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Discover Laura’s Loom – simply designed, beautifully made, honestly produced British wool products.
Laura’s Loom creates the highest quality products from 100% British wool. We start with the fleece, which we gather from farms in the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria, spin it into bespoke yarn, then weave the yarn into blankets and scarves. Our classy designs show off the yarn at its very best.
I first learned to weave in the USA while working in Boston, MA as a Geographic Information Systems Analyst. My first loom, which I still use, was a Harrisville 50″ wide 8-shaft floor loom. Today it feels like an extension of myself; I love weaving on it! That loom has travelled with me to Europe and now to England where I live and work in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
Laura’s Loom became ‘official’ in 2002 when I moved to Sedbergh on the edge of Cumbria, where the Lake District meets the Yorkshire Dales and where I opened a studio at Farfield Mill, a former spinning and weaving mill now renovated into a vibrant Arts and Heritage Centre. The fit seemed auspicious. After 10 years of weaving as an occasional hobby fitted in around work and family I had the opportunity to focus on it full time and so I made the most of it, weaving lots of scarves and trying out lots of fibres, designs and colours.
In 2004 I undertook the ‘Bradford Course’, an HNC in Handwoven Design at Bradford College where I was pushed out of my comfort zone but started to truly experiment, trying new ideas and being as weird and wacky as I liked. Out of this course came my stonewall series of scarves and throws, which I’m still working on. A tweak here, a tweak there and the whole thing changes. I find this endlessly fascinating!
Following a desire to create something beautiful from top quality Yorkshire Dales wool, I began to source fleece from local farms in 2008.
This new venture has taken Laura’s Loom into the realm of production weaving, working with small manufacturers across the north of England and into the Scottish Borders to create limited edition collections of British wool throws and scarves. I oversee the entire process, each year collecting bags of fleece from a dozen farms in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks. I sort the wool in my back yard from where it is sent to Bradford for scouring. My yarn is spun in West Yorkshire, and dyed and woven in the Scottish Borders. All of the initial design and sampling is done by me, by hand, on my Harrisville floor loom in my Yorkshire Dales studio.
For Laura’s Loom, it all started with a couple of hundred Bluefaced Leicester sheep — those noble roman-nosed creatures shivering in their fine robes under northern skies — and their friendly hardworking hill farmers who look after them, day in, day out, no matter what the weather or if it’s Christmas. These sheep don’t have much wool on their backs, but what they do have is particularly good wool. I wanted to create a range of throws which were warm but light; not your typical thick woolly blanket but a fine wool throw, and Bluefaced Leicester seemed the right place to start.
Learning to turn the fleece into beautiful woollen fabric has been a fascinating journey, especially for a handweaver used to creating as she goes, on the loom. When designing for production weaving everything must be decided and planned ahead of time, from the size and twist of the yarn, to the design and loom width of the throw, to the finished measurements and the desired quality of the final product.
To start with there is shearing, skirting and sorting, followed by grading and scouring. Realising that you lose more than half the weight of greasy fleece in the scouring process comes as quite a shock – that’s a lot of dirt and moisture! At the spinners the wool goes through a process of blending and carding before it is turned into roving and finally the twist is put in to create what we call yarn. Then it all gets wound onto cones. At the dyers it’s all wound off again before it is immersed in huge vats of colour. And then it’s wound onto another set of cones. Once the yarn reaches the weaving shed those cones are split and assembled on a creel before being wound in sections onto a warping mill and eventually transferred to a beam. Now it starts to look more familiar as the final stages of threading heddles and sleying reeds is completed before the weaving begins. It’s such a rich language and the machines are mesmerising in their size and complexity, and we haven’t even been to the cloth finishers yet!
The final steps in taking wool from the sheep’s back to a fine wool throw involve purling, steaming and blowing to transform the oily stiff cloth which comes off the loom into a delectably soft fabric, bringing the lustrous wool to its ultimate glory.
The making of cloth is a magical process, whether woven by hand or by machine, and the people involved in producing my products are all highly skilled craftsmen and women in their own right, continuing a long and illustrious industry of woollen cloth manufacture in the British Isles.
I feel proud to be playing a small part in bringing this industry back to the forefront of British life. There really is nothing quite like wool. It keeps you warm when it’s cold and wet, even if the wool you’re wearing is wet itself (it dries from the inside out and traps warm air to insulate you). It breathes, absorbing moisture when damp and releasing it when dry, which makes it perfect for bedding and insulation material. Wool is a natural, sustainable and renewable fibre, naturally resistant to fire and remarkably strong. These days you can even wash it in a machine! But perhaps most importantly, wool does not leave behind microscopic plastic when it decays. It does not pollute our planet. There’s nothing more natural than wearing wool.
Visit the Campaign for Wool website to learn more about wool and its extraordinary benefits.
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