Why I weave
My love of textiles began very early. Hardly surprising, coming from a family (on my mother’s side) of Lancashire mill managers, spinners and weavers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, pre-industrial Manchester silk weavers before that, and on back to Lancashire yeoman sheep farmers and weavers. Read more…
I started my own textile journey making costumes for the biggest London costumiers Bermans and Nathans before moving to Cornwall in the 1970s. Read more… Jesus Christ Superstar… and The Three Muskateers…
In Cornwall I was one of the founding members of Guild of Ten, a small craft collective with a shop in Truro. I designed and made my own clothing range using handwoven and hand dyed cottons and silk from India, and Malaysian batiks.
I also taught myself to spin, weave and dye with natural plants. My dream was to be able to make my own clothes from start to finish, spinning, dyeing and weaving the cloth before designing and making the final product. Today, while I still spin and dye – and you can read about some of these activities in my blog – and I do also knit and make clothing, I am primarily a textile designer and weaver.
I love the process of weaving, the fascination of following not only in the footsteps of my own ancestors but of practising and keeping a live a process which has gone on for something like twenty centuries of human activity. I also love to create things that will keep people warm, bring them comfort and give them pleasure. And I am fortunate to have people who value and appreciate what I do. It really is a win / win for me.
My Weaving Training
In 2011, I undertook the 2-year weaving diploma developed and taught by Handweavers Studio in North London. This intensive and practical course taught me the design methodology needed to develop my own textile collections, the technical skills to translate my designs into functional pieces of cloth, and stretched my weaving skills and imagination to be able to produce enormously different textiles of the highest quality.
After completing the diploma I set up as a small independent weaving business. I work from my garden studio and weaving room at my home on the London / Surrey borders, where I design, weave and finish all the products in my collection.
My Design Aesthetic
Since 2014 I have been developing my collection of beautiful, cosy, soft and warm lambswool throws and cushions, as part of a personal project One Warp, Infinite Designs to see how many different and original designs I could weave on one warp threading.
I find inspiration in the traditional motifs and classic combinations of colours found in antique textiles from across the world. Sometimes my inspiration comes from other mediums like old Moroccan ceramic tiles, or architecture and nature.
Other times I am drawn to the weave structures themselves, or to complex dye techniques such as Ikat, and a secondary challenge has been to see how I can also capture their essence as part of my One Warp, Infinite Designs project.
My throw and cushion designs are complex, requiring many shafts, and they cannot be commercially woven because mill looms generally have no more than four or eight shafts. For these I use my 32 shaft Dutch dobby loom. This complexity is just one of the things that makes my throws unique.
The Design And Weaving Process
I design my textiles using specialist weaving software. By connecting my laptop to my loom, the electronic dobby mechanism on the loom reads my design and selects the right combination of shafts to lift each time I manually change the shed to weave.
To answer a question I am frequently asked, I still must use ALL the traditional knowledge and skills of the handweaver – and both my hands and both my feet are put to work. My hands throw the shuttle, beat the cloth and wind on the warp whilst my feet press down the treadle to change the shed (lifting or lowering the threaded heddles on the shafts to create the pattern).
About The Wool I Use
The yarn I use for my throws is spun from first-clip lambswool sourced from two British spinning companies – one in Scotland and one in England. The wool comes mostly from Australia and New Zealand, following a centuries old practise of British spinning mills.
It is top grade supersoft lambswool spun in fabulously subtle and heathery blends of colours which take their inspiration from the British landscape. I love the colours because they really appeal to my own aesthetic which is for soft colours that are very gentle on the eye.
Towards the future
Having such a flexible threading system has kept me occupied for nearly three years now and I still have many new designs in the pipeline so I am not finished yet. I also have some cosy wearable surprises in the pipeline for the next autumn / winter season. I am also working on a new project in collaboration with the National Trust which I will be announcing towards the end of March.
But from time to time I also like to weave scarves and I also have some new and very original scarf designs that I have been working on. I miss working with fine silks and cashmere so I am looking forward to when I next have a weaving holiday and thread up for some fine weaving work.
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The Textile Society
London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers