About Yuli Sømme

Yuli Sømme - Bellacouche felt-maker

Member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen

I am a Member of the
Devon Guild of Craftsmen,
and was awarded
“Coffin Supplier of the Year″
by the Good Funeral Guide

This is a Zoom interview (Nov.2020) with Richard Povall as part of a series of podcasts called Borrowed Time.  It is an hour long, and gives an overview of my development within the Natural Burial movement, my philosophy about my work.

Borrowed Time interview


“I was born in Norway and although I have lived most of my life in Devon, the traditional weaving and knitting heritage of Norway has deeply influenced me since I was old enough to hold needles to knit with.  I’ve always had an affinity with wool in particular.

I am not a shepherd, or a farmer, but would have liked to have been one.  Instead, I became a textile artist by profession, starting out as a weaver, then switching to felt making in the 1980s.

Yuli hand weaving 1985

Yuli, weaver, coldharbour 1985

It has always seemed natural to me to make the link between farming and textiles, but have realised that this isn’t the view of most people today.  I listen to the Food Programme and Farming Today on Radio 4, watch Countryfile occasionally, listen to the Sustainable Food Trust podcasts.  These are all farming programmes, but they never mention textiles; and I don’t mean just wool textiles.  We could be growing flax and hemp to process here on these isles, which we used to do.  Unfortunately, we have lost all the knowledge, skills and technology for this.  Only wool remains as a commercial, regional proposition.  That’s lucky for me, but as an environmentalist, I would like to buy clothing that is grown and processed in the UK.

Yuli spinning

Fortunately, there is a new movement that aims to make this connection.  It’s called Fibreshed.  There is a book of that name which I recommend, and now we have a group based here in South West England Fibreshed.  This branch is still in it’s early stages of development – the concept of Fibreshed was hatched in America.  But now, in 2020, we are working to grow outwards.  Sign up to my newsletter for updates of Wool E-news!

The following is my mantra:

“If you have to make a thing, you must know the background of it, the skeleton, the foundations, the actual stuff that the materials have grown out of, their connections with their natural background, their biotechnics – and then building can begin. And then the reason for making, the purpose, the human connection. All sides must be considered and known. You cannot just make.”

from Hand Weaving and Education by Ethel Mairet (Faber & Faber 1952)

Other things about me: I live on Dartmoor, I have grown-up children and a husband.  I spend my weekends mostly on our allotment, growing veggies.  I’m a parish councillor.  I like to read, play music, knit, conversations with friends, art… all those things that keep us sane, creative, together and alive!  Oh.. and I cycle to work!  Yup!  Dartmoor is very hilly, but I have a marvellous electric bike.  Well, two, actually!!

Scarves 2003Yuli and barry

~ Yuli Sømme  M.A. (Textiles), Feltmaker & Bellacouche Owner – and trying to have a lie-down!