always the possibility of something going slightly awry when Lucy is involved, however, and indeed it did - the beautiful 10 week old Border Collie puppy at the B&B got so excited in Lucy's presence that it took a chunk out of her lip on the evening with the most beautiful sunset; instead of my hoped-for camera session snapping the kids in some glorious field of grasses, I spent 4 hours in York A&E. Best laid plans and all that...

But I did get this photo of Lucy the following morning, with her head stuck in Wildling magazine (a fantastic new magazine with beautiful photography and features - there's even some flow of consciousness in there from me - eek!). Thank you Wildling for providing her cover ;)

So, a bit of drama, a bit of an adventure and a pull so strong, I'm going back again tomorrow for more inspiration from the past. This time without the small people, just in case...

- Pure and Breeze - releasing 14 August at 20:00 BST -

-Ali x

Simplify...

"Our life is frittered away by detail...

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify!

Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose."

   --  Henry David Thoreau

I don't know about you, but I'm always trying to find ways to simplify my life, to slow down and ease the stresses of modern daily living. There is so much thrown at us every minute, every day; such demands on our time and our energy that we can get bogged down in the minutiae of life leaving very little 'us' left to engage in why we might be here in the first place. 

In the same vein, when I began thinking about the stripes for my woven wraps, I put much thought into how to make the designs as uncomplicated as possible to help those new to wrapping - so they could hopefully spend less time trying to work out how to wrap and more time carrying. Recently, it occurred to me that the many different sizes traditionally available might be a barrier to potential new wrappers (I certainly remember being bamboozled by them all) and I wondered if there were some way to simplify this too.

So, from this next collection, I'd like to offer just three sizes: Short (3m), Medium (4m) and Long (5m).

But realising that this won't suit everyone, and to ease the transition, there will be five slots available at shop.alidover.com (at 8.30pm BST on Wednesday 15th July) for bespoke sizes. These will be made to order and despatched ahead of the general release.

Which leads me onto the designs themselves and their names, quite simply: Pure - the colours of nature across the hills as far as our eye can see. And Breeze - that simple, delicious feeling of warm summer winds and the sand between our toes...

Release date TBC ;)

Do you have any thoughts or comments? I'd love to read them!

- Ali

x

Gift of Faith...

Uncovering names for my woven wraps is a fun part of the process of seeing the designs come to life. Inspiration for the names can come prior to and thus be instrumental in the colourways that I choose; or they can come to me after I see the fabric woven. Sometimes I need some help - the colours have been an instinctive choice, but the names remain a mere jumble of letters in the sky. However they come to be, those names always provide a connection to something much bigger than the wraps themselves,  a fact never truer than for this third collection...

'Gift' is a bold and contemporary wrap in shades of turquoise and purple; so named by, and in honour of, my dear friend Lorette who is due to birth her baby later this month. It is also in honour of all our babies, who bring us such unimaginable gifts every day of their lives.

'Faith' is a soft, muted collection of blues and greens... Sometimes, the gift of motherhood proves much more elusive. Not long ago I was contacted by a wonderful lady full of joy at the imminent birth of the baby she was due to adopt. She and her husband were within days of flying out to see their adoptive child when the process fell through. It made me reflect deeply on how strong the urge to become a mother can be - overwhelmingly so at times. I wish this lady - and all those of us for whom motherhood has yet to find a place called home - the faith to believe in miracles, however small...

Gift and Faith - two new wraps releasing on Friday 8 May at 8.30pm BST

- Ali

x


Lucy's cosy cushion...

One of the hardest things about putting my heart and soul into designing the colourways for my woven wraps is knowing that, without a very small little in my brood, my chance of actually using them for their main purpose is rather slim. But knowing that a woven wrap is so much more than a tool for carrying a baby gives me and my children the opportunity to connect closely with my creations in other ways. 

ali_dover_boheme_cushion_4
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Here, I turned the middle three stripes of a Boheme wrap scrap into a cushion cover - the colours mingle perfectly with the vintage Liberty fabric of the childrens's window blind and cushion, as well as Cold at Night's blanket. And, according to Lucy it's so soft, it's just like cuddling a teddy. That's plenty good enough to keep my heart happy... :)

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Bringing an idea to life

Four years ago almost to the day, I had an idea, an idea that wouldn't go away... An idea that was borne from a life-long love of textiles, of style, of iconic stripes, of freedom - and a newfound love of carrying my young children close, of parenting epiphanies, of necessity...

And here I am, four years later, bringing that idea to life with a range of modern and enduring woven wraps in uncomplicated designs, with drape and soft texture to form gently around you and your child...

The folklore of Ali Dover Wovens is one of the great outdoors. It is a love of good literature, good food and great friendships. It is the whistling wind and the crashing waves; a great roaring fire and wood piles. It is stripped back floorboards, and a history revealed through chipping paint. It is cosy knitwear and the joy of the morning frost; the celebration of a free unfettered lifestyle -  creative, and entrepreneurial in spirit and mind, in sync with the seasons, yet timeless. It is seeing life as a work in progress, mucking in, growing and giving back...

 

My first collection reflects aspects of this journey, with honest earthy colour ways and an enticing aesthetic.

 

Elements - the petrol hues were inspired by the land, sky, wind and rain. It offers depth and mystery, yet a sense of calm and surety. Grounded by a true green the blue takes flight with our senses and allows us to dream.

 

Studio - with an enchanting palette inspired by an artist in her studio. With a splash of yellow, maybe dappled sunshine on canvas, smudged charcoal, and the soft hue of pink petals in a vase as she is inspired to create. It is at once whimsical and soft, yet vibrant and unashamed. 

 

Voyage - the inspiration came from a journey across the ocean. Travel and adventure, the undone charm and honesty of sea-salted hair, and sun kissed skin.

 

Heathers - with its mineral purple hues and earthy tones this wrap pays homage to the Yorkshire moorland. Wild and unrestrained, luxurious in its minimalism.

- Ali xx