‘Painting with yarn’ – Weaving workshop with The London Loom

Textile weaving holds a significant place and has an extensive history in many of the world’s cultures. From silk weaving in China, to cotton textiles in The Americas and hemp fibres in the Middle East and Africa, the craft of weaving has been dated back to 10100 BCE! Recently we teamed up with Carl Hansen & Son (a brand synonymous with the use of weaving techniques in furniture design) to celebrate one of the oldest crafts in the book. We spent an evening at the Carl Hansen showroom in Clerkenwell learning the art of ‘freestyle’ weaving with Francesca and Brooke from The London Loom, a weaving and textile craft studio based in East London.

Francesca and Brooke taught the group to how to dress the handheld looms with a warp (the lengthwise or longitudinal yarns which are held stationary in tension on a frame or loom), how to do a plain weave, soumac stitch and the rya knot, aka the tassel fringe, which we all learnt hides a multitude of mistakes. We caught up with them after the event to find out a little more about the art of weaving…

Q: Could you give us brief overview of the history of loom weaving and what got you hooked?
A: The history of weaving is pretty vast – all cultures have their own history and relationship with looms and weaving. Most of the UK’s mills are in the North but the East End where our studio is has a massive history with textiles – I even used to live in a warehouse that was a converted textiles factory. We do what we call ‘freestyle’ weaving which is addictive because it’s so freeing. We both sew and knit and those can be quite prescriptive with patterns and measurements – weaving to us is the opposite. We call it painting with yarn.

Q: How do you define your styles and how did you come to establish them?
A: Our style is neon and pink. We often get told that our branding is really on point which we find really funny because it’s just our taste. People always ask us if it’s pink and yellow day in the office and then we realise that we’re dressed to match and hadn’t even noticed.

Q: What was your first weaving experience?
A: For me (Francesca) I asked for a tapestry loom for Hannukah after following lots of weavers on Instagram – I used to weave on my balcony in Tel Aviv in the spring, it was blissful. I then travelled to Japan where I used the floor looms that we now have in the studio and became totally obsessed, I bought one and immediately had Brooke over to experiment – I think she bought one, like, the next day – it’s seriously addictive.

Q: What do you look to for influences when you are creating a piece of work for yourselves?
A: I think for us it’s just from things we’ve seen in our daily lives, in galleries, in movies, online. You might see a painting that uses a particular combination of colours and then inspiration hits. Because our weaving is so freestyle we encourage customers to just pick and choose yarns and colours that they like rather than with an idea of an end product or combination.

Q: Who are some notable weavers that we should know?
A: Us of course! Anni Albers is probably the big one, Tate Modern is doing a retrospective of her work later in the year which will be amazing. Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh is full of phenomenal weavers – the real brains behind tapestries made by renowned artists like Chris Ofili.

Thanks Francesca and Brooke, and Carl Hansen for a fabulous night!